There’s a groundswell of opinion out there that unfettered positivity is the key to a happy, successful life. It’s been posited that those people who complain about their situations are digging a hole for themselves, a hole that leads to failure, social isolation, and death!
But what if these cheerful idiots are wrong?
As with most blanket pronouncements, their claim of constant conviviality is utter nonsense. Complaining is like perspiring. It’s part of human nature, and a necessary outlet for dealing with the stresses and strains of mortality. Life is hard, whether you’re a trash collector attempting to wake up at 4 am for your Thursday shift, or Nicole Kidman working hard to cling to the top of the Hollywood pecking order.
So if you feel guilty for not feeling constantly “happy” or “well-adjusted,” you have our permission to stop right now and let out a good, long sigh, followed by a string of choice expletives, some of which can be found here.
Give yourself license to let off some steam. Otherwise, when things really do go off the rails in your life, you won’t have the tools to deal with the problem successfully.*
*Of course, constant complaining can drive your friends and family mad, and eventually, cause them to evade your presence. Make sure you mix it up a little, and add self-effacing humor to your litany of problems, to give it that “universal feel.” And if you’re really down in the dumps, may we suggest a vacation here.
Who among us has a sunnier disposition than the indomitable Betty White? She turned 98 last week, which is no surprise, given that she’s still a force in the entertainment industry. *
So what’s the secret to an existence like Betty’s? Research shows that optimism contributes to 11 to 15 percent longer life span, and to greater odds of living to the age of 85 or beyond. But White has exceeded that by more than a decade. To what does she attribute that extra oomph?
“I know it sounds corny, but I try to see the funny side and the upside, not the downside” she said in a recent interview. That’s right, Betty knows it’s best to look at every situation, even the crappy ones, and at least get a laugh or two out of it. (Like her first marriage to a rural chicken farmer that lasted six months.) As Betty is proving, it’s not just optimism, it’s SuperOptimism that can propel you to the century mark in style.**
And while you’re at it, it never hurts to light a votive candle just in case.
*Guinness has awarded Betty the world record for longest TV career for an entertainer — 75 years (and counting).
**You’ll also find vodka, hot dogs and red licorice on Betty’s training table.
One could argue that Martin Luther King was the most important political activist in modern American history.
He was certainly the most hated man in America during the 1960s, for railing against the inequities suffered by African-Americans at the hands of whites, advocating for a guaranteed basic income for all people (60 years before Andrew Yang) and stumping for a redistribution of wealth (beating Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren to the punch).
In other words, the guy was a stone-cold radical who shook up a country coming out of the “Happy Days” of the 1950s.
So you might think that Martin was a dour sort. After all, when he wasn’t exhorting millions to rise up and claim their share of the American Dream, he was busy protesting the Vietnam War and fighting consumer exploitation by industry.
But did you know, five minutes before James Earl Ray gunned him down, Dr. King was busy having a pillow fight? This according to Andrew Young, who was with him that day in Memphis.
As all SuperOptimists know, it’s important to let off steam by hitting one of your trusted personal advisors with a hammer blow of feathers when they least expect it.
King was also known for laughing at his posse for jumping in front of him in crowds, ostensibly to protect him but, in King’s eyes, more likely trying to get their pictures in the paper.
May we continue to humanize the people we venerate as saints, while not judging their mirthful side as being at odds with the seriousness of their purpose.