Monday, October 19, 2009

Other People Say It Better

From Carolyn Hax's "Tell Me About It" chat on 10/9:

Is it easier to be unhappy?: I recently read one of your columns where you said it was easy to be unhappy. Do you think it's easier to be unhappy? With now many years of experience under your belt, why do you think people protect their bitterness, anger, weaknesses and past truamas to the end,no matter what they lose? I've watched some people lose almost everything and everyone in order to hang on to what a friend called "their triumphant unhappiness."

Carolyn Hax: I love that phrase, please thank your friend for it.

Yes, I do think it's easier -day-to-day- to be unhappy. meaning, when we're faced with these little decisions about how to perceive something, it's always a little bit easier to blame than it is to celebrate (how often is it "another bleeping meeting," vs. a chance to leave your desk, see some people, scam a donut?), and it's always a little bit easier to put that blame on someone/something else.

Long run, those little easy choices make life -so- much harder, which is what life amounts to when you're pessimistic and/or fundamentally negative. You choose to accept a lower allotment of joy.

The reason I think it's harder in the short run to choose celebration over blame is that you have to take responsibility for more of your own bad outcomes, you have to be grateful for what you have when you're plainly receiving less than someone else, and you have to make a conscious decision to assess individuals and discrete situations solely on their merits, instead of just lumping them all into some category of Things You Already Know. In other words, you have to assign yourself to the role of student in life, instead of the more secure feeling Master of All Knowledge.

Choosing optimism is choosing vulnerability and humility on an ongoing basis, and that's often in conflict with our nature.


thelady said...

Great quote. I don't understand people who complain about a situation but do nothing to change it. Several people I work with complain about how they don't like their job or the town we live in. It has been 2 years and these same people are still complaining. If you are unhappy leave. Some of these complainers have 5+ years experience which would qualify them from a mid level manager department head position in a more desirable area, or even an entry level position which might pay more because we have no tenure track so there is no way to increase your salary without changing positions. One of my coworkers, has been here longer than me but earns less. I am being picky about where I apply but I've already had phone interviews with well known universities. I'm trying to get out while I can.

Kerry said...

Good for you!

One of the things I like about Hax is that she does acknowledge that it is hard to make those changes that allow you to be happy, and that frequently there's backlash from others. When I started really concentrating on making myself happy, I felt a little like I was becoming a sociopath. But you know what? Sometimes you can't change the larger situation, and you shouldn't even try. What you can change is the situation as it applies to you. People see that as a betrayal though.

lsaspacey said...

Good quote and so true. I'm just starting the hard work it will take to make my life better because for the last year I've been taking the easy way and letting myself be unhappy with my lot in life. Good for you Kerry in actively changing your status quo.