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Struggling with Shades of Gray

My parents weren’t around much when I was a kid. Divorce, alcoholism, and running around kept them from being present in my life a good portion of those formative years. I’ve been known to say (and they’ll agree) television and books raised me. I learned right and wrong from the entertainment I consumed and not my actual parents. Which probably wasn’t the best but it seemingly worked out for me.

Luckily, I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and television was a bit more balanced at the time. A good portion of entertainment produced during this time frame came with morals and simplified messages of right and wrong embedded and I picked up on that. I took inspiration from superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Spiderman to guide me on what was morally correct and how to handle myself. I was taught messages of peace, self-sacrifice, doing what is right no matter who notices, and to intentionally be a good person.

These, along with The Golden Rule, are messages we try to embed in all children. Sadly, these messages meet a lot of resistance once we grow older.

The black and white world I thought existed, does not in fact exist. And judging from what I’ve learned, I don’t think it ever truly existed. All that really exists are various shades of gray and that can hurt someone like me, who grew up only knowing the black and white.

I knew the things my parents did was black. I knew the things that Superman did were white. I knew that I didn’t want to be like my parents, but I did want to be like Superman, so I modified my behavior accordingly. I grew up a bit of a prude, because I didn’t drink, smoke, or party. I concerned myself with principles and ethics at a young age, which is sad. I robbed myself of years that I should have been naïve, but instead I was studying the truth about life and how to navigate it.

Recently, I’ve had some flareups with my mental health. I try not to spend a lot of time talking about it, because everyone seems to have a mental health problem and no one will shut up about it anymore. It was once taboo and shameful and now people flash it around like a badge of honor. I’m not saying either way’s correct, but my mental health is my issue and something I have to deal with, its not something to flaunt for internet sympathy.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what is causing this my drop in my mood. No doubt, the state of the world is playing a huge part. I’m upset about the ravaging effects of the coronavirus and my concern for my job and my fiancées job in the upcoming months. I’m upset about the way people are treating other people and the seething hate that seems to boiling up everywhere. I’m angry with my job for taking advantage of me and treating me poorly for several months. I was hoping to change jobs this spring but obviously that didn’t work out with the massive layoffs happening.

I’m mad at the media, the politicians, and the rude people at the grocery store. I’m mad at my family for self-destructing over the past six months, after finally offering me a little bit of peace and stability over the past couple of years.

I’m angry, disappointed, and frustrated at the world around me. I’ve been struggling to find a little hope in these bleak times and I realize my ideal world is crashing with the real world and that is what is causing me such suffering. The world does not look like the world that the entertainment that raised me told me it was, and now I’m suffering because I’m struggling to accept that.

The solution is easy. I must reframe my expectations. I remember reading a long time ago the simple solution for happiness:

Reality – Expectations = Happiness

While I think its difficult to encompass everything that goes into being happy or content, I do think that formula is a good place to start. Buddhism teaches you something similar in that the world is full of suffering because we are attached to the ideas and expectations we have of it.

Life would be so much easier if everything was black and white, but its not. I guess, I’ll just continue to learn how to adapt in these shades of grey.

Published inSelf-Reflection

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