Monday, October 19, 2009

Positive Thinking: "Smile or Die"

I don't usually characterized myself in many the more trivial things in life, I'm usually a fence-sitter who can't commit to an entree decision (granted, the way that I love food is anything but trivial.) In the more important things in life, I definitely lean more to one side than the other, but depending on the issue, I can't lump myself into one camp generally speaking. I'll see what I can figure out now on this gloomy day in October.

Disclaimer: I'm a happy, friendly, genuine, sincere, easy-going person born without the debate gene. I like to hear all sides of everything before making a decision. I love to research and read and dig deeper into subjects that interest me. I'm a skeptic on things that seem ridiculous but until I've researched it, I hold judgment. I love with reckless abandon, eat with reckless abandon, but am not reckless in nature.

I'm a realist with a heavy dollop of optimism. I do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, even if it's not in my best interest, uncomfortable, or the more difficult of paths. I'm generally a happy person who knows that when the going gets tough, positive-thinking my way through it is for suckers. The world works in a certain way, I can strive to make positive changes, but things like The Secret are hogwash to me (yes, I just used hogwash.) Like I've said before, I do not believe that positive thinking or mass amounts of vegetables will prevent or cure cancer. And like I've said before, I am offended by this school of thought.

On the heels of that, I have finally come across someone who sounds like she feels the same way I do. This is probably the first time in my life I actually want to attend an author's appearance/book signing thing. Barbara Ehrenreich has written a book called "Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America" - a book I fully intend to read. When Ms. Ehrenreich was diagnosed with breast cancer, she found that she was bombarded with books, articles, stories, and people who told her to think positively as it was the only way to overcome this horrible disease. Her quote from the article on SFGate today: "When I reached out, all I could find were these exhortations to be positive or cheerful because it will make you better," she said. "It was either smile or die."

Like Ms. Ehrenreic, I believe that people have become attached to the notion that if you think in a way that is overly optimistic, narcissistic or blindly positive, anything they want will come true. Are Americans that delusional? Have we lost our sense of reality? Are people wanting so badly to grab onto any ideal or "philosophy" that is easily accessible that they are becoming (more?) gullible? Welcome back to REALITY, people. Not reality shows, reality. Life isn't easy. There isn't a magic pill that makes it all better. I'm willing to admit right now that I wish there were! That isn't REALITY. Reality is assessing your situation and doing the leg work to figure out a solution. Decisions based in reality are not the ones that rely on scam artists who appeal to people when they are at their lowest, taking take their money for impossible promises and lofty ideas. Reality is accepting that we aren't perfect, we don't get everything we want, and just because one channels all of their thoughts through the Positive Thinking Machine, they won't get anything unless they work for it.

I am by no means expecting everyone to think negatively because the world is not a friendly place and bad things will happen. All I'm asking for is a huge dose of reality.

I wish for things all the time. A hot guy has never once shown up on my doorstep. He won't ever show up on my doorstep and if he did, then I should alert the press because I've just made a guest appearance in a Nicholas Sparks book. I know that in order to meet people (potential dates, friends, clients, business associates), I have to attend events, join organizations, follow my passions and utilize my skills. I do not for one moment believe that if I had just thought more positively, my grandparents, aunt, and uncles would still be with me. I do not believe that if I had just thought more positively and put those thoughts out into the universe, I wouldn't be upside down on my condo. I do not believe that if I had just thought more positively, I would have won the lottery by now. I do believe that thinking positively and trying to see the bright side of things can help when you're overwhelmed or need a pick me up.

"Thinking positively" has gotten a negative connotation in my mind, one that speaks to naiveté and gullibility. I do not expect positive thoughts to satisfy my basic needs and that's why I go to a job everyday. I think positively because why would I want to be sad or depressed all the time? I think positively because I am happy. That's all it comes down to.

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