Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a pessimist. I tend to expect the worst. I don’t call this negativity. I call it realism. It’s what in corporate jargon is referred to as “managing expectations”. If I set the bar low, I’m unlikely to be disappointed. Quite often, my expectations are met, I shrug and go on. If something exceeds expectations, there’s no one more pleased than me. It’s my very own version of a win-win situation.
Now recently a friend accused me of being negative. She quoted a philosophy that has been doing the rounds a lot these days, the very same one that motivational speakers make their livings of. It, give or take some verbal sparkle, goes like this: if you believe in positive things, they will happen to you. If you do the opposite, you are drawing negativity to yourself.
I do understand the whole concept of self-fulfilling prophecy. I give the self-help gurus their due and say that possibly if you keep repeating positive mantras to yourself, you may be able to energise yourself into believing them and thereby willing some positivity your way.
But here’s the thing. My dour take on life works for me. Despite looking at every situation with a fair degree of skepticism and always bracing myself for the worst, I haven’t had any negativity come my way (touch wood!). In fact, I’ve been darn lucky. I’ve pretty much had a smooth ride out of life and no one knows this more than me. This is not to say that I’ve not had disappointments but none of them have been brutal or really tragic.
So my friend tells me this is because I’m a good person. I’m flattered but I have to say I am. I try my best to come across as a hard-ass bitch but I’m really a sentamentalist and a softie who cries during movies and worries about the fate of beggars long after they’ve moved on. Isn’t that what lies at the heart of all cynicism. Isn’t cynicism just a defense mechanism for the very very fragile who simply know that their souls are too sensitive for the battering called life?
I definitely knew at a very early age. When I was ten some adult told me I was “pragmatic”. “What’s that?” I wondered. “It’s like cynical… no actually it’s…,” she (the adult) faltered. I nodded sagely. I knew I was cynical at ten and I was ok with that. It seemed like the only sensible point of view. I regarded the world with one eyebrow permanently arched (metaphorically-speaking because as much as I practise I’ve never been able to do this in real life).
But I disagree with the idea that I draw good luck to myself solely because I am a good person. First, I’m good but not that good. Second, there are other equally good people who really don’t seem to draw the same generosity of fate. Third, this is a dangerous proposition to make because the reverse is like saying that bad things happen to bad people. It has something of the Church’s sin and damnation tone to it, no matter how new agey it sounds. So while I do believe that goodness draws good vibes, I don’t think it can completely account for all the good stuff that comes to one.
This “think positive” stuff is just one of the iffy statements that is doing the rounds. Another is the “if you really want something, the universe conspires to give it to you”. So beautifully crafted is this aphorism that I would really really want it to be true (oooh so then shouldn’t the Universe conspire to make it?). Also, because if it’s true it would be so much easier for dreams to come true. But does it work?
It’s ironic that I’m questioning it because I actually believe in it somewhat. I believe that if you want something and you believe hard enough that it will happen without the shadow of a doubt, it actually will. It’s how I account for the miracles that happen when individuals or groups pray – they’re forcing events by the sheer, incontrovertable energy of their belief. But it will only happen if you truly and completely have faith that it will. Fellow cynics, sneer on. But this works for me, so I’m not knocking it.
But the thing is… it doesn’t seem to work for most people. I happen to know one poor sod who really wanted something (someone actually… me, if you must know) and refused to believe that it would not happen, and you know what, it didn’t. And he really believed. Except the Universe (and I) weren’t listening. And we’ve actually gone on quite peacefully thereafter without any skies falling on my head for thwarting the desire of the Universe. Or maybe I was wishing just as hard that the Universe didn’t land me with him (but I wasn’t… I was too busy being frivolous).
So, I think there’s a caveat. If you really want something, and you believe with all your heart and without a doubt that it will happen, it will BUT only if it’s good for you. HA! you say. That’s a good cop out. I’m not sure. In my case, I’ve never truly wanted anything that was bad for me. Even when I really wanted something that was bad for me (like that green eyed boy) bad, I wasn’t ever able to convince myself I would get it/him because I had a small doubt that I wanted it/him because he/it was bad for me… argh!
But this caveaty- version doesn’t sound as nice as the all-powerful Universe, does it? And it seems to overplay the hand of fate, that irrational, irreverent unpredictable gamboller, over anything I, as an individual, radiating positivity or not, could influence.
Anyway, when I pointed out to friend that my negativity worked for me, thank you very much and that contrary to popular belief, I did count my blessings, every day in fact, she told me to stop moaning so much. Now, I admit I do tend to moan. I bitch (as you may have noticed on this blog, but don’t judge me on this beast alone. Considering this space was created specifically for ranting, it’s all bound to be a bit exaggerated) and I moan and I want more. But hey, remember Maslow’s pyramid? I’ve satisfied my bottom tiers… now I want beauty, and if possible and existant, truth.
Also, here’s the thing. If I had conversations with many of my friends about how fortunate I was, they’d want to smack me. It would be all a bit revoltingly Smug Married. But more to the point, I don’t want to have conversations about how happy I am. When I am happy, I am. That’s the nature of happiness. You don’t need to talk about it. You don’t even necessarily need people to share it with. It just is. It can be glee hugged close to the chest or joy shouted to the rooftops.
Happiness doesn’t need analysis, misery does.
Or if not misery, at least the annoyaces of day to day living. It’s not that we don’t see the spectacularl sunrises of our lives (how could we not?) but when we stumble over stones we want to say “ouch” and we want someone to say “poor baby”. And that’s why we have friends, specifically girl friends. To poor-baby us. And vice versa. Sometimes, our husbands or boyfriends or male friends will poor-baby us and we’ll melt like puddles and all will be at peace with the world but most of the time, we need our girl friends to be the salve if not the cure. (Of course, we also have girl friends to get smashed and sing “I will survive” with but that’s another story… though see, maybe that’s why “I will survive” is so popular among girl groups. It’s not the boy that the song is about but the very act of girl poor-babying that’s being celebrated).
So I’m sorry I will not stop venting. I may change the people I vent to, I may alternate so that no one person is caught up in a deluge of dourness but rant I will. It’s who I am. I narrow my eyes and spit. I smirk. I feel better by being a bitch. I use words until I’ve run out of breath and then I’m spent and calm. At least I make it entertaining.
Because really, there’s something dishonest about all this positivity that I cannot stomach. Maybe it’s why I cannot do the positive mantra thing. I cannot kid myself. I keep calling my own bluff. And I’ve always been puzzled by people who are dishonest with themselves. Dishonesty with other people could be strategy. Dishonesty with oneself just seems to me to be very very sad. But suddenly, it’s become a life philosophy. And some people say it works.
I say, to each his own. You go your own way, puffing positivity at every turn and I’ll go mine, curling my lip at whatever I please. And I mean that in the best way possible.