Staying positive is something that seems obvious to be happy, but it’s hard for some people to do. Harder for some than others, and I believe that’s because of constantly training ourselves to either think positively, which is hard and must be consciously done sometimes or think negatively. Thinking negatively is easy and I’d even say lazy, and it’s poisonous to ourselves and to relationships. No one like to be around or associated with someone that always thinks negatively, whether it’s about others, events in life, themselves, situations they find themselves (which are typically no different than any others people find themselves in at some point), or any and everything that comes their way.
Either way, we condition ourselves to think one way or another. And after time goes by, it becomes the routine way our brains travel when we have to ponder a matter. Do we look at it with optimism and trying to think of good things about it, and try to see the positive, or do we curse it and look at it woefully and how bad it is is how helpless it makes us change it? I know people that do both, and I prefer to be with the optimists. Everyone has negative events that occur in their lives but it’s how we learn to manage and cope with them that I think makes us stronger and able to hand even worse matters, that, unfortunately, do lie around the corner if you live long enough.
Learning to be grateful is one way to change yor way of thinking positively. Keeping a list of things you have to be grateful for work for me, and I still write down things I’m grateful for. Gratitude goes hand in hand with happiness. And everyone has something to be grateful for, no matter how dim life might look at times. I wrote down 10 things each day I was grateful for, and it changes your perspective. It conditions you to be more positive.
I’ve also found it’s easier to be more positive when you’re more down and out that when you’re on top. When you have more to worry about losing or are up on top, there’s a long way down to fall and the footing sometimes feels unsteady. When at rock bottom, things feel like they only get better, so it’ easy to be optimistic. It’s ironic, really.
People that have a negative outlook on life are corrosive and have an anchoring effect on your soul. They drag you along, tire you out and drain your resources. Miserable people love to commiserate (misery loves company is true) and they’ll pick at you until they find a spot to saturate and infect you with their cancer until you quickly die. So I tend to stay away from negative people because it’s as unhealthy as smoking, eating poorly, drinking alcohol and being complacent. All things I coincidentally did when younger and have quit and never been happier and both mentally and physically healthier as a result.
Everyone’s different so I don’t have specific answers for everyone can achieve that outlook, but I can list some ways that have worked for me:
Go for a walk. I don’t really consider this “exercise” exactly, but it gets you outdoors and gets your blood and chemicals pumping, which is good for you.
Change your playgrounds and playmates. The people and places we choose to go to have an impact on us, good or bad. And if you struggle with keeping a good outlook, it may be due to these things.
Music. Music can instantly change the mood I’m in and the things I think about. I find it’s one of the most powerful influences in my life, which is why I embrace it the way I do and play guitar and go to live performances. Bonus: Live performances also put you among lots of other happy people who share the same love of the music you’re hearing.
Pets and animals. They have unconditional love, which goes a long way. They are appreciative of everything you do for them, which lifts spirits automatically. Dogs especially have a profound impact on my life. Good dogs, at least.
Read good books that have a positive message or make you stronger somehow.
Listen to a Ted talk. (Not a TedX talk. There’s a difference.)
Help others. There are always people that need a hand, and everyone can help someone else somehow.
I’m sure there are a lot more I’m overlooking but that’s a good list for starters.
You may ask: why bother? Because being positive allows us to be happy. It makes us happier and healthier. People want to be around us more, which has a snowball effect with regards to happiness, and I’d say even success. You become a magnet for positivity and a repellant for negativity, which draws negative events and people to us, which I doubt many people welcome. When you’re happy you want to help others, which I’d say is a big reason to live. If you want fulfillment in life and are trying to find a reason we exist as people, one is to help others, which being positive helps us do, and want to do.
Let me explain firstly, this is not a complaint. It’s more of a rant. The difference being that rants are truthful observations. Complaints are when you’re letting off steam because you feel like you’ve been wronged somehow and are seeking justice. There’s no justice for what parades take from our souls and I have no skin in this game to feel wronged.
I try to stay away from public gatherings because at my age I’ve experienced them to every degree imaginable, and they seem to characterize more of what I have less patience for as I get older. Yes, I’m changing, but so are the factors that comprise “The Public.” And if you think I sound snobby, then you probably are part of the problem. But my daughter and I went to this “festival” and parade because she should experience what these things represent, for good and bad. Even she had enough at a point and wanted to leave early. I’ve never liked parades, and fairs and public gatherings give me hives. They’re too much of everything that makes me roll my eyes. And as I get older, that’s more and more stuff.
