Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
I watched Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky this evening, a character study of a perpetually optimistic London school-teacher surrounded by realists and other damaged people. I was concerned, initially, that I was walking into a Candide situation, that I was about to watch an idiot naif whistle blindly through the graveyard, oblivious to the misery around her.
It’s a smarter and more mature film than that, though. The character of Poppy is not stupidly happy; she’s worked very hard to be as happy as she is and when life or society pushes at her to abandon her world view, she absorbs that and pushes right back. She’s aware of pain in the world. However, unlike many of us, she is able to understand that just because you can’t alleviate the entirety of the world’s pain doesn’t mean you can’t do something about the suffering in your minor sphere of influence…that such alleviation begins internally.
It’s a muscle, of sorts. I admit I’m more Scully than Mulder when it comes to energy concepts such as chi and reiki, but I do understand what people mean when they talk about positive and negative energy. I know far too many people whose conscious or unconscious wallowing in their own negativity has over time affected not only their mental and social well-being but in some cases their physical health, people who might be much happier if they were only happier with what they have instead of in mourning for all the things they haven’t.
I don’t think most of us are wired this way. I think it’s much easier for us to succumb to our negativity than to do the work it takes to be more positive.
And it is work. You’re dealing not only with the uphill slope of circumstances but also the so-called concerns of people who view your optimism as dangerous fantasy.
I’m not by nature a positive person. I envy those who are, whose sunny disposition seems effortless. I complain, I flare up, I feel pride in my own screeds. I forget how much worse things could be because I’m too busy worrying about how much worse things could be.
I made a choice, awhile ago, to keep the muscle flexed for as long as I could and to relax it only when I could afford to do so, when I’m by myself in chambers of shadows. I quiver under the strain, I ache with tension.
But I always remember that whatever pain is caused by the act of staying positive is a hundred times better than the relative ease of being negative.
Life is short for those who aren’t done living; life is long for those who are happy to be alive.