Monday, August 22, 2011

The Wisdom of Coupland

I've been reaching out to some people for input and submissions to include on my "Everyday Healthy Folks" tab--the one where I want to have people other than me tell about their outlooks on health, the challenges they face, and how they overcome them to stay happy with themselves and their health. And I keep thinking of this passage from Generation X by Douglas Coupland (a favorite author of mine) that I read long ago and has stuck with me...since high school, if that gives a sense of the impression it made. I'm 33. It's the last couple of paragraphs that have really stuck, but the beginning gives it context. None of this is mine--it's Douglas Coupland. The point, however, is likely to be clear, especially in the context of what I'm trying to do with this blog. So consider this me reaching out to you, whoever you may be reading this, for your input. You don't have to know me. I don't have to know you. We may know each other. It doesn't matter.

I guess it may be depressing, on some level, to think we're not all that unique. Let's face it, though: in many ways, we aren't. That lack of uniqueness, though--that similarity--is what I want to tap into with this blog. (I hate typing in the blogger because it doesn't know the Word shortcut for an em-dash.) I want people to realize they may be able to help others and not even know it. So having said all that, I give you a favorite excerpt from Generation X, by Mr. Coupland.
At meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, fellow drinksters will get angry with you if you won’t puke for the audience. By that, I mean spill your guts—really dredge up those rotted baskets of fermented kittens and murder implements that lie at the bottoms of all of our personal lakes. AA members want to hear the horror stories of how far you’ve sunk in life, and no low is low enough. Tales of spouse abuse, embezzlement, and public incontinence are both appreciated and expected. I know this as a fact because I’ve been to these meetings (lurid details of my own life will follow at a later date), and I’ve seen the process of onedownmanship in action—and been angry at not having sordid enough tales of debauchery of my own to share.
 “Never be afraid to cough up a bit of diseased lung for the spectators,” said a man who sat next to me at a meeting once, a man with skin like a half-cooked pie crust and who had five brown children who would no longer return his phone calls: “How are people ever going to help themselves if they can’t grab onto a fragment of your own horror? People want that little fragment. They need it. That little piece of lung makes their own fragments less scary.” I’m still looking for a description of storytelling as vital as this.
 Thus inspired by my meetings of the Alcoholics Anonymous organization, I instigated a policy of storytelling in my own life, a policy of “bedtime stories,” which Dag, Claire, and I share among ourselves. It’s simple: we come up with stories and we tell them to each other. The only rule is that we’re not allowed to interrupt, just like in AA, and at the end we’re not allowed to criticize. This noncritical atmosphere works for us because the three of us are so tight assed about revealing our emotions. A clause like this was the only way we could feel secure with each other.
 Claire and Dag took to the game like ducklings to a stream.
 “I firmly believe,” Dag once said at the beginning, months ago, “that everybody on earth has a deep, dark secret that they’ll never tell another soul as long as they live. Their wife, their husband, their lover, or their priest. Never.
 “I have my secret. You have yours. Yes, you do—I can see you smiling. You’re thinking about your secret right now. Come on: spill it out. What is it? Diddle your sister? Circle jerk? Eat your poo to check the taste? Go with a stranger and you’d go with more? Betray a friend? Just tell me. You may be able to help me and not even know it.”
So if you wanna give it a shot, hit me with a message. I'm just looking for at least one photo of you and a write-up about what "healthy" means to you and how you achieve that. "Healthy" can mean a lot of different things to different people, and can be achieved in a lot of different ways. Have questions about submitting? Just ask. We'll work it out. I'd just love to get the input.

And no, of course I don't make any money for this. I'm not super sure why I'm doing it, other than people are reading it, and it has been interesting to see what people share and the encouragement I've received. It's that last line: "You may be able to help me and not even know it." As it turns out, it's true. And sometimes people will even let you know. That's pretty badass.

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