Freedom Friday

How To Manage When Your Friend’s Good News Becomes Your Bad News by Iwundu Wisdom

A friend of yours shares a piece of really good news and you find yourself struggling between feeling happy for him and managing your self-judgement.

If you can identify with that, then you’d love to hang on.

Sometimes, our friends’ progress reminds us of our shortcomings, they paint us the images of what we could possibly have done better with ourselves and what should perhaps have been and these images stay in our head as long as the news lasts, and maybe longer. At that moment, everyone but you seem happy and between feeling sorry for yourself and finding a happy spot in your heart for your friend, there sits a great feeling of self-condemnation and you feel more bad about your apparent selfishness and maybe begin to see yourself as a bad friend.

But you’re not really a bad person.

You’re only being jealous and human. And jealousy can sometimes be a good drive in the aberrant sense that it has the capacity to push us to tackle something we may have been pushing back.

Feeling down about your friends’ good news may have some psychological benefits like bringing to your consciousness little or not-so-little perks you might be overlooking and acting as a strong motivator, but your friends are justified if they may not bother to comprehend your reasons for being so withdrawn, so cutting down on how often this strikes you (and getting to a point when it rarely ever does anymore) seem just the safest way to go.

But how can you effectively ward off the depressive feeling of longing and melancholy that accompanies your friends’ good news? Or could this be an imperative psychological demand the mind places on you to ensure optimum productivity?

Or are you just as insecure as you suspect you might be?

Well, truth is, it could be any of those. Or it couldn’t be. But first, you should know that…

1) Jealousy Is Human

You have to admit it and it’s not self-debasing: the top feeling you get when a friend’s good news saddens you is that claustrophobic moment of wishing you were actually the one who just got admission into the university, the one who just bought that sleek car, the one who just got that dream job, the one who haven’t yet backslidden in his faith.

But this feeling is just as normal as blinking when something comes in contact with your eyes.

How? Imagine if there was a class project and every other person but you seem to be getting it right, how’d you feel? Not good, I know. In fact feeling any other way might be crazy.

The feeling of being left behind can be a very dark cloud, misshapening your reasoning, sense of protocol and every other right thing you should probably do. And it’s jealousy, too. But this is where jealousy can be aggressive in the same sense where it can be pro-active.

But how do you know which side of the scale your jealousy is bordering more on?

2) Watch Your Reaction Closely

You hear the news and there’s this slow wash of cold emotions running wildly down your entire self and it’s so overwhelming that you crumble inwardly and are subdued by its gentle force. But you still have enough to feel bad about your reaction and part of you really wants to try and say congratulations, and even though you may never say it, you’re somewhat comforted that you at least conceived it.

A friend of mine was recently called to the Nigerian bar (yes, she’s now a lawyer!) and I’m really happy for her. But don’t be fooled. I wasn’t near as enthusiastic as I’m now when I first heard the news, and in fact, a few minutes after she let out the good news, I left the occasion without as much as a nod of acknowledgement or a thumb of commendation and that was because apart from the jealousy I felt, I was angry. Angry at myself because I thought that could be me and the anger spread and was evident outwardly. I went home and fell into a disturbed sleep and it was only when I’d awoken and part of the haze had lifted that I sent a text of apology, congratulation and commendation.

And now, I feel good with the news but I still have not lost that desire to double my effort that the news gave me fore-mostly.

Apparently, that news did something positively to me. But I hope you noticed how aggressive and uncivil that almost made me become, how unpleasant everything could have turned out.

We can’t say for everyone because there are those who may be tempted to completely indulge their jealousy. So what if your emotions give no signs of coming under control (even after walking home and catching some sleep)? What if your jealousy overshoots and becomes supplanted by raw, untamed anger?

3) Go Traditional. Face Your Problem

So many resources out there tells you to face your problem and that advice hasn’t outlived its usefulness.

When you notice you’re beginning to feel angry by your friend’s sharing of his success and know you might be helpless against your anger, you have to acknowledge first that at that moment there are two problems.

First, you.

Second, your friend.

You probably can’t deal with yourself as you may have acknowledged your helplessness against your anger, so let’s call this one intractable.

Now, all the emotional chaos began from hearing the news in the first place, but that news had a source: your friend. So your friend now is a problem. Your problem.

How do you deal with your friend here? Approach him (you know I mean him/her, right?).

But slow down with the approach because there’s no cause for physical contact here, and it may be pretty hard, but just walk up to him and say your congrats. Even if it’s the last thing you want to do.

(Wait, you thought facing your problems would be easy?)

It may seem pointless at that point but you know one major perk about facing your problem is working under the odds that your problem may have something beneficial up for you.

For instance, you may walk up to your friend and say your congrats and your friend might say something particularly exciting or kind that might, in turn, flush away your anger in one clean sweep. Or your friend’s cheeriness might just make you question why you’re being angry at all.

In essence, there’s no better time to approach your friend than when you’re losing yourself.

4) Finally, Get Up To Work

You may have summed up enough gut to walk up to your friend and face your problem and you may now feel better and convinced that feeling bad at first about your friend’s success doesn’t make you a bad egg but you’d miss out a whole big part of the impression if you don’t realize that the whole episode had done something to you. In fact, it was meant to do something to you.

Because no matter how cool you might feel afterwards, what your friend’s success really shows is that you’re not doing enough. You may be trying hard, but hard may not be enough. What’s really scary about trying it the smart way?

