Thursday, December 18, 2008

attitude adjustment

I was talking to someone at work recently about all of the activities on my calendar, and caught a glimpse of something in her reaction that made me hear myself. I had not realized that I was complaining about the parties and performances and events that were crowding my schedule. How annoying. But I’m no grinch – I love parties and peeps. So what’s up with the grouch factor?

I guess I am a homebody at heart. I love weekends that are wide open, with nary a birthday party nor sporting event to attend. I love to travel, but I am really looking forward to having the next two weeks off with no plans to leave town.

I am certain that the issues Beth mentioned yesterday - sleep deprivation and bad weather and the godforsaken pot luck factor, added to my ennui about the events we have had planned on school nights this week. There’s also the element of dread when I am in charge of an event, as I was for two this week, and when you add homework and lunchboxes that have yet to be unpacked when we finally get home at 8:00 pm, it is easier to understand my lack of enthusiasm.

But wait just a minute…. that’s three paragraphs of rationalization for being grouchy about holiday parties! Let’s revisit the title of this post, which was the first thing I typed before starting my little mope-fest.

I frequently tell my brooding eldest child to “choose happiness”. I explain that even if he feels grumpy, he should pretend that he is happy, and it might just become so. It reminds me of some old line, but I can’t remember the source:” he’s a nice guy, but he does a great asshole impersonation”

Knowing that the same must be true for a happy girl impersonation, I resolve to garner up some enthusiasm for all of the social obligations festive opportunities coming up where I can spread my own special brand of loving holiday cheer!

To kick things off, after work on Friday, my two week vacation begins. I get to spend those first few hours of freedom with…. my co-workers! It will be great, I’m bringing the bar! And my family is invited, so it’s not like I’ll be a single gal boozing it up out on the town, my husband and kids will be there to murder my buzz watch as the mystery of mommy’s secret santa is revealed. I am going to be positively oozing happiness when I step up to that karoke machine.

And my happiness will be contagious, it’s a scientifically proven fact! Have you read about the study that determined that the more happy people you surround yourself with, the happier you yourself will be? As one of the researchers told my friends at Yahoo:

“Imagine that I am connected to you and you are connected to others and others are connected to still others. It is this fabric of humanity, like an American patch quilt."

Each person sits on a different-colored patch. "Imagine that these patches are happy and unhappy patches. Your happiness depends on what is going on in the patch around you. It is not just happy people connecting with happy people, which they do. Above and beyond, there is this contagious process going on."

You know what makes me happy? Studies about happiness. It makes me love science.

Citizens of the world, I implore you: If you’re feeling grumpy today, put on your happy face! Turn that frown upside down! Choose happiness! And when your happy impersonation takes over your mood, get out there and spread your good cheer like the plague!


NucMEd is Hot said...

I "choose" happiness when I have to, but I will simply ooze happiness for the first four days of vacation! Enjoy your time off!

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Oh, I like that:

"Choose Happiness; Ooze Happiness".

I'm oozing something else these days, and it's not exactly happiness.

And I do not even know what that means.

Anyway, Happy Happy Joy Joy, Littlest. I will do my best to spread the plague.


Rita said...

" If you’re feeling grumpy today, put on your happy face! Turn that frown upside down! Choose happiness! And when your happy impersonation takes over your mood, get out there and spread your good cheer like the plague!"

Wow, lol, how totally the opposite of the revelation I experienced recently. Isn't that funny? I've decided to give myself full permission for feeling bouts of melancholy during the holiday season, that pretending to be HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY every minute was making me crazy, because sorrow and grief has its place in life, too. That denying the lows takes away from the genuine highs.

At least for me, not allowing myself to feel the full depth and range of emotions is healthier for me and for everyone around me. Pretending all the time to be happy makes those sad feelings leak out in other ways and taints the truly wonderful moments, because they slip past me while I'm trying to be so GODDAMN HAPPY all the time.

I don't know, just a different perspective.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

My hope is that you wouldn't have to act for long, soon you will actually feel happy. So if your quilt square bumps up against mine, Rita, my happiness will be irresistable and contagious!


ps: I just yelled at my daughter to hurry up and get her &*%^$# shoes on, because I'm trying to be HAPPY here, damn it!

