Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Cult of Positivity

I am not, by nature, a positive person. I wouldn't call myself a Negative Nellie by any stretch of the imagination, but positive? That's a stretch. I usually occupy a gray zone that goes between "caffeine induced hyper-perky" and "self-indulgent moroseness". Sarcasm and I are dear friends, and I fully believe there are some days where it is for the Greater Good of Humanity that I do not interact with other people.

All that being said, I am trying to be better at focusing on all the positives life has to offer and less on how everything seems to conspire to kick me in the ass on a regular basis. It is a daily, conscious effort on my part, and some days I do better than others.

If you go on Pinterest these days, the board is a-wash with various forms of "happiness is a choice" memes.
Can I get one that says "Keep Calm and Don't Bitch-Slap the Person Who Says 'Stay Positive'"?

Buddha says choose happiness. Cute kitteh says "I iz happie." Ryan Gosling says "Hey girl, what you send out in the Universe you get back. Be positive." Keep that shirt off Mr. Gosling and you'd be surprised at how positive I can be.


Moving on.

On the one hand, I think it's great that people are saying "you know what? if we all chose to focus on better things, things would be better." Because to a certain extent it is true. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to stop focusing on all the things that bring you down (most of which are beyond your control and not intentionally doing anything to you anyway) and focus on all the good things surrounding you. You can do that. You have that option.

The thing is, you can't be happy all of the time. You can't be positive all of the time. Even Buddha knew that. You think he was always that happy laughing big bellied guy we all have come to love (which actually isn't even Buddha but a Japanese monk)? No. He suffered. He suffered a lot. But he did the work and found his way through to the other side and found out that what the other side looks like is your choice.

Let's face it... sometimes things SUCK. Sometimes they honestly can't get much worse. People go through some truly horrible, terrible things. Or, sometimes the reason for the sadness and pain is genetic or chemical. Telling them to "stay positive" or "choose happiness" is not only insulting and dismissive, it further denigrates them by insinuating they are doing something wrong because they can't simply choose to be happy.

Happiness is (sometimes) a choice. Suffering is (sometimes) a choice. Honor and respect the emotions and journey of the individual and know that they are doing the best they can with what they've been given.

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