How to Throw Your Best Pity Party Ever!

538524_10100307570358459_563922595_nYou just found out your best friend has been sleeping with your significant other. Your cat has the flu. Your job promotion went to the guy two cubes down who can’t even find AutoSum in Excel. The fecal matter has found its way up and into the proverbial fan, and life seems like it just can’t get any worse.

We’ve all been there. From tragic hair days and fender-benders to volcanic eruptions of hot messes, sometimes the only thing that can truly make you feel better is a party. A Pity Party, that is!

I know what you’re thinking: wadded up tissues in front of a Meg Ryan marathon with a gallon of Moose Tracks slowly melting into sugary-chocolate soup nearby. But a Pity Party doesn’t have to be a cliché. There is so much you can do with this traditional fête!

So dab your bleary eyes, roll up those snotty sleeves, and let me guide you through the magical makings of a Pity Party miracle.

Step One: Theme

More often than not, a Pity Party is spontaneous and comes with its own pre-packaged theme delivered to you FedEx á la Universe. When this happens, there may be little else to do than dress it up in a sparkly sweater while calling your mom. But that doesn’t have to be the end! Yes, the given theme might feature cancer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t accessorize with adorable puppy photos from the Internet. I find that puppy-themed pity parties are best when you make sure to avoid adoption websites – else you end up with a new furry friend (or ten).

If you’re having a real downer, you might set the mood with Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album or Beyoncé’s feminist power-ballads (for anger) and Adele’s first few hits or some old-school Goo Goo Dolls (for subtle angst). If you’re feeling really down, you can always break out Babyface, Tori Amos, or the big guns: “Here In Heaven” by Eric Clapton.

Whether your Pity Party is intended to cheer you up or help you let out all the frustration, choosing the perfect theme is key.

Step Two: Decor

What would a party be without the proper decor? Even fraternities have learned to spice up their keggers with Tiki torches and brightly-colored leis. Once you have your theme, decor and wardrobe are your primary means of of setting the tone.

First things first: what are you wearing? My personal favorite outfit for pity parties is a long evening gown, accessorized with a sparkly tiara and bottle of cheap champagne. If you’re in a darker mood, you might try slapping on some thick black eyeliner and crawling into some pj’s from the bottom of your clothes hamper. Nothing says “Pity Party” quite like raccoon eyes and the strong, sour odor of cotton that’s been soaking in B.O. for the past week!

You may go with the traditional look of spreading boxes of tissues throughout your apartment. In that case, you might consider dressing up this version of the Pity Party with monogrammed handkerchiefs. I also highly recommend the childlike solace of a sheet fort, where you can blubber in privacy beneath a linen canopy to block out any and all happy light from the outside world.

Yet another route may be to decorate the living room with Styrofoam boxes of old Chinese food and the remnants of ripped-cardboard “plates” salvaged from multiple delivery pizzas. Which brings me to my next point…

Step Three: Food

As aforementioned, ice cream is the traditional food du jour, served with any and every type of alcoholic beverage. However, there are a multitude of flavors and brands to choose from! Fear not the option of buying several pints when you cannot decide on just one.

Beyond the world of cold and creamy lies a variety of comfort food choices: macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings, apple pie, chocolate cake, strawberry cake, cheesecake, carrot cake, really any kind of cake, truffles, salted caramels, lemon bars, candy bars, peanut butter from the jar… You get the idea.

Whatever you serve, just be sure it has enough calories to sustain a horse.

Step Four: Invitations

This may well be the most important part of the Pity Party. I recommend quality over quantity in your guest list. Know that pity parties can be difficult to fill, but they certainly let you know who really matters in your life. Do not be too upset if someone declines; much like Santa Claus, you can put them on a different kind of list later. The important thing is that you surround yourself with exactly the right people.

Or, if you prefer, lock the door and turn off your phone. Give yourself some time to quiet the madding crowd out of your thoughts, and allow yourself to bask in the rich emptiness of a party of one.

In all seriousness, take note of your Pity Party for exactly what it is, and be careful to remember exactly what it is not. It’s okay to take a moment (or an evening) to be upset and frustrated, to cry or shout at the television, to be selfish for a split second in time. Just make sure you’re using good coping skills and not distorting your situation too far out of proportion. Only invite those nearest to you to participate, and don’t leave them cleaning up the mess when you’re finished.

Know that at the end of the day, the world is still turning on its axis. There will always be someone out there worse off than you and someone better off than you. There will always be things worth crying over, but there will also be many things worth smiling about.

So take your moment. Have your party. Then throw out the trash and move forward with tomorrow. Embrace your life – whatever it may be.

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Living Up to You

On the first calm day I’ve had in weeks, I took some time this afternoon to wander the internet. I happened upon this beautiful story of a young man who left behind music, memories, love, and laughter for his family and friends when he passed away yesterday. Please take the time to watch his story and really think about the beauty of life and all its joys.

“You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.” – Zach Sobiech

Life doesn’t always give you what you expect. In fact, it rarely does. As a survivor of a pretty incredible (and awful) experience like Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, I am often told how amazing my positivity and strength is through everything, in spite of everything. Yet we keep seeing stories like Zach’s that show a buoyancy of spirit in the darkest moments. Really, there are a few ways to think about this positivity.

1. Maybe getting close to death makes us happier people. We see this in the movies all the time. Someone finds out he doesn’t have long to live, so he changes his perspective. He lets himself begin to love life and the people around him. He rejoices in the moments he has left. I think part of this is true because we fear less when we know our time is limited. We take risks. We tell secrets. So many people who have experienced being close to death will tell you that there is this sudden realization that the nit-picking things in life don’t matter. The relationships in life, the laughter and the shared tears are what truly matter. These are the legacies we leave behind. These are the pieces of our lives that we take with us.

2. Maybe the best people in our lives are destined to leave us early. Last year an acquaintance of mine was shot and killed when he approached another car at a drive-in to ask for a jump-start. I only saw him a few times a year, but the loss was significant. He was young, planning to start med school last fall. He was one of those people who always had a smile on his face, and that smile had this contagious spark that rippled through the people around him. Everyone who knew Mitt could hardly believe that such a wonderful, caring, positive person had been taken from this world so abruptly. Like Zach’s story above, and my friend Mitt’s story, it seems sometimes that the most special people in our lives are taken far too early.

3. Maybe a positive attitude in death comes from a positive attitude in life. This, more than anything, I believe rings true. When my Great-aunt Ann passed away earlier this year, the wake she left behind was one of love and of hope. Throughout her life, she was always a bright beacon of light for those around her, a spirited firecracker that sparked happiness in everyone who knew her. When her health started ailing, she was sure to keep smiling, sure to keep brightening the world around her. We will miss her terribly, but in the days following her passing, the stories told were of joy and of hope. Her love for her family and for life are the legacies she has left for us all.

I think this is why we hear stories like Zach’s. This is why I make jokes about my eyesight (or lack thereof). This is why we’ll remember Ann and Mitt for their smiles and the joy they brought to the world. A positive life makes for a much more positive passing. Even more important, a positive life seeps into those around us and breathes positivity into their lives. Simply put, positive life creates positive living.

Toward the end of the video, Zach tells us that “Life is really just beautiful moments, one right after the other.” An amazing truth spoken by an amazing individual.