Rita said...

LOL, that is a nice hope and I do appreciate it!

But, for me anyway, happiness or sadness or whatever isn't a constant feeling, especially not these days. I have ups and downs throughout the day. Big highs and big lows. When the highs outnumber the lows and are of more intensity, then I'm doing well. So, yeah, bumping up against you at a school function (where I tend to be naturally happy anyway, because I'm happy to be at those things) would increase the happiness and help it buzz. But, hearing a girl in Lizzie's pre-school class glow with the excitement of her grandma visiting isn't going to stop the punch I feel in my heart and the tears from welling up momentarily because Lizzie has no memories of her grandmother, even though my mom made every possible effort to cross the miles between herself and the grandchildren to have a life WITH them. Now, in that situation, of course I brave it and smile and fake enthusiasm for the kid, but those feelings are there and they need to be looked at later, in private, where I can't deny that I am feeling a loss and it's sad.

I just don't know how healthy it is to always feign happiness, you know? Especially during the holiday season where the suicide rate is always the highest and this year we have so many people without jobs and the economy is so bad. I think it's healthier to acknowledge people are suffering and try to help people find the unique goodness that is going on in their individual lives rather than encouraging everyone to go around faking it and hoping that it'll stick for real.

For me, faking it doesn't make it stick and seeing everyone else HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY just feeds my own feelings of inadequacy when I'm down, it's another thing I can't get right and fail at, you see what I mean? I thin the expectation to be HAPPY is one of the big causes of people feeling depressed. They think it's unnatural and wrong to feel bad or sad or lonely or whatever, and that leads to more trouble.

I know your intentions were good, but if faking happiness were all there was to it, then there'd be no need for therapists and people wouldn't be popping antidepressants at such alarming rates. Cognitive therapy is the concept of choosing to be happy, changing one's mindset to look at the glass half-full, but it never suggests that people should deny their feelings of sadness in the process.

I'm sorry, I feel like a downer on this (and surprisingly, I've been in a really great mood for weeks now, pretty consistently high!) but I just felt your entry needed the other side mentioned.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

I AM HAPPY, goddamn it! I AM.

No, really, I am. It's so good to see that sun shining today. It's making my patch so joyous. Anyone want to sit next to my patch?

And, Jacquie, you did a terrific job at both events you were responsible for this week. Terrific. I know you'll rock the work party bar AND the karoke.


Rita said...

I need to add more, lol:

Jacquie, really I'm not picking a fight or arguing with you. I know what you meant in your entry. It just struck me as funny that I had just completed an entry on my own blog where I mention the other angle, reflecting about how acknowledging unpleasantness around the holidays can be therapeutic, and then clicked on to read yours.

I'm certain you don't mean to cover up all sadness and bad feelings with smily faces and rainbows and let everything else fester inside. I'm sure you're coming from the idea that, yeah, maybe things aren't perfect and maybe there is some unhappiness, but when I'm out there I'm going to choose to be happy and enjoy it all. Which IS a big concept in cognitive therapy, controlling the direction of your mood for specific periods of time, and is a lot better for everyone than being frowny and bitter out there in the world.

But, to do that, some of us need to lick our wounds at home, admit to the store-bought cookies, and duck out of some of the gatherings, because that much pretending can be lethal.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

and pfffffffftttttttttttt...... there is the sound of my happy buzz being killed


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Come over here and sit next to my patch, Jacquie, I'm seriously happy (absolutely no faking going on), and it's contagious.


Anonymous said...

I try to live by "fake it till you make it" because I find that if I pretend to be happy, sometimes it translates into actually being happy.

Anonymous said...

Bah. Humbug.

Anonymous said...

I fake orgasms all the time. It's kind of like spreading happiness by pretending to be happy, just like Jacquie was trying to say. And goddam it, it works! Plus, I can earn more tips that way, so I can afford to take hotter showers afterward.

Oh yeah, baby, that's it...mmmmm...yeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaah

An Old Pro