There’s also a difference between the crowds when you talk about “the public.” What you experience at Disney World, for example, is different than what you get at, say, today’s Halloween parade my daughter and I attended. Disney World filters out 99% of the riff-raff through its pricing. It’s so expensive for an authentic Disney vacation that most people, being more than 50% of America, simply can’t afford it without some subsidy. I know people that have six-figure salaries that have to use time-share scams and University conferences as ways to go spend just a couple of days at Disney World. And you need probably a week to do it there right without having a nervous breakdown, which for a family of 4, easily would cost close to $10,000. So it’s not exactly caddy day at Bushwood country club. My freshman year I went to Rollins College in Winter Park Florida, just outside of Orlando. The number of times I went to Disney World: zero.
Juxtapose that with going to a free parade on a Saturday afternoon that’s held along a street that’s nothing but bars, tattoo and piercing parlors, head shops, shuttered commercial spaces that represent shattered dreams of the stupid variety(which I’ll discuss later), burrito counters, vape/CBD stores, cell phone stores, and little stores that have somehow stayed open defying all odds, like vinyl record stores, comic book stores, vintage high-end guitar shops, and nail and beauty salons. That street in Louisville is Bardstown Rd. It’s around the corner from methadone clinics and runs through the bluest area of a blue city, The Highlands. High-crime as well, which shouldn’t need to be said.
Bardstown Rd. is a place that many cities have, like little 5 points in Atlanta, and where the “counter-culture” hangs out. Lots of restaurants and nightlife. Except the counter culture doesn’t exist anymore. In the 1970s and 1980s and for a bit of the early 1990s, yes. But the internet and shifts in mainstream culture and music and the arts all changed forever. What was “alternative” became mainstream. And it hasn’t changed. The people that are being “different” and “themselves” are doing nothing more than copying what they see online, at the mall, at school, parades, and with the general public and the other mainstream places the public at large dwells. in the 70’s, having a tattoo, a body piercing, a mohawk, short hair if you were female or long hair if you were a male with unique facial hairstyles, colored hair, wore ironic, vintage, ill-fitting, donated clothing, and listened to bands no one else had even heard of, then you were counter-culture. That’s all mainstream in 2019, and it’s not ironic, and the music is pop music. I feel more eccentric going out in public here with no tattoos, dressed well, hair neat and myself groomed, than a man would with a bun in their hair and wearing a skirt.
Counter culture in 2019 is conservative. No tattoos. Pressed, collared shirts tucked in with belts, wearing styles that buck trends and have been worn since the 1950s and 1960s with hairstyles to match the gender. Cuffed pants and shoes with shoestrings. And knowing exactly what gender we are and proud of it, and even try to accentuate the fact via taking care of our bodies and maintaining a reasonable amount of self-esteem. Self-esteem has been thrown out the window in 2019, proven by looking in any direction when attending a parade as we went to today. In every direction were people that were morbidly obese, with clothing that was 10 times too small, showing off the inner-tube-like physiques struggling to stay within the overworked fibers of their t-shirts, tank-tops, jeggings and spandex pants, pajama bottoms, and whatever they found on the floor when they rolled off the couch. Self-esteem seems to the controlling factor of why we see what we do today versus what we saw a few decades ago. Americans used to have some. No more.
What white skin that was unfortunately visible to the naked eye was graffitied with a landscape of colors, but no telling what they comprised. Names of common-law spouses, maybe? Some motorcycle badge perhaps? Who knows, and who wants to look at it long enough to try and find out? No one. I don’t know what tattoos cost these days, but I imagine they aren’t cheap, which makes one wonder.
I don’t have anything against tattoos per-se. I know plenty of people with them, and I know why, when and where they got them. Getting a butterfly on your ankle in 1987 when you were following the Grateful Dead is a lot different than a massive skull, snakehead and knife blazoned across your back above a tramp stamp and below a tribal around your neck in 2017 because you saw it on “Dawg the Bounty Hunter.” It’s become nothing more than monkey-see, monkey do. I’ve hired designers with tattoo sleeves and on their necks and heads and God knows where else. I can appreciate that people who love art and design see it as an extension of their own love of art. But beyond that, you’re losing me. Men that get them to look tough, women that get them to look sexy….no. It doesn’t happen that way.
So back to the Halloween gala today. My daughter and I waited patiently for nearly an hour in a spot I chose so we could see the parade well, maybe get some candy that was tossed and have a good time. “The public” had a different idea in store.
What we experienced sitting there with the world passing by around us was: people so overweight they have been placed on motorized scooters to haul their blubberbutts around, playing bumper cars with people and obstacles in a heavily crowded parade route. Many of these whales were smoking cigarettes, just to punish their bodies and those unfortunate enough to come into proximity of them further. And then the people sitting on the curbs smoking, with children lining up all around them to watch the parade. It’s hard for me to believe anyone still smokes in 2019, but to do it smack-dab in the middle of a family crowd is beyond inconsiderate. And most of these people were eating some type of fried street food they found, and leaving their litter on the curbs for people to step in and swerve around when ther were trash cans all over the place. I hate litter and people who litter blow my little mind.
