Let me say it up front: I’m a very blessed woman. I have a LOT of advantages in this world making it easier for me to maintain a good mood. But all things being equal, I’m still (in)famous for having an above average attitude, and I have a little theory on what gives me my edge:
That’s right. I purposely hack my brain to keep from sliding into mindsets that drag me down. I make up split-second stories to explain crappy situations to myself in a way that helps me move on.
When I’m cut off in traffic, I don’t assume the culprit is a self-centered a-hole. I imagine it’s someone momentarily distracted from adding up all his charitable donations to single mothers, and suddenly I want to give that jerkwad a big hug. What does it matter if I’m wrong?
When my house is such a mess that I’ve forgotten the color of our kitchen counters (i.e., every night), I survey the chaos like the director of a play, appreciating how this mise-en-scène reveals so much about the characters’ daily lives. My, we must be a busy and spirited ensemble! Baking lasagna, straining tea, smashing Play-Doh, watching Peppa Pig on an off-brand tablet while scribbling on junk mail. Not a boring moment in this home!
When I catch sight of my formerly buoyant ass drooping down the back of my mom thighs, I pretend I’m the protagonist in a French film, where part of my character’s charm is knowing I have every right to feel beautiful despite the cynical eye of society and the imposition of time.
When we missed the last flight home because my daughter hid away for an ill-timed Secret Poop (yes this really happened), I told myself she saved us from getting on the very plane where an evil sorcerer would put a hex on our whole family. Nice save, baby!
When I’m treated with an inexplicable coldness from a mom I barely know, I tell myself she must just be going through some crappy private thing, because there’s no reason to assume it’s about me. Of course it could be, but I remind myself that she can take responsibility for her feelings and address them when she’s ready. Because we’re all busy grownups and I’m not the Social Dynamics Police.
When stress begs to close my throat over another month of barely getting by, I fast-forward to my retirement party where I toast my adult children and we laugh at how they never knew we bought all their Christmas gifts from Goodwill.
When I realize I’ve blackened the eye of my relationship with one of my many flaws, I decide that I’m now representing my country in the Olympics of Self-Awareness. I push myself to reflect on my role in what happened with as much flexibility, strength, and distance as I can muster, so I can truly learn from my mistakes and make an apology that sticks for us both. Because I’ve convinced myself that admitting when I’m wrong is a greater feat than being right.
When there are fights, when there is suffering, when tension threatens to grind me in its teeth – I take a step back and apply that lubricant of sanity that is imagination. Not to avoid reality, but to keep my head above despair so I can actually deal with it.
Do I ever feel crazy? To be honest, sure – but it’s not a bad thing. If I ever feel like I’m forcing positivity, that’s my cue to temporarily suspend this love affair with silver linings. Because sometimes the best thing to do is to explore sadness and anger. I trust myself to decipher those times.
But a lot of the time, we dive into negativity simply out of habit. A lot of the time, we just don’t realize that we have a choice regarding which perspective we take. Because truthfully? We’re all delusional. We all project ourselves into stories edited by the genre of our moods. We choose the shots where we dwell; we cut together vignettes that cast people in selective lights.
Sometimes the comedy is obvious, sometimes the tragedy is undeniable, and sometimes life looks like one of those Oscar-winning indie flicks that doesn’t explain how it wants to make you feel. I enjoy all these things by finding beauty in the belief that this story is worth telling, and from the sincerity and growth of those acting it out.
And thanks to that (and a lot of the aforementioned luck), I’m happy. I’m happy because the way I see it, my life is better than perfect – it’s interesting. Even without leaving the house, I have a front row seat to the flowering of human consciousness every time my kid invents a new game, asks a silly question, or lodges a complaint. Our life takes me high and low and shows me so many sides of so many hearts until I damn near need to applause.
I’m not going to wait for a better reason to smile.