Monday, November 4, 2013

It's Simple

I've noticed that the world is primarily composed of two kinds of people:  Blamers/Complainers (let's call them the "Venters") and the Cheerful Optimists (the "Smilers").  When I say venting, I mean perpetual, habitual venting.  This habit of loathing and lashing out can be quite toxic to everyone and does no one any real good.  To maintain their sunny dispositions and peace of mind, "Smilers" occasionally feel the need to avoid or limit their exposure to "Venters" and all that negative energy.  I have observed and experienced a feeding frenzy of "Venter" upon "Smiler," and I believe it doesn't do either party any good.  The "Venter" steps away, feeling either more agitated or only temporarily pacified.  The anger resurfaces a short time later with a repeated need to vent.  The "Smiler" escapes to their sanctuary, falling onto their bed in utter exhaustion. They've been tapped and drained like a spring time Maple tree.  I think it's a co-dependent relationship. I really do.  At some point, for each person's mental health and development, either the "Venter" has to stop or the "Smiler" has to stop listening.

It is for the angry, resentful "Venter" that I write this blog entry today, not for the kindly person who occasionally and under extremely stressful or critical circumstances turns to another for guidance, nor is this blog entry for those suffering great loss or at some traumatic crossroads and desperately in need of a hug, a kind word, a listening board for our sorrow.  It's the angry venter, the blaming venter that causes more harm than good, and that's the kind of behavior I'm talking about.

The anger is the big difference here.  Angry venting helps no one.  I'm pretty darn sure of this because I was an angry "Venter" once.  And on occasion that lesser part of me still peeks around the curtain of my soul, threatening my peace of mind with a sinister sneer on its face, eager to blame and scream.  Blaming and complaining to others became so habitual I didn't even realize I was doing it until it was over, and then I never felt any satisfaction.  In fact, I inevitably felt guilty and remorseful for spitting poison like a viper in the presence of someone I loved and respected.  Still, I did it again and again, as a knee-jerk reaction to life's perceived troubles.  Mostly everyone else was venting, using popular catch phrases, like "shit happens."  Once, that was a joke, but people, including me, rarely laughed when they said it any more.  So why was I venting if it didn't help me feel any better?

Luckily for me, the inescapable cause and effect and natural impermanence of life was at work, and I suffered a major physical injury.  I told myself, oh so dramatically, that I had "lost everything!" I  found myself falling faster and faster, deeper and deeper into a depressing tailspin.  I was heading for nothing but darkness and misery.  I had to make a decision, one that I believe has changed my life.  I chose to be happy.  And then, lo and behold... I was happy.  It was and is that simple, folks.

You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be miserable.

Yeah, "bad" stuff is going to happen.  But once you really look at each change or event closely, isn't "bad" really open to interpretation, based on one's determined perception?  Some Buddhist masters say there is no problem unless you view it as a problem.  I agree with this completely.  Even people facing the worst crisis, such as terminal illness, have testified to experiencing a self-discovery and contentment with a renewed zeal for life.

When we face trouble or obstacles, illness or injury, we can make a choice to face each one with grace, to appreciate the experience for whatever it offers, whether it's a lesson or a new perspective that brings us closer to others.  We can choose to keep our minds open and to feel gratitude for life, to see the positive side to any situation, to see the good in all people and be happy!  We can live today in this very moment, no matter what it is.

Or you can choose to be miserable by complaining and moaning and regretting and wishing for more or for different.  Interestingly,  some"Venters" gravitate toward other "Venters," seeking a sense of camaraderie.  It's then about taking turns, one day one person vents, the next day the other one vents.  Even if one person wanted to stop venting, learns a better way to cope, they may feel responsible for listening to their friend's venting because their friend listened to theirs once.  It's a never-ending cycle of negativity, unfortunately, and not productive for either.  This is common, and I believe that's because no one realizes this dynamic has developed between them.

When "Venters" find a non-Venter, who has a blissful spirit, they either vent or habitually focus on the negative aspects of that other person's life, and encourage venting.  In other words, they love venting and truly believe it is a therapeutic practice (I thought so once, too), whether they are venting or being vented to.  It's strange, but true.  I think this is because they need to feel needed.  All potential trouble appears like a blip on their radar, and once found, they can fix you or offer solutions.

I try to avoid labels so let me clarify that there are myriad personalities in this human world, and we all undergo changes throughout our lives.  My reason for these labels here are to simplify for the sake of this blog entry only.  I won't use them again.  What is more -- most of us could be venters or vent-ees or great listeners or terrible listeners or optimists or pessimists from one week to the next.  In general, we are all human beings with flaws and negative, as well as positive tendencies, especially when life throws us curve balls.  But we can make a choice to be happy.  And I know a big part of that is deciding to focus on yesterday, in the future or right now.

I think the reason so many people complain and vent and blame is because they need to identify or label every event as either good or bad.  That's the first mistake.  It's their way of setting things in order, an attempt to make "sense" of things.  And of course, they want the problem to stop or go away as soon as possible.  Finally, they search desperately to identify the cause so they can prevent it from ever happening again.  But we can't control the universe.  It can't be done.

Let's face it:  Shit does happen.  But that's what makes life so great! That's the zest, the spice, the mystery that keeps us in awe.  We can view "trouble" as the natural product of the ebb and flow of life or call it "bad luck."  We can accept it and go with the flow or we can scream and bitch at everyone around us until it's over.  Meanwhile, the "now" still exists.  Will that "now" be fun?

I truly believe the best thing we can each do is accept the chaotic, unpredictable nature of life.  In time, we can even celebrate it and embrace its constant change.  Everything has a hidden treasure if you look closely enough. The Taoists believed this, and I think they were spot on.

Most of all, I think we can stop focusing on ourselves, especially during rough times, and instead, take a deep breath, smile and say, "Thank you for today.  Today I am alive."

Life is a beautiful, precious gift.  Isn't that enough?  Isn't that more than enough?  I tell you it is.  Be happy!  Celebrate being alive each and every day.  Smile more.  Dance more.  Laugh more.  Stay awake for the ride.  And yes, be there for each other.  Trust a friend with your pain and offer your shoulder for them when they collapse, then help them up again with positive words of cheer.

Loving each other is the greatest gift we can give to the world.  But I think it's important to be mindful enough to ask yourself if those tears you are crying are bitter, resentful angry tears or sorrowful, exhausted tears?

Ask yourself:  Am I poisoning or watering the world with my tears?  And am I exposing myself to poison or pain?