Why is it....

that people who are persistently positive and upbeat, even in the face of adversity, are considered either insane or on really good drugs? Why are they spoken of derisively? Why are they not praised or held up as a positive role model to be emulated? I truly do not understand why they are not.

Is it really that much fun to complain about everything? Does complaining actually get you what you want? Will complaining make you grow back the legs which were amputated? Will complaining bring back your sight or your hearing? Will complaining undo an injustice done to you in the past? Will complaining bring you happiness or joy? Will complaining bring others happiness or joy? Does complaining make you feel better? If the answers to these questions is "no", why persist in doing it?

Is it really that hard to comprehend why or how someone who has suffered adversity might remain positive? Why shouldn't they continue to look on the bright side? There is still beauty and joy in the world. Why shouldn't they seek to enjoy that? Should they instead be forced to see only the pain and hardship? Do you truly believe that wallowing in the muck is a good way to get clean? Are the positive things only the domain of the "perfect" with the right bodies, the right income, the right house, the right friends/family and the right stuff? Are you so threatened by positivity in the face of adversity, thus are negative about it because you aren't happy with all your "right stuff"? Are you angry because those who have less than you or are somehow inferior to you might, somehow, still be wiser and more gifted? Perhaps the harsh light of criticism should be directed inward.

I used to scoff at people who did things that were outrageous or "not normal". Adults who competed in sports were nuts. People who tipped the cabby $50 just because or who paid for the meal of the car behind them at the drive-thru window were insane. The person around Chicago who for years would leave gold Krugerrand coins in the Salvation Army donation kettles each Christmas season. (This activity has since spread across the US.) People who did kind things. People who did silly things. People who just did whatever struck them as good or fun or right. These were bad people. These were stupid people who were an embarrassment and shouldn't have been allowed out of the asylum.

Do you know why I didn't like them? Because I wanted to be like them and I didn't think I could do it. And because I didn't think I could do it, I was right. I had been told for years by others and myself that I couldn't or wouldn't belong or that I wouldn't fit in. That I should just sit down and be quiet. To not draw attention to myself. I had been yelled at by others and myself for "making a fool of myself" or for embarrassing other people and making them look bad by being myself or by expressing happiness or joy. I learned that having fun meant getting in trouble or not being taken seriously or being made to feel bad. So I learned to scorn the fun ones and the crazy ones and the silly ones. I learned to despise those people who live.

One of the things I pride myself on is my ability to learn. Learning is absolutely my favoritest thing in the whole wide world. I will do almost anything in the world if I have an opportunity to learn while doing it. And as long as I'm learning something, I'll keep on doing it. (Fortunately, I was not born a rat in a psychology experiment.) Elsewhere in my top ten favorite things is watching people. I started watching these stupid, delusional people so that I could identify what stupid things they were doing so that I could be absolutely certain that I would avoid being anything like them. That's when I noticed that they were having fun and I was having crabbiness, bitterness and almost no fun at all. I noticed that they were being creative and achieving goals and accomplishing things. I, on the other hand, was merely reaching new heights of bitterness and criticism. At one point I even found myself working to stay angry and upset. *That* struck me as being patently absurd.

So I took my ability to learn and redirected it. If I could learn to be rigidly judgmental, decidedly negative and generally hostile toward the positive, might I also be able to learn to be optimistic? Might I learn not to worry about what other people think? Might I learn to be silly regardless of who notices? Might I learn to laugh in public when I do something "wrong"? Might I do what I think is best regardless of whether it is popular? Might I smile and laugh, even if I shut my jacket in the car door and rip it? Might I not have fun, even if I get caught in the rain without an umbrella? Might I not still see the bright side, even if I have adversity? Might I not set positive goals and strive to reach them? Might I not encourage others to be the best they can be? Might I not spread sunshine and cheer, even if it's a long, hard day?

There have been moments in my life where someone else has shared encouragement or a smile, just because. Perhaps they thought I needed it. Perhaps it was just a spontaneous gesture on their part. Perhaps it wasn't directed at me at all, but I happened to notice. These moments are treasures in my mind and I review them when I don't feel so cheerful or positive. There was the time I was at my favorite bookstore cafe, struggling with little success and great frustration, to write part of my dissertation and a random three year old wandered up to me, gently patted me on my knee, smiled, and then wandered away. There was the time a famous microbiologist reminded me that "there is time" for me to accomplish everything I want to accomplish and I needn't try to do it all simultaneously. When I turned 21, two friends at the time insisted that we go to a local bar so that I could order a beer and proudly show off the ID proclaiming I was now of legal drinking age. They later serenaded me with an incredibly out of tune rendition of happy birthday while we returned to the library for more studying. The random greeting cards of encouragement from various friends over the years, including one sent to my now abandoned MS thesis by my now-deceased MS thesis advisor. The crazy drunk-dial phone messages left for me in the middle of the night. The one incident that probably sticks in my mind the most happened during the 2004 Chicago Marathon. The course is pretty heavily lined with crazy Chicagoans cheering anybody and everybody on. They'll call out whatever your shirt says or its color and cheer you on specifically. One lady even brought out a tray of bagels and donuts from her house. The one thing that struck me the most was a sign that was hung from an apartment window. It wasn't a fancy sign or a big sign. Just magic marker on a piece of cardboard. It read "To me, you are all Kenyans." No matter how slow I was (7 hrs, 46 minutes slow. 33,055th place slow), this person thought I ran like the wind, like the Kenyans who finished 26.2 miles in 2:06. This person, who did not know me from a hole in the wall, *admired* me. They didn't admire me for my speed or my fitness. They admired me for getting out there and *doing* it anyway. And they told me so.

There is enough negativity in the world already. I do not feel the need to add to that stockpile. Complaining will not help me reach my goals, but shutting up and using that time/energy by getting to work just might. Seeking out the positive and sharing the positive has no downside that I can find. Spread the sunshine and the smiles. And perhaps some day, I can buoy someone else up and help them reach their goal. And maybe, there will be another troll who will see me and perhaps learn to enjoy life and come out from under the bridge.


Stefaneener said…
This is about the nicest thing I've ever read that you've written. So true. So helpful. And when, when will my children learn this. Aaaaaaaghhh.

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