Gratitude, Not Optimism

I happen to love someone who is the most positive person I have ever met. It’s a delight to be around most of the time, but it’s also a hard yardstick to be measured by. Anyone standing next to this guy will automatically look like Eeyore by comparison.

Fortunately, I’m secure in the knowledge that I’m not, in fact, Eeyore, because I used to live with an Eeyore. An Eeyore can suck the life out of any room he enters. An Eeyore is convinced that the world is out to get him.

My Eeyore refused to smile in photographs because he thinks it’s unnatural. Because of that, everyone assumes he is constantly miserable. I think he wears this like some kind a suit of armor. Then he accessorizes this suit of armor with every negative experience he has ever had in his life. He glues those things to his exterior like some twisted decorator crab. All this stuff weighs him down. This makes people avoid him, which, in turn, makes him more miserable.

An Eeyore likes to insult himself out loud, and is under the mistaken impression that others will find this funny or charming. In fact, it makes people extremely uncomfortable. It also makes them feel sorry for him. It’s very hard to like someone whom you feel sorry for, at least for long stretches of time. It’s exhausting.

When I tried to address this negativity in my Eeyore, he would get very defensive, and accuse me of trying to force him to put a plastic smile on his face. I could never understand that. I was trying to say that your attitude, the lens through which you view the world, impacts your emotions. Attitude is everything.

But now I realize he extrapolated a false conclusion from that. He believed that I was trying to force him toward optimism, which is nearly impossible to achieve if you don’t come by it naturally (speaking from personal experience).

Actually, that was not my intention at all. Optimism is about expectations for the future. I don’t think you can predict the future, and therefore optimism kind of feels like magical thinking to me. I hope for the best, yes, but no one knows what will happen down the road. As we’ve learned from all the false election fraud claims, wishing doesn’t make it so.

Instead of optimism, what I was trying to get across, rather ham-handedly, it seems, is the notion of gratitude. Gratitude focuses on the present. It’s about appreciating the good you currently have in life, rather than focusing on the negative aspects. This is more realistic, but it also seems a bit magical in the best sense of the word, because when you give more energy to the good that is around you now, somehow more of your future tends to become positive as a result.

I wish I had tried harder to get this point across to my Eeyore. But in retrospect I realize that he was too heavily invested in his own unhappiness to hear me. I’m sure he’s still unhappy to this day, and that makes me sad to contemplate.

To hell with optimism, frankly. But gratitude is an extremely valuable commodity. It might take some practice, but it’s a state of mind that is available to all of us. I may not always be Little Mary Sunshine, but I am grateful for so many things that it has been known to bring tears of joy to my eyes. That’s a gift I keep being given.

Gratitude, like negativity, tends to perpetuate itself. And gratitude allows you to smile in photographs. Which is another thing to be grateful for. See how that works?

This may be great camouflage, but in the end, you’re having
to carry a bunch of crap everywhere you go.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

A Brief Pause for Optimism

I have been sick as a dog and I haven’t seen the sun in weeks, so it wouldn’t surprise me if my blog posts have tended more toward the dark side of late. I wouldn’t be surprised, but I can’t work up the energy to look, so I’ll just cover my bases and extend my apologies. Rest assured that I will snap out of it eventually.

In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to check out my blog post entitled, “Congratulations, You’re Alive!” I think it’s one of my most optimistic and upbeat posts, and it’s one I revisit quite often to remind myself how lucky I am. It also happens to be included in my first book, which is all about gratitude, and is guaranteed to put a little extra spring in your step, just in case you’ve noticed that your steps haven’t been quite as springy of late.

I’ll just end on that note, while I desperately cast about for an unused tissue. Oh, and here’s a bit of sunshine to brighten your day. Tra la!

Sunshine

Changing Your Tune

There are very few things that I find more irritating than hearing someone sing off key. That’s a bit ironic, because trust me when I tell you that you never, ever want to hear me sing. It’s kind of genetic. When my family launches into a Christmas carol, all the stray cats abandon the neighborhood. In that way you might call it a public service. Pest abatement. Yeah, that’s what it is!

But at least I know my kryptonite. I don’t force anyone to listen to me sing unless they’re taking a shower with me. I try to be compassionate and be a positive aural force in the world by keeping my mouth shut.

I’m assuming that all those bad singers out there have no idea how bad they are or they wouldn’t subject themselves to the humiliation, or subject others to the torture. That makes me wonder how many things we all do badly without even realizing it. It’s really mission-critical to be as self-aware as you can possibly be.

For example, we all know people with negative attitudes. They’re draining to be around. They make you feel as if your very life force is being eaten away by the sheer weight of their pessimism.

I can think of several people like that. Their default position is mistrust, doubt, and cynicism. They assume the worst and expect others to convince them otherwise. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the energy for that.

I know one guy who wonders why no one will spend time with him, and can’t understand why he can’t get a date. To the rest of the world it’s blatantly obvious. He’s toxic. He’s a downer. He’s the very antithesis of a pleasure to be around. No one looks forward to spending time with him.

I’m not sure why he can’t see it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting everyone to turn into Little Mary Sunshine and go through life farting rainbows. But it’s also a lot to ask of people to expect them to stand still while you suck all the good vibes out of the room.

I really don’t know the solution to this, other than to take a good hard look at yourself and think, “If I knew someone like me, would I look forward to being in that person’s company?” If not, perhaps it’s time for you to start singing a different tune.

screech

Raise Your Head

I used to know someone who was so pessimistic that it was draining to be in his presence. I’m not exactly Little Mary Sunshine myself, but I do have a fundamental philosophical difference with that guy that we were never able to resolve. I believe your attitude can dictate your mood. He believes that you have no control over your mood whatsoever. He used to say, “I’m not going to paint a plastic smile on my face.” It made me want to slap the white off his teeth.

I really felt sorry for him. He constantly gave away his power. It was as if he was this helpless creature to whom happiness or sadness was bestowed, and he had no choice in the matter. It kind of makes you understand why some people make sacrifices to their higher power. If you have no control, the only thing you can do is cajole, flatter and beg. How exhausting.

In fairness, it must be much easier to keep your head firmly planted in your hind end like that. Then you don’t have to take any responsibility for the way your life turns out. But on the other hand, if you raise your head and look about you, you have the opportunity to see your situation in comparison with others who are worse off than you are. You have a chance to shift your focus. You learn how to solve problems, and most of all, you see the abundance that is spread before you.

This Thanksgiving, if at no other time, raise your head. Be grateful. Appreciate your unique life. Smile often. Who knows? It just might become a habit.

you-got-this