It’s often the case that we understand ourselves more when we’re faced with an example of someone that reacts to a situation in a very different way to how we might.
Some years ago I was in a different place mentally to the one I’m in now, and looking back at who I was then still makes me cringe a bit. I’d become a bit disillusioned and bitter with life – but if you’d asked me at the time whether that was who I was I’d have denied it. I was in retrospect completely blind to it.
Then someone said to me ‘Do you realise that people perceive you as a negative person?’
I was floored at the time and it caused me to re-evaluate a lot of things in my life – particularly why I looked at things the way I did, and how I might change. I eventually concluded that some of it was my upbringing (a hangover from parental influences) but a massive portion was a separately learned despondency that I’d been unconsciously working on in my spare time and quietly developing since I was a young boy.
I worked hard to change that aspect of myself and my perception in the eyes of others over the years that followed. I think for the most part I managed it. However the underlying thought processes that enabled that state of mind to take root in the first place were still there and definitely still exist in the background even to this day.
The difference is that I’m now aware of them and when I catch myself becoming too negative (no-one is happy ALL the time) I consciously make the effort to re-frame my perspective and try to think another way.
This makes it all the more jarring however when I’m faced with someone that’s decided they prefer the opposite approach. I came across just such a person recently.
‘I’m unappreciated.’ the dour faced man said to me. ‘It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s pointless. I could do nothing or do everything. Nothing matters.’
I cocked my head slightly. Wow. That was a pretty nihilistic world view. It was also the second thing he’d ever said to me – the first being ‘Hello.’
I felt that things would only worsen if I agreed with him.
‘Surely not!’ I said. ‘Things aren’t that bad!’
‘I’m a cup’s half empty kind of person, In case you hadn’t guessed.’ He said and looked away from me.
He continued to talk, now with a with a mildly sarcastic tone, ‘I’m living the dream. Every day is a constant joy and my life is one of fulfilment. I relish getting up every morning.’
‘Well.’ I said, clearing my throat (I had a bad cold) ‘At least you have a cup.’
He turned and looked at me.
‘It may be half empty but there’s some other poor sod out there with a puddle on his desk and no cup. Not you. You have a cup.’
He cracked a small smile.
That set the tone of our interaction – and I made sure to shake his hand and wish him a happy Christmas when we parted. As I walked away he was still smiling, and I hope that (for a short while at least) that smile persisted.
More than ever I’m convinced that happiness is simply a personal choice. I also think it comes with a significant responsibility.
If it’s something that we’re in possession of we should feel duty bound to share it with others.
So, I have the flu (again for the third time this year), I am unemployed, I am overweight and money is tight.
But you know what internet? The flu will go. I only have it so much at the moment because I’m going out much much more and regularly meeting new germs. I’ll also get another job and when I do I’ll carry my experience and enthusiasm with me to somewhere that I can try to occasionally infect with my positivity.
I’ll also continue to loose weight. Soon I’ll be lighter than I have been for a decade and thats an enticing prospect. Even if I stay the same this week or put a pound on – it will be gone next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Looking after myself continually is my raison d’être now and I’m never again changing my focus on health and fitness.
Finally – who gives a crap about money? If I had it I’d only spend it eventually. I’d be chasing ‘things’ for the sake of having all the ‘things’ that society makes me want and covet. Being surrounded by ‘things’ doesn’t make me live longer or feel happier. People make me want to do that and feel that way. Having nothing is strangely liberating. If you can’t just buy something on a whim you begin to appreciate the little things you do have EVEN more.
Plus my mug now is half full and that can only mean one thing…
It has room for MORE COFFEE!!!!