I’m not a postive person.
A few years ago, the “No Complaining” challenge was all the rage— this is exactly as it sounds: try not to complain and see who can go the longest. I lasted all of 30 minutes and then my arm began to hurt, so I had to tell everyone about it.
This year, for a sort of New Year’s Resolution, I attempted to post on Instagram one thing a day that I was thankful for— it lasted only 4 days.
Of course, part of my problem is commitment. I am great at starting projects, but lack the follow through to complete them. Sadly, this is rarely true of things like reading all of the Iliad or writing my dissertation (and a good thing, too, because dissertations are important). It’s more like I have a hard time committing to being happy and positive. It’s such a weird concept, when you think about it, to have difficulty remembering to be happy. But then, as The Princess Bride taught us, life is pain.
I’m not going to tell you that you need to focus on what you have instead of what you lack because that’s stupid and not helpful.
So, in order to combat this lack of positivity, I’ve been mulling over lately why I feel the need to complain. I’m bored, I’m tired, I didn’t do anything interesting today. In short, I feel unhappy, so I feel I can’t be positive and therefore I complain. Whilst mulling, I noticed something: there are a lot of “I’s” in those last sentences. So, perhaps part of the issue is the concentration on myself. Obviously, we have all heard the adage, “help others first and you’ll find you’ve helped yourself”. I do this— to a point. I volunteer, I donate, I try to be kind. Then, I go home and be unhappy. Helping others helps, but it isn’t everything despite what Mother Teresa has said. And who asked her anyways?
So first thing’s first: obviously I make myself unhappy. I’m not only a complainer, I’m a great worrier too. I am terrified of all kinds of things that will probably never happen and I spend quite a bit of time thinking of solutions to problems I don’t even have. Then I find I have a plan incase I am attacked by a bear, but I haven’t covered simple things like sorting the laundry until there is a pile waist deep. So, first order of business— deal with today’s problems before moving on to tomorrow’s, and deal with tomorrow’s problems before worrying about what comes next. This is not to say that planning is bad— duh. Planning is great. I have one day plans, weekly plans, monthly, yearly, five years, ten, etc. These are great and comforting and honestly really important. This not the problem. The problem is worrying about things out of order and muddling the whole lot. Then you have a dirty house and no bear attack to escape from.
On the subject of doing things out of order, I’m a night owl (although I actually hate this term). But with my husband working in the wee hours of the morning, I’ve needed to adjust our sleep schedules and I have found two things. 1) I need sleep and love it and it doesn’t really matter what time of day or night it is, my bed is a happy place. 2) If you get up earlier, you have more hours in the day for activities— who knew? So while I watch less Netflix, now, I do more, which makes me sleep better. So while I will never advocate for early rising, consider not sleeping until noon to boost happiness.
Next: Carl Sagan once said, “You are worth about 3 dollars worth in chemicals.” This is pretty important when our egos become inflated. This is where the “I” factor is considered. In the grand scheme of things, you are nothing, I am nothing, my actions mean very little in the great expanse of the universe. How wonderful it is to be nothing, to have your actions mean nothing— it’s very freeing in my mind. Nothing I ever say or do will single handedly destroy the universe. Super.
Yet, on the other hand, Carl Sagan also said, “We are star stuff which has taken its destiny into its own hands”. This is also very freeing because not only are we the same matter that has created the universe, but we can shape destiny. We are everything and nothing. While we can go through life and never impact the fate of the universe, we can also chart our own course. How lucky are we to be conscious? How lucky are we to have the intelligence and determination to shape our lives and the lives of others? It’s a big responsibility and an important purpose. I think one of the main reasons that people often feel unhappy is a lack of purpose and so here it is, Carl Sagan has spoken. Your purpose is to exist and to take your destiny into your own hands. From there on out, do what you will.
Speaking of purpose, choosing to pursue happiness instead of purpose actually makes us unhappy. Or, at least, it makes me unhappy. So repeat after me: we exist to do, not to be. What does this mean? Feelings aren’t all they are cracked up to be— our actions, regardless of how we feel, are important. Doing stuff will also alleviate boredom, so that’s that as well. Existing isn’t enough because we are creatures of action, so we must get out there and find a purpose. Feels are fleeting but deeds are done deals.
On that note, I can’t always be positive, so I stick to this rule these days: “If you can’t say something nice, say something helpful, if you can’t say something helpful, that’s enough claptrap from you”. In spite of all the advice listed, if I opened my mouth there is a good chance a complaint might come out of my mouth. So I keep it closed and hope it will go away on it’s own.