falling downI can’t be the only one, when watching morning shows or scrolling through Twitter or Facebook, who’s thinking pleasefortheloveofgodjustshutup, who empathizes with the character Michael Douglas plays in the movie Falling Down.

“You’re eating too much fat!” “You’re sitting too long at work and it’s killing you!” “You’re drinking too much wine!” “Women are having too many children!” “Women aren’t having enough children!” “You’re not drinking enough wine!” “Your coffee is trying to kill you!” “Women who don’t use wrinkle cream will look old!” “Retirement will kill you!” “The fast food industry is trying to kill you!”

Angry! Angry! Mad! Mad! Judgy! Judgy! Scared!

STOHHHHP!

The easy obvious fix is to turn off the TV, stay away from social media, and stop reading ads. This would work for someone dedicated to making a life change, but some of us really love TV, otherwise enjoy social media, and would rather people stop being such walking pits of despair than change our own lives or routines to keep out the spirit-sapping negativity. I mean, really, it’s their fault, not ours.

Because it’s the shocking, scary, sad, or angry headlines/ads/articles/blog posts that draw readers, the “Everyone and everything is trying to kill you / question your value / minimize your worth” trend isn’t likely to change. Nor, frankly, will those who consume it (albeit angrily or resentfully). But maybe the effects of the idiotic blathering can be minimized if read/viewed while armed with certain knowledge.

1. Assuming you live long enough, you are going to get old.

(This is for women, since we’re the only ones repeatedly told we lose value as we age.)

No matter how much makeup you wear, no matter what kind of eye-wrinkle cream you buy (Olay, Revlon, Nivea, L’Oreal), no matter how many pore-minimizing lotions you apply to your face, you will get wrinkles, your skin will loosen, and your face will change. Nothing anyone is selling you will prevent you from aging – and it won’t keep you looking 25.

Aging means not dying. The only reason women don’t like aging is because we’re told we shouldn’t. Every ad scaring us into buying makeup or getting laser lifts or injecting our ass fat into our face is doing little more than jack-hammering away at the joys of living yet another year.

Whether you age naturally or unnaturally, you will look old because you will be old. If you don’t get plastic surgery you’ll look old, and if you do get plastic surgery you’ll look like an old woman who had plastic surgery. Not accepting aging, rushing to buy the youth products, is the same as saying to the greed machines behind those products that they have succeeded in stealing your enjoyment of living because you’ve allowed them to make you feel like crap about something that is inevitable – something that is a gift (unless you hate life, but I can’t help you there).

You are perfectly you just as you are, at any age.

2. Restaurants aren’t out to kill you with their fatty, salty, six-serving single dinner plates, nor is Hostess trying to kill you with its sugar-and-chemical desserts.

These businesses, like most businesses, are more greedy than they are conscientious. They don’t care whether you’re healthy or whether you do die; they just want you to buy their stuff. If you think the food is killing you, stop putting it in your mouth. If you like it and want to eat it, eat it and enjoy it. If you’re mad after eating it, blame yourself. I’m mad every time I wake up hungover, but I don’t evil-eye the bottle containing what’s left of the wine I poured into my glass(es).

3. No one really cares what you’re doing.

Articles, blog entries, morning show segments, etc., question behavior at every turn (and in doing so, invite the masses to engage in a big, judgy free-for-all). From breastfeeding to attending college to getting married to living by yourself to living with a mate (sans magical commitment rings) to having six children to having no children to drinking pasteurized milk…

At least once a day, something is guaranteed to a) chastise your behavior, or b) invite you to chastise someone else’s.

The truth is, aside from the people who know you, no one knows you or gives a flying frog what you do with your life. Similarly, the stranger you’re invited to judge is someone whose life means nothing to you. If they died tomorrow, you’d neither know nor care.

This is a good thing. You are free to live your life, and free to recognize that someone else’s life is of no concern to you because you don’t have the power to change their behavior, nor the interest in doing so were you given the opportunity. (If you really cared, wouldn’t you visit or call and have a nice long talk about how they’re living their life in a way you don’t agree with, and then maybe offer to help them change their ways through an intensive series of meetings in which you outline the right way – your way – to live?)

No one else’s opinion of your day to day life matters. Your opinion of theirs doesn’t matter. Do what you do and know you’re doing it without anyone actually paying attention.

4. You are going to die.

We are all going to die. Some sooner, some later. Some from a drug overdose, some from being hit by a piece-of-crap drunk driver or piece-of-crap texting driver, some from old age, some from cancer, some from sun stroke, etc. Sit in a cemetery for a few hours one day. Watch the guys drive up, dig a hole, wait some distance away while the family mourns, drive back up, fill the hole, and drive away. Then watch them dig the next hole for the next dead person.

This will be all of us.

The articles and ads warning we’ll be killed by eggs, wine, sitting, not getting enough sleep, eating too much of one thing or not enough of another, and too much worry (which causes stress! Which leads to heart attack! Stop worrying or you’ll die!) are designed to create worry, stress, and fear. Fear gets shared as fast as a bad-smelling carton of milk (“Ew. Smell this.”).

What makes these articles so effective is that people are afraid to die, and they think that if they just do X, Y, or Z, they can prevent it. (Yes. Prevent dying. On some level we all “know” we’re going to die, but we don’t really KNOW it. We like to think it can’t happen to us. We’re better than teenagers when it comes to recognizing our own mortality, but not that much better.)

You can sleep more, drink more, drink less, worry less, and stand up while typing at your computer in your work cubicle, and you will still die. You might live longer by eating more fruit; you might eat fruit religiously and come down with a rare fatal disease that kills you at 42. The studies and articles that seem to repeat once a month (the Today Show likes to tell us that not getting enough sleep could be killing us – now try falling asleep) are extracting richness from today, from the life we’re currently experiencing.

Have fun. Relax. You cannot prevent dying. You will die no matter what you do.

As will the people who design the campaigns and write the articles and create the stories that make us anxious about being alive.

🙂

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About Kris Tsetsi

Kristen J. Tsetsi is the author of the novels "Pretty Much True..." and "The Year of Dan Palace" and the short fiction collection "20 Short Stories," all published under the name Chris Jane. Website: http://kristenjtsetsi.com

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media, Social commentary, Writing

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