As I’ve mentioned at this post, one of the negatives in my life is the fact that my mother is a deeply unhappy person. Conversing with her subjects me to a never-ending stream of complaints about her life: her physical surroundings, the food she hates, the people who are mean or boring, her failing health, her chronic worries, etc. Everything is bad, a disappointment, mean, scary, or any word out of the thesaurus that spells negativity.
The net result is that, despite the fact that she’s nearing the end of her life (nothing specific, just the nibbling away of very old age) and despite the fact that I do love her very much, I cannot manage to be in my Mom’s company for more than an hour at a time. It’s just too demoralizing. Mom throws at me the entire weight of her unhappiness in the expectation that I can lighten her load. I can’t, though. She’s like the hydra. For every facet of unhappiness she passes on to me, she quickly develops three more anxieties and two complaints.
What troubles me is that my son seems to be going down the same path. Although I know he has many friends, several good teachers, and a generally good school environment, when he comes home, he speaks only about his boredom and troubles. Although he loves sports, when he comes back from an activity, he tells me only about the people who cheated or injured him. Although he loves to go and play with his friends, when he comes running back into the house from a four-hour playing spree, I hear only about the physical and psychic injuries his friends visited upon him. I see a happy life, but I hear an unhappy life. When I call him upon it, he assures me that he is happy — and certainly, he shows no signs of depression. He’s just negative, which is different from depressed.
My tendencies are also towards the negative. Growing up with an unhappy mother and a chronically clinically depressed father, I didn’t get many life lessons in happiness. In my life, it’s easy for me to point out all the bad things, but I won’t — and that’s the point. I will not enumerate the bad things. My rule to myself is that, if I want to complain, I must be funny. That is, I’m allowed to articulate things that make me unhappy only if I can be assured that I won’t drag my audience down. Those who know me will state truthfully that I break this rule periodically but, if I realize I’m breaking it, I catch myself, so that’s something.
The single most important thing I do is that, every single day, without fail, I count my blessings. It is a reminder to myself that no matter the situation in the greater world or the minor injuries in my life, things are pretty darn good. I have beautiful, nice, decent children; my dog is perfect; I live in a comfortable house on a beautiful lot; I have the best neighborhood in the world; I live in a delightful town; America, my country, is still the best place in the world; I find tremendous joy in martial arts; I have many very good friends, both in the corporeal and the cyber world; and on and on. If I think about it, the list of my blessings is pretty endless. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that irritate me or make me unhappy, but it does mean that, on balance, I have a good life and I know it.