People would constantly mosey up and stand right directly in front of me and my daughter, sitting in her stroller, taking up 1-1/2 feet horizontally and maybe 3 feet vertically, like we weren’t even there. We grabbed a choice spot for viewing and grabbing candy, which my daughter wasn’t aggressive enough among the other children to get the little treats being tossed out. I wasn’t sure to be glad or worried about that fact, but in the end, I think it’s best she doesn’t try to fight strangers for road candy. I will give her better, and her hesitancy to engage in battle for sugar is probably a demonstration of manners, restraint and consideration, which I try to instill.
So I mentioned Bardstown Road is a street lined with pubs and bars and places people go to imbibe every hour of the day each day of the week. It’s our own little Bourbon Street. And not surprisingly, it’s where you can find the homeless, the shady, the unwashed, the barflies and the down and out. I saw several children on their own out along the parade route, while daddy was back in the pub knocking back a few while little princess was standing alone out in the street with her plastic grocery bag waiting for candy to be thrown her way. Warmed my heart. Every now and then they’d stagger out and make sure everything was OK and stumble back up to the bar. The vision of someone walking by, scooping up the child and moving on back to their van with their prize and driving off forever playing over and over in my mind. The children’s’ mothers somewhere nearby with their noses in their mobile phones in another world.
Bardstown Road is a street where there is an endless number of storefronts that house the dreams of people who have an idea, some savings to start it up, but no business sense. And a year later, it’s out of business for the next dreamer/tenant to move on in. Boutique chocolate cafes. Dog treat stores. Stores that cater to cat owners. Small bookstores. Indian vegan street food. If you can dream it, it’s been tried and failed on Bardstown Road. I think every city has a street or area like this. It’s where liberals congregate to throw their savings away. Cafes, bookstores, record shops, concepts that soothe the liberal mind and sound great at the book club and on NPR but make no sense on paper and are an accountant’s nightmare.
It was often hard to tell who was dressed for Halloween and who was just there for the parade.
We often hear that we should be grateful and be humble, which is true. Humility is a lack of ego. Some people confuse it with “humiliation,” which is totally different. But I wonder if everyone really takes that into consideration as much as it should be, which is enough to actually practice them consistently. They aren’t natural ways to be, and for some people, it comes much harder than others.
I know a lot of people who I’ve known for nearly my whole life that have grown up demonstrating a facade that they have and are the way they are because of entitlement or some God-given grace. They’ve never had to show gratitude or humility, and to do so in the least would be as mortifying as standing in Times Square at noon naked. Admitting that would be impossible, which comes with the attitude. But through life, I’ve gotten to know many people who are gracious, grateful and humble, and they are some of the people everyone wants to strive to be like and want to know. It’s the difference between people that give and people that only take. It usually takes some twist of fate that puts us in some compromising position to begin thinking about what we should be grateful for and how to truly be humble. I know in my case that’s true.
But I don’t think it has to be that way. Empathy and the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes allows for it. Men like Robert E. Lee understand humility and haven’t been down and out like some people have. Although “down and out” is relative, generally speaking. What seems huge now might seem laughable at a later point in life. I know I’ve faced what I thought were some hard times, but in retrospect, they were pretty easy comparatively. And although I’ve been what people would certainly consider “broke” I’ve given my last $5 to a man standing out in the Summer heat on the corner of a highway asking for help because obviously, he was in a worse spot than I. I at least was sitting in an air-conditioned car, driving to a house with water and food.
Whenever we feel great about the position we’re in life and proud of where we find ourselves, it’s a perfect time to reflect and try to think of all that we should be grateful for, and not proud of. And remember that it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye. Usually, the easier it comes, the easier it goes. But not always. And to remember that we’re all human and imperfect is something to keep in mind. No one’s better than anyone else. It’s easy to judge someone else based on perceptions we have thanks to the experiences and gifts we’ve had and been given that others haven’t. I don’t think it has anything to do with “luck” or fortune or misfortune. It’s that everyone takes a unique, complex set of routes through life that makes us see things differently, and make choices to the best of our ability that differ from others because of what we’ve been exposed to and learned from our past.
At the very least we need to be able to be grateful to be happy. They go hand in hand. And when the cards are down, being humble makes life much easier when you have to reach up and out for help. There will be many more hands available than if you need to reach down for help from the pedestal you’ve maintained, and turns out you’ve borrowed the whole time.
Definition of a Gentleman
Robert. Edward Lee
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly–the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.
