Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pessimism and Gratitude

Pessimism and Gratitude


The other night on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”, a comic commented that ‘We live in amazing times and nobody is happy.” I laughed along with the studio audience and then realized that in this time of rotten economic and political news it is rare to talk to anybody and find people in a great mood about anything. We do live in amazing times. Many gay men who would have been dead or barely living and thriving on HIV medication are leading normal productive lives. We complain about our economy and precarious life, though day to day we communicate with extremely efficient cell phones and internet, eat nutritious safe food and control our environment with air conditioning and heat.


So what is going on? Have we lost touch with the power of gratitude and let the pessimism of Fox News, Wolf Blitzer, and Bernard Madoff take over our lives?  Our forbearers lived shorter dimmer lives and still found time to give their children hope. What are we leaving for the next generation?  Our collective angst is going to kill us and squash the next group in the wings.


I know a lot of you cringe when you see the “25 things I’m grateful for” or “25 things you don’t know about me” on Facebook or other social networking sites. They are time consuming, could be called narcissistic and other horrid things. But they do have a wonderful effect. They cause us to pause and reflect on what is good in our lives and what we have accomplished. Just yesterday, I connected through Facebook with my high school English Composition teacher. This was a scary connect as I have been published for the past 10 years or so and each time looking over my shoulder at the ghost of Mrs. Kolodny and her red pen. I am grateful for her original pearls of guidance. I have also reached out and thanked her personally for being part of who I am today.


I think the answer to moving from Pessimism to Gratitude is to move beyond Blame. We have come to use Blame as the vehicle for what is bothering us. Whether it is George Bush, the Religious Right, or the banking industry, it has become a national pastime, and embedded habit in our daily lives. Blame is not part of being the cause of your happiness. As long as blame remains a part of your world view, you are cutting yourself off from real joy.


Instead of complaining about traffic, the lines at the bank, etc. think about how amazing it is that you have the power to move around a city at will. Or that you live among a community of people all so different yet all needing to be at the same bank or grocery store. Our happiness is not the result of one good deed or writing one check to a charity. Our happiness is the result of the countless choices we make every moment. Ask yourself right now, “Am I suffering?” Chances are, you are not. What choice have you made to move towards happiness, love and gratitude? What choices have you made to move away from those?


If we are not aware of the constant choices that we make, then we eventually become controlled by outside forces (Fox News, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh’s followers) or random situations and feel powerless in this world.


To take back control, try and be grateful for our present and be constantly reminded that it DOES matter what you do and how you do it. Be grateful in each moment and the clouds will part.


Have a peaceful week

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