There's been a lot of rumblings in blogland about the relative benefits of positive and negative thinking, inspired by the release of Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, Bright-Sided. I haven't read it yet but I told T to snatch it for me as soon as it arrives at the library (oh, the benefits of being married to a librarian!). In the meantime, I'm going to spout some of my own opinions on the subject. Being ill-informed has never stopped me from clambering up on the soapbox before.
I'm the offspring of an unapologetic pessimist and an unsinkable optimist. As a quick illustrative example, I offer some opinions on organ donation. My mom believes that no one should be an organ donor because doctors let organ donors die. My dad rushed to get his name off of the organ donor list when he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer because he was worried that one of his contaminated parts might accidentally land in an otherwise healthy person. It was sort of like being raised by a suburban version of Dorothy Parker (without the booze) and a manly Bob Cratchit. As you know, only one of them is still alive.
I'm afraid that I lean more toward my Dad's side. I'm not a full Pollyanna but I definitely tend to assume the best about people and situations even when it would be obvious to anyone with a pulse that things are veering off the tracks. A dear friend once called it my 'pioneer spirit.'
But, I am my mother's daughter too and her voice is the one I hear in my head pointing out the various ways that something can go wrong (should Baby A's heart rate be so slow?)--she rarely leads me astray. I'm well aware of the power of pessimism.
In a couple of weeks we'll gather 'round the turkey and give thanks for our blessings. Until then we'll all be bombarded with messages about the holiday spirit and the celebration of plenty as if the economy isn't in the crapper and everything's going well for everyone. The positivity will suck all of the oxygen from the atmosphere and make things unbearable for folks who are struggling.
This year, I'm turning over a new leaf...ok, I'm not inverting it completely...more like flipping up one corner so I can see the dark underneath. I'm going to mix things up by saying an occasional, "no thank you." Turkeys be damned.
I'll start slow with minor issues. I'll also have to use my old teaching trick of cleansing negativity with 3 positive thoughts of equal scale. I present today's "Thank You. No Thank You." (not necessarily in that order).
No Thank You -
SEPTA, for purchasing high-tech parking meters that only accept coins and must be paid with exact change. Dear parking meter, you are shiny and beautiful and have many fancy buttons. Therefore, when you tell me that I can't have my extra nickel, it makes me want to plunge my knitting needles into your cold, mechanical heart. I swear it's like being transported back to the dark ages. GAAAAAHHHHHH!!!
Thank You -
Prep School students for enlivening my AM commute with your silly games of grab-ass. Gangly teenage boys with their oversized feet and shorn-sheep haircuts always make me nostalgic for my retreating youth.
John McArthur, Jr., the madman who designed Philadelphia's City Hall. So baroque! So many tacky allegorical statues symbolizing justice! So delightfully decrepit! It's the perfect tribute to the dour Quaker who founded Pennsylvania, William Penn.
WXPN for playing "Let's Go Crazy" during my drive home from the train station. I know that it's not the right song but it reminded me of the closing scene of "Purple Rain" where Prince is scooting around the stage shaking his tiny, little money-maker at incredible speeds. Ah, Prince. Ah, money-makers.
But I still don't forgive you, parking meter.