I’ve been noticing some interesting things recently as I deal with a number of stressful issues occurring in my life. They are separate and related, and vary in scope and scale and how they were injected into my life and relieved. They’re dynamic, in other words, but persistent, and lately, sizable in any way someone looks at them. They’re relative, I know. Everyone has problems, and I know there are people with greater problems than I have, and others with less. But to each person, the stressor is relative to the amount and type of coping skills they’re armed with, the amount of time they have to devote to them, and all the other resources needed to deal with each one separately, in conjunction with one another, and often compounded by each other. I don’t mean to compare my situation with anyone else’s because they’re all unique.
So I’m not writing about this as a complaint; more like a clinical observation about how my own person, physically and mentally, have reacted to what I’m experiencing. I think nearly anyone would agree that what I’m experiencing, knowing the details of it all, is unusually high-stress in any context, however. “Measuring” it seems pointless and futile because of what I described above. I’m just trying to impress the fact this isn’t your everyday “I got into a car accident” or “my power was cut off” type of problem that’s being dealt with.
So what initially happened when I was hit with the sudden news that my wife left me and my family was destroyed, dreams shattered, the dog died, etc… was that I lost a lot of weight quickly. My cortisol levels went off the chart. I lost over 25% of my weight in two weeks, and I wasn’t overweight. That was from about 175 lbs to less than 152 pounds, and then it kept dropping into the 140s, to about 145 and then to 135 when I stopped weighing myself because it was frightening to see myself turning into a skeleton and not being able to stop it. Even though I was eating normally and living as I always had. Eventually, after gorging myself for months and time doing the work time tend to do, I put the weight back on. Yes, I went to the doctor, and he just said it was because of stress, which is what I already knew and why I dismiss most doctors to begin with.
Fast forward to now, about 2 quick years later when I’m experiencing a resurgence in stress from some of the same issues that remain unresolved, or have become worse, plus a number of new ones. I had financial stresses removed temporarily, and then the rug pulled out from under me and me crashing on the ground even harder than before, which I’m working on getting back up from now.
But what is interesting to me is my body’s response this time. I went through a period of sleeplessness where I would go days without sleep until my common sense and biology made me get some sleep. And then I’d rest very hard, and find it hard to even move a muscle in the direction out of bed, to shower and tend to the numerous obligations I have. I don’t drink or smoke, and I exercise when I can, but I’m not on a regular exercise regimen. My daily chores typically provide quite a bit. Just mowing my nearly vertical yard is more than I believe most men my age could do, and I do it every week, plus chasing my daughter nonstop around gets the heart pumping. I’ve never worried about becoming Mr. Universe but I’ve always been active. Always.
What’s more, I find that I have an insatiable appetite. I’ve never eaten for comfort or as a coping mechanism. I consider food fuel and eat healthily. I tend to graze throughout the day and night instead of eating big several full meals like most people I think do. I don’t wait until I’m starving to refill my tank. I’ve never been a snacker. But I do have a sweet tooth and will eat dark chocolate or ice cream as a rare treat.
But lately, I have been eating non-stop, which I think is due to our fight or flight instinct. I stay awake forever as a fighting stance. And my body wants me to bolster my energy sources by eating a bunch of food and resting, once I give in and lie down. It tries to keep me down to rest, to be prepared to fight, although to me when I’m lying there, it feels more like flight. I keep getting bad news which is body blows that also tempt me to hide from the world as well. But I know that’s the least productive thing I can do and will only make matters worse, so I fight it. I’m a fighter, not a quitter, and I’m a doer, not a talker, which is are facts that will remove me from this pit eventually one way or another. People have had to face far worse circumstances than I am, and have emerged so much stronger than most people on Earth as a result. I don’t think that I fall outside that group of people with the background and fortitude I have. And although nearly everyone has turned their backs to me, I still have a group of people that I know live me and care about me, which will always be remembered and helps lift me up when I just want to lie down and give up.
This time, despite my ridiculous appetite, I’m not putting on any weight, but it’s especially noticeable when juxtaposed against my daughter’s appetite. She is 4 years old and eats like a bird, to begin with. And she’d rather play than eat. I have to force her to focus on settling down and eating, and even then she’s picky, so she’ll only eat a few bites at a time and then it’s back to work for her. She reminds me of myself in that regard, where I will often neglect myself in the name of finishing something else I’m focused on to the point of being manic. When I did consulting work, I’d stay up for 3 days straight to finish a project and not come up for air until it was done. That’s always been my ethic, and I recognize it and recognize it’s crazy, but that’s another post. I also notice stress compels me to want to create/produce, like writing, building things, fixing things around the house, playing guitar, and being artistic. And it’s the reason I’m up typing this at nearly 2 am instead of getting sleep. But I’m not crazy, so goodnight.