Are you handling it well?

Life’s been pretty heavy lately. Not for me directly, but for people around me, and sometimes that makes it worse.

My own problems are more like what birthday boy Louis CK would call “White People Problems.”

louis CK white people

Love me some Louis CK. His comedy is brilliant, though it never fails to cross the cringe line at some point. I think he feels he hasn’t done his job if he hasn’t offended everyone listening at some point in his act.

My problems at this point would definitely fall under the “white people problems” category. Why do I have to keep resetting my WiFi signal? Why doesn’t it just stay on? Why do they keep putting dumpsters on my street so that I have to park a block away from my house? Do you know how hard it is to walk a block!? Why, when it gets hot, does my front entryway smell like cat piss when cats haven’t lived in my house for a good seven-and-a-half years? Why do I have to extend every show I record on my DVR by a minute or else it cuts off the final 30 seconds, which can be disastrous? My favorite coffee shop closed down for 6 weeks and it is throwing off my entire commute!

Nobody knows the trouble I seen….

But seriously. There are people around me going through heartache and trial. My friend at work, Bethany, is 27. She’s worked at our company for 10 years. She’s just this bubbly Korean girl who was adopted into a great family. Five weeks ago, she was fine. Four weeks ago, she had abdominal pains. Three weeks ago, they told her that she is full of cancer. Everywhere. Yesterday, she was moved to hospice, because there’s really nothing more they can do. They’ve turned her pain meds all the way up. She probably has a few weeks left, if that. Oh, and earlier this year, her parents lost their home to mine subsidence and they are living with friends as they start to rebuild.

And the whole Tammy saga has been a roller coaster with more downs than ups. Turns out, it is surprisingly hard to get a bartending job. They are few and most bars either hire people they know or they have a specific “type” they are looking for — young, pretty, hot, hipster, punk, etc.  She’s gone for some waitress jobs but she doesn’t have much experience with that on her resume. I also have this feeling that as soon as any job hits Craigslist, there are fifty people going for it that day. There are tons of jobs out there for cooks. She had one bite but the people kind of lied to her about what she would make. They only paid her $2 an hour and the tips were way less than she was led to believe. It was almost costing her money to work there. She’s having to revert to jobs she was trying to get out of. Life doesn’t always have Disney-esque happy endings, and not every problem has a “solution.”

Patti works around the corner from me. This past August, her daughter died. Last weekend, her son-in-law, a cop on disability leave, shot and killed a guy in a Bloomfield bar. “He’s going away for life,” she told me, matter-of-factly. The guy is married to her other daughter and has two grade-school-aged kids. Patti has that thousand-yard stare of a Vietnam vet.

handleWhen you see people go through stuff like that, inevitably you hear a common phrase: “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

I think that’s a bunch of crap. It’s not from the Bible and it’s not true. I think it comes from a verse claiming that God will never tempt you beyond what you can endure (1 Cor. 10:13). But that’s about overcoming temptation; it’s not about facing the slog of trial and struggle that life throws at you. It sure seems like all bets are off when it comes to the heartbreak of life. And statements like that are damaging for two reasons.

  1. If we could handle everything thrown at us on our own, we’d never have a need for God, or anybody else.
  2. It shames people who are struggling and not “handling” it. To them, it says, “Well, if you can’t handle your struggles, there must be something wrong with you, because you’re supposed to be able to handle it.”

I’ve heard it said that “White Privilege” is assuming that your experience of the world applies to everybody else. In other words, if you’ve never been discriminated against in applying for a job, you probably don’t think that discrimination is that big of a problem. If you’ve never struggled to put food on the table, you probably don’t think that hunger is that big of a problem. If you’ve never been laid off or unemployed for long stretches of time, you probably think that it’s pretty easy to get a job. If you’ve never been openly judged because of your race or gender or age or disability or sexual orientation or whatever, you probably don’t think that those things are big problems, either. Those are just some of the ways we project our own experience of the world onto others. And it keeps us from empathizing with them. It keeps us from being as compassionate as we could be.

Of course, at the other end of the spectrum are those of us who have become so cynical about life’s problems that we’ve given up hope. You don’t want to go there, either.

louis CK nice

I choose to remain an optimist, but not so much of one that I fail to recognize life falling apart around me.

So. if your life is mainly filled with “white people problems” that make you grumble about little things, because that’s all there is… thank your lucky stars. Be grateful. Breathe deep, because someday you may (will) face some real issues. And keep your eyes open with compassion for those around you who are in valley of despair today. I promise you, they are all around you, but you can’t see them because of your disastrous DVR problems.

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About carpetbagger

Tom and Jean are just a couple of Chicago transplants in Lawrenceville, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Posted on September 13, 2013, in Faith, Misc, Pittsburgh and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I was just talking the other day about my white girl problems and how I really shouldn’t complain, but you know? If I sat there and thought about everyone’s problems every day I’d never ever be sad. There will always be sadness, but sometimes, there’s some really good things out there, too.

    I’m sorry people are having a rough go of it, but hopefully short lived and they can have their happy, too.

  2. Yeah, I’m definitely loaded with problems of the White People variety [knocks wood].

    * Sometimes I have to stand, on the subway.
    * My trunk doesn’t stay open; I have to prop it open.
    * I didn’t get the section I wanted when I ordered Pens tickets.
    * The Steelers got their asses kicked last week.

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m all right. So sorry about your friends, especially Bethany. Such a horror…

  3. I always get consumed with my white people problems, but then something really crazy scary happens like my accident this past week and it puts things into major perspective. And what happened to me is still not nearly as bad as the things you listed here. The tragedies of the world can be so overwhelming.

    p.s. I love Louis C.K.

  4. Amen. I do complain and sometimes sorry for myself. But I spend more time wondering how and why so many others seem to have it so much worse.

  5. Really, really nice post, Tom.
    I am enlightened by your clear exposition of the “more than you can handle” bromide. People who haven’t been there don’t realize how hurtful that can be.

  6. I enjoy your blog.. great colors & theme. Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone to acheive it available for you? Plz reply for seeking to design my personal blog and wish to know where u got this from.

  7. My MIL has a saying: If everyone put their problems in a big pile to trade, you’d be the first one in there to pick your own back up. That’s neatly summed up by “white people problems” in today’s parlance.

    I’m a religious person, and I *hate* when people ascribe things to God. “God has a plan.” “Everything has a reason.” “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” (Thank you for parsing that one!) It’s an empty platitude that means nothing, and it helps no one. If you don’t know what to say, say that. And then listen.

    I will keep your friends in my prayers too. I am especially heartbroken by Bethany’s story, and I’m still rooting for Tammy.

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