In Defense of Misery

Misery gets a bad rap. It is The Godfather Part III of human emotions. Given the choice between misery and literally anything else, misery will lose. This is an unfair and near-sighted bias. Let’s take a moment to talk about the sunny side of misery.

What is misery? Well, imagine that you have a goal, and in order to achieve that goal, you need to climb a tower. This tower has a long, winding staircase to the top. The higher you climb, the closer you are to success. When something happens to distance you from your goal–for instance, you want to get married, but your fiancé is so busy sleeping with other women–you fall a proportionate number of steps backward. So again, what is misery?

Misery is the floor. No matter how high up the tower you go, one hard shove can send you off the railing, plummeting to the bottom of the steps. The floor is the most comfortable place in the world to be, because there is nowhere left to fall. Consider this: Your girlfriend left you, she hates you, she’s been sleeping with your estranged uncle the whole time, and she gave you the chlamydia that she got from your uncle. Fantastic! Barring the expense of treating your chlamydia, there is no more disappointment that can come to you in the Tower of Your Love Life. This brings me to my next point.

Misery is the foundation of happiness. It is Day One, your fresh start back up the tower. The worst betrayal that misery can deal you is an unexpected bout of happiness, which is an evil most of us can bear. Sure, you have chlamydia, but what if the doctor’s assistant is really hot? Who better than she to understand that chlamydia happens to the best of us? She might already be deciding between steak or fish for your wedding. This scenario may be unlikely, but what’s it to you? You’re miserable! A punch in the face would almost be a step up, and that’s the point. When you’re miserable, everything is an improvement.

Misery is the counterpoint to success, and fulfillment by association. Without the threat of abject failure and all the oppressive weight that comes with it, success loses all value. Misery is the unshakable shadow of your life, and now and then, you will surely catch a glimpse of it. And when that happens, you should greet it like an old friend, ask how it’s been, and make the best of your meeting. Because it won’t be around for long.

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