Imaginary Dinner Parties

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[Image: An opulently set table, ready for a dinner party.]

Hope Chest: also called dowry chest, cedar chest or glory box is a chest used to collect items such as clothing and household linen, by unmarried young women in anticipation of married life.

I have always wanted to get married. When I was 18 I took much-needed break between high school and college and started working retail. I worked at Tuesday Morning and Waterford Wedgwood outlet, of note. While I was there, I bought things. Lots of things. I bought practical items for my future house; I bought a set of towels for the guest bathroom, and I bought china, Wedgwood china, for dinner parties that I would imagine myself throwing with my husband and our friends.

Fast forward 12 years and, although I’ve used some of the items in this chest, the Wedgwood, the Waterford, the fine silverware remains untouched. I’ve literally had a full tea and coffee service set in Amesbury sitting in my closet for over a decade, waiting for the chance to throw a dinner party and use it.

Now, I come to find out that financial aid does not issue loans for summer semesters, instead it comes out of spring aid. I don’t get enough spring aid to throw down another 1.5k on the class I need to earn my degree. Although I’ve always held onto a secret hope that I would use this fine china and crystal one day, I think the time has come, I think it’s time to sell it.

It’s true, I will never be able to get what I got again and not at the prices that I got it for, but in the end, I feel like keeping it around it trying to avoid the reality that I’m not anywhere near a position where I am going to be hosting dinner parties with fine bone china and hand-cut crystal. It’s really just a fantasy. It was a nice fancy, let me assure you. And I held onto it out of stubbornness like I did with my birthday dress. But the time has finally come. No more imaginary dinner parties.

It’s strange to think back on the person you thought you’d become when you were too young to understand how the world works. I bought these treasures before my bipolar diagnosis (which might have had something to do with purchasing wildly inappropriate household items). Before so many things happened to me, both wonderful and terrible.

I still hope to get married some day. I still want the stability of a lasting relationship and the chance to love someone as passionately as I can. But none of those things require a Chatsworth oval platter or a matching set of Great Room goblets. Maybe I’ll never been the person in the position I thought I was going to be as a teenager. But that’s okay.

Life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would by any stretch of the imagination. However, that’s just what life is. And that’s fine.

Happiness is not a choice

445269I’ve been seeing a lot of memes floating around the internet with inspirational phrases about choosing to be happy and controlling your own world and things of that nature. While I perhaps can see that some of these memes can be interpreted as having a positive attitude and putting your best foot forward, the overwhelming amount of people I see posting this and responding to it all seem to be under the impression that you can pick and control all of your emotions. And not only that, but failure to do so is a personal weakness.

If only it were that simple. If only everyone could wake up in the morning and assure themselves that they were choosing happiness today and that would be the end of it. There would be no more depression or mental illnesses. Sales of Prozac would plummet. Psychologists would go back to dubious repressed memory therapy in order to retain more clients. The world would be so fucking happy that we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.

But the human brain doesn’t work like that. And not only does the average human brain not work like that, but the mentally ill brain especially doesn’t work like that. The idea that someone with a disease, such as bipolar, can pick out their feelings at will is just laughable. My feelings come and go and do whatever the fuck they want. The most I can do is manage them and sometimes just try not to act out how I’m feeling.

When I was in a business class my senior year of high school I was asked to write down three goals for myself. On the 5th anniversary of my graduation, the teacher mailed the papers back to our home addresses and I looked over the list again. The first thing I put on the list was that I wanted to be happy. I was in a very deep depression at the time and being that it was my first brush with mental illness and I was a teenager, I wasn’t handling it very well.

But there it was. My goal was to be happy. Somehow, someway, I wanted to figure out what happiness was and achieve it. It wasn’t a lack of interest or a lack of trying that lead to my depression. It was my misfiring brain chemistry and an ignorance of exactly what was wrong with me. If happiness was a simple as picking it out of a lineup, I would be the happiest person in the world. But it’s not that easy.Happiness-is-a-choice

I talk about memes a lot on my blog and some people have asked me why I do so. Why do I get upset over one little photo or caption that I can just scroll past? The reason is that these memes don’t exist in a vacuum. This meme is just reinforcing common thoughts that emotions are easily chosen and control and anyone who doesn’t always maintain control is a weak or lazy person. Stigma against the mentally ill still exists and while there has been tremendous progress made, memes such as this still pop up to remind everyone that you can choose to be happy, as if that’s possible.

American society is in love with simplifying complicated issues, particularly those that deal with mental health. We don’t want to have to go through personal growth and inner exploration to know ourselves and be comfortable with ourselves. We don’t want to have to work hard to overcome bad habits and negative thoughts and struggle with set backs and difficult times. But this how our brains work and making progress, in this case, being happy, is a longer process than reading a caption against a sunset and deciding to live your life based on that.