Friday, December 2, 2011

Attitude Adjustments

I was talking to Kathleen last night and Kathleen is like The World's Best Human or at least a runner-up in the Universal Pageant and she said that she was too tired these days to be happy.
Well, no mystery there. If she's not doing a play AND taking care of her father AND taking care of her dogs AND taking care of her yard AND hosting Garden Club meetings AND making soap AND getting her entire vast Christmas preparations done before December ALL AT THE SAME TIME, she's, well, I don't know.
Oh yeah. Making scarfs for everyone in the world. And hosting Thanksgiving dinner for various family and friends.
So yes, she's tired.
And she's leaving this morning to go down south to take care of a friend who had back surgery whose wife is in the hospital in a coma.
But that's not what I wanted to talk about.
What I wanted to talk about was how she told me that she'd heard a program on NPR about how a "good attitude" in terminally ill patients did not affect the outcome of their disease one iota.
Not one.
Of course, there are plenty of good reasons to have a good attitude. Whatever life you have left (whether you have a disease or not) will be far more pleasant both for you and your friends and family if you have a decent attitude about things. This goes without saying.

BUT- it got me to thinking about how we all spend so much energy and guilt trying to be GRATEFUL every day and all that other Oprah stuff and let's face it- some of us were born with cheerful attitudes and some of us were not. Or else the good attitudes were lost somewhere along the way in early childhood or, well, you know.
And yet we are told over and over again that we should  be Zen-like and even DOG-like in our acceptance of life, ever-cheerful, ever-accepting of whatever life hands us, ever-grateful, ever uber-aware of how good we have it, etc., etc.,  our tails wagging, always ready to jump up and take a walk at any moment, and if we aren't, we probably have a brain-glitch wherein CHEMICALS are involved and we need medication and hey- I'm not arguing with that one- and of course it's nicer to be happy than to be depressed and it feels better but it's gone far beyond that.

It's almost like the old, superstitious dark ages when disease was blamed on demons. Now we don't call them demons, we call them bad emotions that can somehow create disease. I quit believing in that shit when my stepfather, who has feared cancer his entire life and who is FILLED with bad emotions, didn't die at a young age and never got cancer at all but in fact, is still alive at the age of 87 or something like that. 

So what are you saying, Ms. Moon?

Fuck if I know.

No, no. What I'm saying is that we should stop with the anguish and self-blame if we forget that dude with no feet when we're complaining about having no shoes. It doesn't help us one damn bit if we don't have shoes to remember the guy with no feet. DUDE WITH NO FEET DOESN'T NEED SHOES AND WE DO! I've always said that someone else's cancer does not cure our broken leg nor does it make the pain more bearable. Yes, it can put our broken leg in perspective but it really, on a physical level, does not help at all and on an emotional level, can only add to our agony.

And how we handle things, whether good things or bad things, depends on so many different things and feeling guilty that we don't have the right attitude about things just cannot be helpful. Sometimes it is entirely appropriate to feel angry or depressed and would be wrong not to. Some things we cannot be cheered up out of. Some things only time will resolve and there will be much misery and much crying and much sadness before that begins to happen. Some things should not be accepted at all.
I had a friend whose first husband was so horrible and abusive that she had to escape from him, literally escape, and years later, when she was married to a different man who was abusive in different ways, she couldn't help but compare that abuse to what her first husband had done and she stuck with him for years and years until she was almost completely beaten down and dammit, she had a great attitude but I swear, it ended up killing her and before she died, he crept back into her life like the snake he was and the things he did or caused to happen to her were the lowest of the low and even now, when I think of them, I shudder and I want to go find him and cut his head off because the world would be a better place if I did.

Sometimes it's not our attitude that needs changing, it's our circumstances.
Sometimes anger can fuel that change. Yes, acceptance has its place in this world and I'm all for gratefulness- if there is truly reason to be grateful and speaking personally, I have a lot to be grateful for but sometimes, when depression takes me over, that's not enough and the guilt I feel for it NOT being enough only adds another layer of blackness that I have to find my way out of.

Not today. Today I have a GREAT attitude and I'm grateful as all get-out and it's a beautiful day and I have no real obligations but I know without doubt that something will be coming along eventually, whether it is real or perceived that will knock me back and I accept that and I hope that if it is something real, I can do something to change it but if it's just perceived (due to those brain chemicals or whatever) feeling guilty about my fucking attitude is not going to help.

All right. That's what I am thinking about this morning. And if your attitude and mood are lovely today, then enjoy the hell out of it, and if they're not, well, don't feel guilty.
We are humans, not Zen masters. We are humans, not dogs. I am me, not Kathleen. I can admire her from here to eternity, but I will never have the attitude of acceptance and perseverance that she does. Never in my life.
I admire her and I love her but I cannot be her.

