Marriage myths? There’s “Happily Ever After.” Divorce myths? How about “Kids are resilient; you owe yourself happiness!” Health myths? Here’s one: “Depressed? It’s all in your head!”
Hell, I bet you could pound out your own list at the drop of a hat – and without approaching the assortment of odd beliefs on both sides of the political divide.
We mythologize constantly, yet we create and accept “myths” which aren’t myths at all, imbuing our interpretations of neighbors, bosses, friends and family members with qualities and characteristics that are neither “story” nor fact.
Myth is a widely misused term, as Andrew Cherlin points out in his New York Times opinion piece, “The Top Three Myths About Myths.” We routinely replace its more accurate definition (stories used to explain a variety of phenomena) with one that suits contemporary misconceptions – namely – a misconception.
And our Myths-A-Plenty are both amusing and dangerous; those are my words, not his.
Mr. Cherlin writes:
Myths used to be about ancient Greeks… when authors write about myths today, they mean something more prosaic: a misconception, a statement that almost everyone thinks is true but really isn’t.
In the arena of modern “mythology,” the first thing that comes to my mind is marriage. Talk about Land of Misconceptions! Consider the way we seek “The One,” the soul mate, the once-upon-a-time “Other Half,” all as the answer to our Happiness (with a capital H).
Surely a misconception, no?
Add one Blinged Out Ring + The Theory of Love Conquers All. Stir in children, mortgage, and several decades of anniversaries, and all applaud the Good Marriage!
But how many of those exist, regardless of whether we look at marriage singly or serially?
Personally, I wouldn’t even venture a guess. But marital misconceptions can be hazardous to our health, which is not a condemnation of marriage but rather my own denouncement of our naive expectations of what it means, and what it entails.
My view of relationship reality does not resemble myth; the reality of my friends who remain married after 10 and 20 (and more) years, likewise. My conversations with those who believe they have good marriages include admissions of ups and downs, a great deal of work, not to mention compromise, forbearance, and luck.
Might I add that we have at least as many misconceptions about divorce as we do about marriage – possibly even more?
Mental Health Myths
I imagine we’ve all experienced our bouts with bad times, some of which plunge us into a pretty ferocious funk. The “situational” reasons – or apparent lack of them – may characterize our individual struggles with what we refer to more openly as the blues, and only in private, to ourselves, as something more insidious.
But charcoal has always seemed a more apt rendering of this most miserable mood (and more) to me, what writer Kat Kinsman refers to as gray – “this dull gray sweater” – in her recent (eloquent) article on depression.
Her depiction of the frequent descent into hell that is a way of life for many should be on your list of “must reads” if you suffer from depression, or love someone who does. Depression can be deadly; it is never to be dismissed.
Not only does Ms. Kinsman’s writing make her points poignantly (and tragically), but the comments that follow are equally hopeful, sorrowful, pointed, and devastating.
I will mention that this article makes the case for a combination of talk therapy and medication (as needed), underscoring the serious nature of the illness, its proper diagnosis, and the removal of the stigma that has long permeated anything to do with afflictions of the “mind” as though yet one more myth (misconception?) is absolute: that it’s only a matter of bucking up, of determination, of discipline to right whatever is wrong that drops us over the cliff into depression.
I’m all for marriage, and making marriage work – with rational expectations – as there is no “perfect.”
I recognize the need for divorce, but I do not diminish its life altering consequences – for some of us more than others.
When we live through tragic and troubling times – illness, loss, betrayal, unemployment, familial problems – keeping up a perky mask in a happiness-obsessed culture worsens the weight of the tasks at hand, which more aptly require seeking help.
In the interest of looking in the mirror, slowing down, and putting less pressure on ourselves and our children, I will offer one more thought piece I read this weekend, ironically, frantically trying to “catch up.” It is an article on Healthland about the new book on Slow Parenting. Writer Bonnie Rochman quotes author Susan Sachs Lipman:
In our very well-meaning attempts to give our kids the best and help them get ahead, we might not be doing what’s best for them. What’s best may be a slower pace…
May I say that I put a bit of this in practice, especially when my children were younger?
And I’m very glad I did, which isn’t to say that it’s not difficult to go against prevailing patterns of parenting – whatever they may be. But life goes quickly enough – and those blues (or grays) are likely to hit at some point. If we’re fortunate, with help and without stigma, we weather those storms or learn to live with them, finding joy in simple moments.
Some of us realize we inevitably create myth – the reshaping of what we see and feel, imperceptibly or intentionally rewriting history. As for the rest?
Myths about myths, ad infinitum. And I suggest we shed ourselves of these misconceptions.