Sunday, October 18, 2009

True Story

One day I decided that I wanted to be a more positive person. I have always tended towards the top of the cynical, bitingly humorous, impatient and harsh curve and it seemed that this is not what is helpful to the world at large and to the people in my immediate vicinity. This is not the way to win friends and influence people. I would now say that this wasn’t altogether healthy for me either but at the time that idea was lagging towards the back of the line.

I decided that I was going to make a willful, concerted effort to be the swan of positivity floating in the sea of negative ugly ducklings. I was going to be a leader and proof of the power of positive thinking, a beacon of light on the ‘can-do’ highway of life.

And so I started about the business of readjusting my attitude. It seemed best to me, after a lifetime that if I will be absolutely truthful was most definitely top-heavy on the negative, that I should start small. Frogs only turn into princesses in the blink of an eye in fairy tales and movie theatres. This is real life and I am, if nothing else a realist (or so I thought but that’s another story altogether).

Anyhoo… I decided that it would be easy enough to smile and be nice to people in the grocery store, show a little kindness, allow others to get in line ahead of me even if I was there first. I was calm and patient waiting in line at the bank, making sure that I was pleasant and kind to the teller when my turn was up, regardless of how long I had waited to get to the head of the line. I was even pleasant to the clerk at the motor vehicle department and for anyone who has ever been there we all know what a challenge that can be. As an aside it is amazing what a little smile and humor can do to a person who has spent years toiling in the obscurity of government bureaucracy. Some of them even smiled back at me from time to time. Already some payback baby. This is going to be awesome!

I read books on the power of positive thinking, I read books on how to be a leader in the business world, how to be a leader in your personal life, how to get the most out of people, books on every conceivable positive thinking idea there is out there. I won’t lie, some of them were worth the read, occasionally I would come across something that offered a new way of seeing an old story, some little tidbit of life philosophy that I had not considered. Good stuff and I tried my best to put these things into action both at home and at work. And for awhile it was working. Most people really do respond well to positivity. Oh sure there are those that are permanently and eternally cynical and unhappy but hey, it does take all kinds yes? I would move along from them, nobody was going to rain on my positive parade.

But one day something happened. On this particular day I woke up and like a ton of bricks it hit me - this being positive thing was taking a hell of a lot of energy, I mean a hell of a lot of energy. And I pondered this. How could something that was so right, so good, so ‘freeing’, so full of everything we have come to know as true in this world be sucking up so damn much of my energy? If it’s good and right and true shouldn’t it be easier? Shouldn’t it be energizing rather energy depleting?

Umm… yes.

Thought number two for the first day of the rest of my life:

Sweetheart, get thee to a therapist.

I have saved the part that smiles and jokes with the bank teller, this IS better and it takes no energy and it is such a small thing and it truly makes a difference. Be nice to people. I still don’t (mostly) lose my temper when I get stuck in traffic. If somebody gets on my bumper I move over and let him (it is usually a ‘him’) pass. But the rest of it, the books, the forced positive attitude, the burning of the beacon of light on both ends? I’ve put that aside for awhile. I haven’t got the energy, I’m just not there yet. I have realized that it must come in its own time and in its own way and exerting my willfulness in an effort to force something does nothing but drain my resources.


  1. jss
    Sometimes I read your posts and think that we would get on pretty well if we knew each other in real life.
    I get the bitter, cynicism and cutting wit... I like it. I walk a fine line between counsellor and satirist in many of my relationships. It seems to work ok...
    What doesn't work (as you have also found) is the whole faking it thing.
    It's easy to be nice and to smile and engage people, even as a dry cynic. What is is NOT easy to do is to reinvent yourself in a way that means you are no longer true to yourself.
    That whole positive thing.
    I need to write a post on this myself. It's something I have been skirtng around for ages, unable to articulate some of the incredible fear that lies around it... But, that whole 'look at a world wrapped in well worded prayers and platitudes' thing really gets me mad.
    I hate it.
    What I hate even more, is the expectation that if you are NOT doing that, and if you are the slightest bit doubtful about the fluffy and eternally grateful approach, you are making a choice to live in hell.
    I'm ranting. Caught in my own thoughts rather than yours... Apologies.
    I just wanted to say though, thanks for the reality speak. It's refreshing.

  2. Ok, give me a minute whilst I hoist myself up onto that soapbox with you. Now then…


    “that whole 'look at a world wrapped in well worded prayers and platitudes”
    Is denial in its truest sense and I am completely with you. It is garbage that is fed to us by people who go through life with blinders on. The sad thing is that so many of us think it’s right and the way it ‘should be’ . Garbage I tell ya, garbage. Which is not to say that positive thinking doesn’t have its rightful time and place. I have also been lost in the abyss that is being a slave to my negativity not having a) the slightest idea that I was negative and b) not realizing that I do have the power to change it. The key is finding the way that is appropriate for me to change it, the operative words being ‘for’ and ‘me’.

    And this?

    “the fluffy and eternally grateful approach, you are making a choice to live in hell”
    Is even garbagier garbage. I just made up a new word. Throw it away and forget you ever heard it. It is nothing but an overly simplistic version of a complete and total fairytale that turns spirituality into some sort of test of good behavior and forcing oneself to intellectually apprehend to some rigid theological dogma.

    This is given to us by people who cannot see the forest for the trees simply because they refuse to look beyond the trees. People who are afraid the step out of the box that is their religious status quo. People who require that they feel a measure of control over a situation of which, if we are all honest, seems sometimes very out of our control. People who need to think that they have ‘the’ answer. I used to fret over this idealogy, wonder if it was true, trying to reconcile that it might be true vs. how utterly uncomfortable it made me. I do not do that any longer. I waste not one moment of my time believing any of this mess.

    Step on your soapbox anytime when you come to visit. Dialog is what it’s all about.

  3. I hear ya. Trying to be positive can be exhausting. It requires much effort on my part too. I tend toward criticism and bitchiness to release my pent up stuff. Not healthy, but so true.

  4. Hey who knows, if critical and bitchy is our natural way of release than maybe that's healthier for us than forced and manufactured positivity. It's when the criticism and bitchiness run over into consuming that one must realize a bit of a problem and attempt to do something about it.