Misery-Pox: The World’s Oldest Epidemic

Everyone’s heard the saying, “Misery loves company,” and if we’re honest, we’ve all been on both ends of the equation. Negativity is a side-effect of being human in the world as it is, and a prolonged exposure can lead to a misery-pox infection…which spreads very easily.

As hard as I work at cultivating optimism, I’ll admit I’m not immune to the disease, either, and these past couple years have made me more susceptible. I’ve especially sensed evidence of it as I’m working on a draft of a manuscript I wrote six years ago. While my life was far from perfect back then, I can see my brighter spirit and outlook in my words. Thus, you might say I’m writing this post as part of my treatment for my own case.

Regardless of your circumstances and challenges, I think age compromises your ability to fight off misery-pox and not because of a weakening immune system. Rather, as you experience more of the so-called real world and its punches, you acquire a thicker skin that is supposed to protect you but can all too easily jade you. Does this mean we’re prone to be the cliché “grumpy old man (or woman)”?

We’re bound to have flare-ups of misery-pox from time to time, but we can avoid a serious, extended bout of it. A precaution I realize I need to take more often is to embrace the fresh start of a new day. From my experience, the dawn almost always offers the most pleasant perspective of the day ahead. Even if yesterday didn’t go so great, you seem to have the best vantage point of it after a good night’s sleep. When you rise and just begin rehashing yesterday’s troubles, however, you throw that clean slate out the window. Instead, savor that fresh start and endeavor not to focus on whatever contributed to the bad day.

A chat with a good friend also combats misery-pox, but at the same time, this comes with a caveat. Because of the transmissibility of the disease, you could end up worsening your case and passing it on if you don’t let fresh air in. Though we might enjoy having somebody understand us, we shouldn’t wish for them to suffer as we are. That phrase, “misery loves company,” is true, but it doesn’t mean it’s right. If we’re a true friend, we should want to build up a friend and allow them to build us up, too. Even when they might try something that didn’t go well for us, we shouldn’t rob them of their enthusiasm by sharing our poor experience, but we can hope for the best that they’ll have a better one.

Misery-pox is caused by far too many contaminates, and it almost certainly will strike on occasion. The good—and sometimes tricky—part of it is that the cure comes from within. For those who suffer from chronic emotional illness, medicine and professional help, of course, are often needed. In cases where it’s “just” life getting you down, however, do your best to outwit it, not with masks or social-distancing, but with resilience and gratitude.

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