I see this a lot in movies, when someone’s plan fails and he then goes up and say, “I tried my best, but my best wasn’t enough,” and I wonder who sets the limit for us, who decides how far we can go or what our best should look like.

Who decides your best? You or the society?

Get up to work. Give a new dimension to your efforts. Honour your impulsive nature but don’t make a decision that you’d have to pay up for later. And remember, if you really want something, you’ll find a way.

And if you don’t, an excuse.

I might not be able to tell you exactly how to rewire your efforts for visibilty and productivity, but I think you know within you that you’re enough, and indeed, more than enough.

Your friend’s success is just your wake-up or say-so call. There might be this big idea in your head that scares you like hell and maybe all you need to implement it is a little ruffling of your creative feathers.

A friend of mine once said, “The greatest illusion of time is that we have enough for our dreams.”

Which means every moment counts. And as you decide to chart each of your efforts towards your dreams, towards feeling okay about a friend’s good news because you’re already fulfilled yourself, I think I should leave you with Karen Lamb’s words.

“A year from now, you may wish you had started today.”

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Depression is a thick heavy cloud that gathers in place of your heart; it doesn’t gather so rain can fall, no. It’s just there to weigh you down. Its purpose is to be heavy. When it comes, the heart travels far away and we feel heavy stones in place of our hearts. A kind of nagging, heavy pain that promises not to go away. It remains there, pulling us down.

It is everywhere: the weak smile of the struggling worker; the strained laughter of a good leader gone bad; the circles around mama’s eyes; the over exhibition of happiness at a friend’s good fortune; the pretense at being easy-going; trailing off in the middle of a conversation; insomnia, the many sleepless nights; the desire to get hurt and sink into self-pity; the will to have it all end, to go away from it all. It’s everywhere, a chain that binds us, many of us.

It is only because we’re far from home that we feel this. And that brings to mind the saying “home is where the heart is.” Our hearts can be anywhere. It can be in seeing mum and dad smile, in seeing them reap the good harvest for which they’ve toiled so hard. It can be in the smile of that child, your baby, the one that has the world in his eyes. Home can be the look and feeling of gratitude you squeeze out from a place where hope abhors, with your good deeds. The gratitude of a beggar, a brother lost. Home can be where the myth called true love resides. It can be in his arms or in my case her arms. Home can be that smile that disarms you and leaves you flowing lightly about like you have no weight. In our homes, depression crumbles.

It’s a feeling I’ve been battling even before I knew the word for it. A feeling that I don’t belong, that I’m worthless and as low as the soles of my feet. This feeling pulls me back from making acquaintances (they’re all my betters, why bother?) and keeps me locked onto myself. This feeling takes the blackness out of the night sky and pastes it on my heart. It’s a feeling I would wish only for my enemies and still pity them when they have it. It makes you sad and angry at everything. Makes you lick your wounds and pray subconsciously for more hurt so you can keep being miserable. It’s a world where the sun has been abolished, where there’s no hope and home is faraway.

I have never been able to pinpoint what brought on this terrible feeling that encompasses all manner of self-loathing, inferiority complex, and low self-esteem. I used to think it was perhaps my upbringing. The way we(I and my two brothers) were kept away from other children before we ‘got spoiled’. Perhaps it’s in my genes, maybe I was just wired that way and I don’t get to ask any questions. I’m a melancholic, one of the four purposed temperaments by the early Greek physicians and philosophers, notably Hippocrates.

So, I’ve been wandering, looking for a way around the darkness, waiting for morning which seems like eternity. No matter how long I wait, morning doesn’t come. It’s as if it moves farther and farther away from my sight like I was on a ship pulling away from shore, seeing the horizon drift away. Bottomline: morning never comes. Home is far away.

Being lost is one thing, not knowing you even have a home is another (remember, home is where the heart is). Something happened to me. Fortunate or unfortunate? I can’t fathom. This event left me vulnerable and at the same time showed me I have a home, showed the whole world I have a home. Maybe it was meant to happen or I just made it happen. Maybe I had wandered too much and I decided to build a home. To run away from the fetters, the clasps, the chains of depression. I fell in love. A totally mushy thing to say and a fairy tale – not a great combination – but it is what it is. I believe in fairy tales and I get mushy at times. It is home. Depression is afraid of these walls.

Last three days, I ran from my house to see her, away from depression. I ran from my house to my home, breaking my chains off on the way, letting them litter the ground as I ran. I ran from the dark end of the tunnel with the certainty that there was light at the other end, since Nneoma was there. My home was there. And when I ran up to her, I felt there was no truer freedom than true love. No purer form of freedom existed. Just being with her made me see the moon smiling. I forgot I was inadequate, forgot I was supposed to be in my shell, forgot I was not supposed to measure up to others, forgot that the world was not supposed to make sense as I was literally reading the meaning from the stars. I saw my home and the heart I had been missing. I exchanged the heavy stones for my heart, and I heard the night hum a certain freedom tune in my ears. I was free.

I’m back home. And it’s been two nights, she’s not picking my calls. I don’t know why. But I’ve decided I won’t let this freedom go away. I’ll run after my home and my heart. I’ll live with them both no matter what it takes. Home is freedom, where you’re accepted for what you are, home is where the heart is and I’ve found mine. To let go is to fall back into bondage, and that in itself is bondage.