I’ve read a lot in recent years of the dangers of bright-siding. One of my favorite authors, Barbara Enrenreich, wrote a book about how positive thinking, that incessant American optimism and cheerfulness, is actually causing a lot of problems in individuals and the country at large.
I agree with her. Like everyone else in the world, I’ve seen ‘Inside Out.’ Refusing any of your emotions is a bad idea.
Just as bad as bright-siding, though, is what I have called dark-siding. The tendency of so many people to look at the negative aspects of life, whatever else is happening.
My grandmother was one of those people.
No matter how many joyful things happened in her life: the birth of four children, the birth of grandchildren and great-grandchildren; a long marriage that started rocky but eventually gave way to the comfortable affection of middle age; several warm homes; a comfortable life; I could go on.
None of it mattered. Not a single thing. If you ever sat down with my grandmother, particularly in later life, she would tell you about every negative experience she had ever had. Multiple times. Was some of it horrible? Of course, the woman grew up during the Depression and lived to 97. She had seen some shit.
Truth be told, though, she would tell stories about near-rapes and an abusive parent in the same tone that she would discuss the minor annoyances and petty bickering of suburban American life. To her, it all added up to a single truth: people were cruel and life sucked.
I’ve got news for you. Neither of those things are true.
People are good, bad, and neutral. Life can be joyous, painful, or just plain dull.
Where your energy goes, that’s where your life goes. If you spend your whole life thinking the earth and everyone striding across it is terrible, that’s the cell in which you find yourself.
If you’re a dark-sider, this post is not intended to beat you up (or my grandmother). Full confession time, I have spent my fair share of time slip-sliding to the dark-side as well.
There are steps you can take to help yourself, though, and the first one is mindfulness. In my experience, the mind takes a dark turn when we dwell on past negative experiences or worry about something that might happen in the future.
When we do this, not only are we making ourselves miserable, we’re wasting our time.
The past is gone. There’s nothing you can do to change it, no matter how much you wish you would have majored in Physics instead of English (speaking for a friend).
The future has not yet happened. We should plan to ensure that when our present self arrives in said future, it is as pleasant as possible, but really… anything can happen.
There’s one thing I can guarantee you, folks. As my father is fond of saying, sometimes God will shit in your path. Bad times will come, but so will the good (I’m not certain what God is doing on our path in those moments; I’ll follow up with Dad and keep you posted).
Okay… I can promise two things. If you spend all your time dwelling on the misfortune of the past or that to come, your life is going to suck. You will be missing all of the wonderful moments that make living on this planet great.
Remember that life is short… even if you live to be 97. Don’t waste it on the crap. Practice living in the moment. If you don’t know where to start, check out the old reliable: ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle.
Too cheesy? Listen to my favorite “Beautiful World” by Colin Hay.
Have any suggestions of your own? Feel free to comment below.