I am me. You are you. And no where is it written that we all have to have good attitudes all of the time.

Happy Friday, y'all.
Love...Ms. Moon


  1. Agreed. Fuck the guilt. I'm done, done, done beating myself up for not being grateful every can't win 'em all, and I spend enough time worrying about every single thing I can possibly this one is no longer on my worry list!

  2. BTW, were you thinking of me with that whole broken leg analogy? ;)

  3. SJ- I am so proud of you for clearing that one off the "worry list." I'm trying.
    And no- I was not specifically thinking of you. I honestly have always said, "Someone else's cancer will not cure my broken leg."
    I hate it when someone has a problem and some cheerful great-attitude problem says something like, "Well, you know, it could be worse!"
    Oh. That helps. Right?

  4. Amen sister. You know I love this post.

  5. Yes, that's how I feel when people say they're "sorry" that whatever has happened, has happened. Well, thanks. That and a quarter, right? I know that some people are just genuinely sorry about it, but I need more feedback than that sometimes!

  6. I agree with you completely. I generally feel aversion to those people with a good attitude unless I sense that their good attitude is natural to their natures and not something "worked on" or "put on" or "smug." Lately, I've been tempted to have a bad attitude -- to be the sort of John McEnroe of the parents of children with seizure disorders. You know: curse and swear and then break my tennis racket and storm off the court. In fact, you've inspired my post today. Thank you.

  7. Great rant.

    I don't believe in guilt, at least for most people. Most folks do the best they can and when they make a human error forgiveness is in order, not guilt.

    That doesn't extend to Herman Cain, by the way, who intentionally took advantage. Or to anyone else who intentionally causes harm.

    I think that we each find our own way through the darkness. There is no universal fix. A person can't manufacture gratefulness, it comes of its own accord when circumstance and thought give rise.

    It's true that perspective may help deal with pain. I know that from my own life. Focusing on a coming sunrise has helped me through some dark nights. I also know that sometimes the dark is so thick all you can do is seek help and wait for it to pass. There's no guilt in that, no guilt in being human.

  8. when someone tells me it could be worse i want to jack them in the fucking throat and say, 'yep and now it is.....'


  9. Mary, just said what so often I have felt!! Right on target!!!!

    We are just humans walking this earth and some of us have energy and smiles galore and some of us have more hugs than smiles....some of us don't deserve the life on earth but I do believe in Karma so their day will come.

    You have no idea how this posting I wish I could share with daughter in LA who is on the constant gravy boat of being fed that everyone should be happy, grateful and geesh if we did that and did nothing but what makes us happy, then the world that is out there would never be as it is. Her "community" may do many good deeds but life is not a cookie cutter place. I would like her to talk to the abuser and the abused and see if that really works. I think that the use / word grateful can be overused, misunderstood just as the word love can be.

    I'm a little overcome right if this didn't make sense, well I am I am...just me and only me. Not perfect, not always grateful, sometimes, sad, mad, cranky, sometimes flowing over with joy and deep love...but still me.

  10. Madame King- I'm just glad you did.

    SJ- I am so guilty of that. "I'm sorry," I say when people tell me their woes. Often it's the only thing I can come up with. Sometimes I say, "That must be terrible!" But you're right- it doesn't help- and even as I say it, I know that.


    Elizabeth- Go for it, girl! Break a few rackets! If anyone deserves to, you do. I think our "black humor" is a way we show our anger in a sort of socially responsible way. It's about as far as we allow ourselves to go.

    Kathleen Scott- I agree with every word you wrote. Amen.

    Mrs. A- Me too! Me too!

    Ellen- At what point do we fight being who we are? At what point do we get to be exactly as we are?

  11. Good points. I think that our feelings are valid no matter what they are or our circumstances. We feel what we feel, therefore it is.

    I do think that having a great attitude whenever possible and feeling grateful is essential, however, when we don't feel that way despite our blessings, it's best to go on and FEEL what we feel as fully as possible. (The only way out is through??)

    Anyway, what I do is feel those feelings and then I try to imagine letting them go. It helps me to acknowledge what I am feeling and to refocus and gain my perspective again. But that does not work for everyone.

    The important thing as you say is to find your own process, feel what you feel, and for God's sake DO NOT feel guilty! Yesch! Hard not to sometimes, but again, feeling it fully and releasing it, helps me.

    I hope you never feel guilty for what you feel. That is just adding a whole layer of sad (or blackness) as you said, to an already bad feeling(s).

    Glad you are feeling good today and I have to say right here that Kathleen makes the best brownie cookies on the planet! Another accolade to add to her ever growing list.

