My wife is going to read this and hold it in front of me any time I become negative about anything, that could be why I am writing it. She is such a bastion of positive thinking that when ever I am having doubts or slipping into the negative space, I turn myself around by realizing that I may be damaging the one thing that is saving us from oblivion, her belief that everything is going to be okay.
My ability to succeed is based primarily on ignoring or redirecting the negative and focusing only on the positive. Not in a hallmark kind of way, I think I have a genetic aversion to the sickly sweet false happiness that has become synonymous with insincerity. But on the other side of the coin, there are people out there who thrive on negativity and will do anything in their power to discredit positive thinkers, just read this article in the New Yorker.
It is important to note that the author of that article is a professor of marketing at a New York Business School. If I understand anything about marketing and capitalism, it would be that the best consumers are people who are isolated and miserable. So it makes sense that, if you are going to succeed in business, or teach at a business school, you have to be a conduit of negativity, it’s a business tactic, for every winner there has to be a looser. Unhappy people often take refuge in purchasing material things and driving the consumer economy. But I digress.
Problems and Solutions
I have always wanted to be regarded as a positive force on the people and situations in my life. My childhood was a rough one, full of tragic moments and lonlieness. I chose, a long time ago, to stay away from defining difficult moments as “problems”, choosing the word “situation” instead. It is what turned my life around. I am a firm believer in the idea that if you want to manifest change, the first thing to do is question the use of language. It is interesting to note that the world ‘problem’ exists in almost every language in the Western world, spelled almost exactly the same way everywhere you go. No matter where you are you can say “problem” and everybody, no matter what language they speak, will nod their head and know exactly what you are talking about. I suppose you could say that, in some strange way, the word “problem” brings humanity together… which, in the short term, is a positive thing, but overall a hugely negative thing.
I find it odd that the word ‘solution’, on the other hand, is vastly different from country to country. You actually have to know what this word is in any given language to ever have the hope of finding one. If you say the word ‘solution’ after saying the word ‘problem’ in a room full of non english speakers, you will likely be greeted with silence and a lot blank looks. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would think that some team of business people went around the world a long time ago to make sure that word problem was ever present because, let’s face it, you can’t sell a solution unless you have created a problem.
Agents of Darkness
I recently had to move my family to a completely new city. I had quite suddenly lost my job and in order to recover from the situation we had to move to a city that was bigger than the one we were in. After doing some research and making some calls, we got in our car and drove across the country and ended up in the place we thought would work to our advantage. I had a few friends and business associates there and so I set to the task of finding work.
I have an expansive skill set and volumes of experience, so I figured it wouldn’t take too much to get myself going. Ultimately I have a postive outlook and because of that I exude success and attract good fortune. In a matter of a few months I managed to stabilize our lives and start planning a future. Had I allowed anything negative to enter my head, the result could have been catastrophic. I think it was Nietzsche that said “If you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you”. The power of positive thinking is the single most important thing to me, so it stands to reason that when someone assails my positive position, my impulse, and my failing, is to defend that position. I call these people “Agents of Darkness”, other people might call them “Trolls”.
One afternoon I was working in my garage when one of my neighbors came over to smoke her cigarette and say hi. I said hello back and asked her “How are you?” She is an older woman and every time I ask her that question she responds the same way. “Oh well…I’m okay, I guess, could be better”. She asked me how I was, “I’m good,” I chirped. I’m always good, even when I’m not so good I’m good, it’s part of the strategy. If I am grumpy there is no real point in sharing that with anyone unless I want to be a nasty son of a bitch.
“Have you found any work yet?” she asked.
“Well, I’m looking around, submitting applications.” I replied
“What kind of jobs are you looking for?” she continued.
“Oh, well, I’ve got a great skill set, so I’m keeping myself open. Teaching has always been central to maintaining good mental health, so I’ve been applying for some teaching positions.”
And then she dropped the bomb,
“Oh, yeah.’ she sighed, “that’s going to be hard. It’s hard.”
There is something about the sighing and that specific combination of words that fills me with a blind rage I can’t even begin to quell. The first thing that happens is that my eyes start popping out of my head. Then a low rumble begins to emanate from my stomach, my breathing becomes laboured and an unbearable pressure builds in my head.
I want to be a positive person, but THIS, this threatens to undo me. Things ARE hard, I don’t need to be reminded that they are hard. I pause for a moment using every ounce of energy that I have to contain myself and then I look up and lock eyes with her. Up until this moment there has not really been any extended eye contact, but now it seems that this is what the situation requires. Intense, focused, deep eye locking. Words begin to form and my lips, teeth and tongue prepare themselves to unleash…something…
“I’m curious”, I spoke in measured tones, “what do you hope to achieve by telling me that? Are you hoping to see some sort of defeat in me by presenting this point of view? Why would you say something like that? What is your point? Don’t you think I am aware of how hard it is? And if I’m not, what is it about you that you feel a deep rooted need to reinforce that for me? Should we just give up? Should I just go up to my apartment, euthanize my wife and child and then commit suicide?” Then I shut up, realizing that I had lost my resolve.
She looked at me a bit stunned, stammered a bit and then said “well, it IS hard”. Then, in some weird turn of attitude she put out her cigarette and said “have a good day”. She had gotten what I think she wanted, to undermine and infect me with her essence. As she walked away, I continued to berate her, and all like her, in my mind. “Why do you have to be like that? What made you like that? Does doing this entertain you? Do you enjoy being passive aggressive? Are you a sociopath? How will I stop you from continuing to have an effect on me”
I was brooding and needed a solution to get myself back to that positive place I love so much. Then, quite spontaneously, I came up with one. A really good one, and everything was okay.
Stay tuned for Part 2…