Marian Keyes: Although it’s not socially acceptable - Sometimes it’s lovely to wallow in self pity
Top Irish author Marian Keyes insists it’s ok to feel that the world is against you sometimes, and we shouldn't always feel like we need to see the positive element in every experience.
The novelist has always been open and honest about her struggles with mental health, depression and addiction.
Writing in her most recent column for The Sunday Times Style Magazine, Marian opens up about her frequent urge to wallow in self-pity, insisting that it’s normal to not always maintain a sunny outlook on life.
“When life throws me lemons, I’m told I should hop to it and make lemonade. But when life throws me lemons...I just want to curl up on the couch, nursing my bloodshot eye and sore knee, where a couple of lemons hit me, and think dark thoughts about all citrus fruits.”
However, the Limerick native knows that this is not always socially acceptable behaviour.
“In modern life, there’s no room for self-pity...I fear it’s only a matter of time before it actually becomes illegal, which would be a great shame, because self-pity can be a lovely activity,” she writes honestly.
Marian (51) laments the fact that every experience, no matter how good or bad, is said to be of some benefit to each of us.
“Sometimes a horrible experience isn’t an opportunity for growth,” she counter argues. “Sometimes a horrible experience is simply that. Some things will never not be sad. No amount of talking it up can change it, and people shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it.”
“It’s hard enough to be coping with loss or shame or humiliation without being labelled a whiner.”
To illustrate her belief, she points to the example of her close friend who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and finding it incredibly tough.
“The chemo made her sick as a dog...but when she was asked how she was doing and she answered honestly that she was doing quite badly, people seemed startled. Anxiously they said, ‘But it’s given you a new-found appreciation for life, right?’”
“Everyone expected her to be fired up and brimming with zeal for ‘fighting this thing’” Marian added.
Marian insists that “unpleasant emotions” need to be experienced, lived through and identified before one can “work through” them.
“Healing is a process,” she states. “We can’t jump straight from discovering our car has been stolen to being delighted that we’re now a cyclist,” she muses.
To strike a balance, Marian allows herself be bitter and angry for as long as she sees fit, before she accepts things and moves on.
“I let myself be bitter for a while, I savour it, I positively wallow in it and wish ill on whoever has hurt me. I wake up in the middle of the night and have conversations with myself...But at some stage, just before I go officially insane, I make the decision to move on.
“It doesn’t always happen immediately - I’m a gifted grudge-holder - and often I have to make the decision several times before the obsession finally lifts.”
Marian recently revealed that she is in the process of penning a follow up book to her popular 1995 novel ‘Watermelon’.
‘Time Off For Bad Behaviour’ will revisit the protagonist Clare, two decades later.
“I said I’d never write a sequel. But because it’s 20 years later, I’m hoping that people won’t regard it as a sequel, but more as a revisiting. I’ve written about all five of the Walsh sisters now, and I love them. I can’t let them go,” she told The Irish Times.