  12. Well, I read Elizabeth's post first and then of course I had to come over here... and speaking as one who has felt a lot like screaming lately, I appreciate your thoughts.

    "Sometimes it is entirely appropriate to feel angry or depressed and would be wrong not to."


  13. Dear M,
    I've been gone for a few days, unwell, oh well.
    However, whilst sick, I too listened to that NPR program which was inspired in part by a brilliant author by the name of Barbara Ehrenreich who wrote a book called "Bright-sided" - How the relentless promotion of positive thinking has underminded America. She posits that it is even in part responsible for the current economic catastrophe, ie: no one being able to really say "we have all gone fucking crazy" because we (they) were all too busy putting on a happy face. Fascinating read and she has many more under her belt.
    The publication of the book was brought on by a recent bout of cancer and her inablity to stomach all the "look on the bright side" crap she received when all she wanted was for someone to say......."that TOTALLY SUCKS!"
    There's a lot to be happy for in life, but there's a whole lot that TOTALLY SUCKS.
    Love you...and missed you

  14. I am solution oriented so I look for solutions when I am feeling bad. And sometimes I find the solution by going for a walk on the beach, digging in the dirt, sailing on the boat, playing with the dogs, fooling around with my wife, or any number of other things that get my mind off of me. But I have to process stuff. I need to have the feelings, good and bad, and move through them. Faking happiness does no good. If some one asks me how are things, I tell them the truth. I don't care whether they don't want to hear that or not. If they ask the question, they get an answer that is truth from me.

  15. I love you. Thank you for this post. I struggle with that positive thinking crap everyday. Sometimes I think it's just a drain on people with limited resources.

    I read an article once, about a woman fighting cancer, wish I could remember it, but she basically said fuck this pink shit, I'm too pissed for pink, and I thought, that makes more sense than the gratitude program, but where do I put my guilt about not being more grateful about everything?
    I'm going to reread this post every time I feel guilty about not being more Oprah-like full of gratitude in my life.I don't know where all this guilt comes from, it's a mystery. And thanks to you and Kathleen, I know it is also a waste of my time.
    I hope you have the best night tonight. I am back from my date night and the mojitos have made me way too chatty in comments!

  16. It makes it really hard to deal with depression in particular when people think it is simply a matter of will power and thinking positive. All I have to say to that is they simply don't know depression or they are taking some of those magic pills.
    I try so hard to be grateful and look on the bright side and then when it is all to no avail, I feel even more depressed.
    Honestly, I don't know if my neurons aren't firing today or what, but this is all very confusing to me. :-)
    You have some great thoughts going on here though--stuff that can't really be read superficially.

  17. Very often in my experience, if the circumstances change, the attitude will follow. It was World Aids Day here in South Africa yesterday and I can tell you that the availability of retro-virals have done more to change lives and attitudes of those living with Aids than any amount of acceptance or gratitude or moralising crap on 'sexual abstinence' from missionary churches.

    Great post.

  18. Bethany- You are welcome, honey-child.

    Ms. Fleur- Agreed! Especially on those cookies.

    Leslie- Let's face it. Sometimes life just sucks. Really hard.
    Thanks for coming by.

    liv- Yep. Like I just said- some things just suck and to say otherwise is ridiculous.
    Glad you're back.

    Syd- I know! And I love that about you.

    Mel- I love chatty comments. And can I just say that Oprah has a hell of a lot more than most to be grateful for? Not that she didn't earn it but still...

    Kathleen- You are SO welcome!

    Rubye Jack- Yeah- just DECIDE to have a good attitude. Right. Fuck thst. People who say that really have no experience with depression. You are right.

    Mary LA- Amen, baby.

  19. I so agree with you. We can't get to a good mood until we through the crap...and sometimes that takes YEARS. I no longer feel bad when I feel bad. And if others can't take it, fuck 'em. We don't get to choose to be happy all the time, how boring. Emotions come and go and sometimes they get us by the throat. Who knows how long grief takes? Or sorrow?


    Love this post.

  20. I think life is just so complicated.

    I do think perspective helps a lot. I do think it's vital for me to get out of my own head .. and sometimes the grateful spin gives me an empathy or strength I hadn't thought of.
    Sometimes it doesn't and that is okay too.

    I do not always want to be motivated by guilt because really that is an about me thing too.

  21. Oh, this is refreshing! I got here from Elizabeth's post, and I see why she is such a fan. I mostly have a good attitude, and I notice that when I am being QBU (Queen Bitch of the Universe), my friends are cheering from the sidelines. Go figure! I give myself shit for my attitude and they're loving it. Bottom line: being honest is the only way to go, and honest anger is just as noble as honest compassion or whatever. Nice post. Thanks!


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.