Pucking Fositivity

Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash

The other day, I wrote about a thing that was important to me that I walked away from. And yes, many of you solved the riddle, the thing I ‘quit’ was the church I was affiliated with. No, I don’t hate them (check them out here — you can stream their services online if you don’t live in Chicago). It was a conscious choice from yours truly.

That being said, I’m still working towards my Interfaith Divinity degree. It’s a whole separate thing from the church. I’m still very much enjoying the journey as I study ancient religions, philosophies, and mystical traditions. It’s fascinating stuff. It adds to my work on this blog. And it satisfies my urge to make good on the promise I made to my late father of getting a degree of some sort (yes, even long after they croak, we still try to please our parents).

I also wanted to clarify the point that it never was my main j-o-b. I won’t be starving anytime soon. It was my side-thing with the possibility of it being my main thing somewhere down the road. And it still might be in some other form (I just don’t see myself at the helm of a traditional-looking c-h-u-r-c-h). We’ll see…

The good thing that’s emerged these last few weeks is that I’ve been working more and more with the creative branding agency I used to work with. It’s given me the space to step out of the deep, spiritual, heady, mindful, emotional things I tend to obsess about while keeping my creative muscle sharp. And it helps feed my family (I feel so manly when I say that) so I can feed this publication. Which is nice.

Okay, enough about life updates and whatnot…

I want to thank everyone who sent me a kind note of encouragement. So, thank you. Your words mean more than you know. And really, I’m great. Please don’t worry about me.

Which brings me to the point of this post which is: Positivity.

I got a couple well-meaning emails that explained how my posts of late haven’t been as ‘positive’ or ‘inspirational’ as the senders would have liked. That I wasn’t being myself and maybe I was slipping into angsty negativity.

Thanks for being concerned. But I want to go deeper on this whole ‘positivity’ thing…

We need to get off of this positivity kick because I think it’s killing us.

Seriously. Since I was a kid, the goal of the self-help space (and the mainstream spirituality space) has been positivity.

Positive thinking. Attracting happiness. Smile more. And more. Pray for stuff that will make you happy (because you clearly can’t be happy without it). Etc.

Now, I LOVE being happy. Being sad and down and depressed is — by nature — really uncomfortable.

But, as with most things of this nature, the more we suppress and resist, the more the energy builds until something… breaks. And hurts people.

Through my super brief stint into ACT, I’m learning how to make room for all of it. To detach from my thoughts of negativity and angst and dread so that I can see them for what they are… Just thoughts. Just mental yappings from my survival-based brain that has evolved to “serve me” by effectively scaring the shit out of me on a regular basis.

There is no stopping it. No shutting it up. And the more we try, the louder it gets. (Which means, the more ‘positive’ we try to be, the more backlash we experience down the road.)

It’s how things work. Have you ever tried to get someone to stop crying by telling them to ‘stop crying’? By telling them to ‘just think happier things’?

It’s not the nature of reality. Nothing works like that. We must provide these things space to be. No, not to unconsciously buy into them. But to be.

We must be able to name them and honor them and poke fun at them so that they can fade away (which they can only do on their own schedule).

Yes, I can get all wrapped up in my thoughts about quitting yet another life path and being almost 40 and how irresponsible and flighty I am. But would any of this be helpful? (Maybe a little?) But if I were to hang on to them, they’d drag me down further and further into the abyss of self-doubt. Which would not help things.

It feels so amazing to be able to occupy the same space as those thoughts and still be… Okay. In fact, I feel incredibly well. Because I know that my life is bigger than any one of these thoughts — good and bad. There’s plenty of room for them to pull up a chair and have a chat. I know they’ll move on and come back and then move on again. But all the while, I can also write about how absurd they are.

Life is about being able to live peacefully with the entire spectrum of emotions.

Yes, I could try to push those thoughts away. I could do affirmations and pray until I’m blue in the face. But by doing that, I’d just be shoving them down into the shadows of myself.

I see this so much in spirituality. There are so many fake happy faces in that world (okay, maybe I’m a little bitter, but this is my blog, so I can do what I want). They smile, smile, smile until one day — snap. Holy shit. Things just got real. Where did that come from? Oh, they’ve been doing that all along? I didn’t even smell the dead bodies rotting in the trunk. Huh… Weird…

But isn’t their whole MO to have us live these lives of happy happiness and perfect perfection? That God is only love and light and butterflies and rainbows? I dunno. I’m questioning a lot of it right now.

I say it’s too much for any of us to bear.

Now, I’m not a fan of hard-core vulnerability porn either (soft-core is okay). I think that getting attached to pain and suffering is just as harmful as getting attached to positivity.

We’re human. We think things. We feel things. We have these brains that are still based on the survival rules of the jungle and at the same time, we live in a world where Alexa can oder us on-demand hush puppies on a Tuesday night as we shamelessly stream old episodes of The Office.

It’s fucking complex. But you know what, it’s amazing. We live in amazing times. We’re breathing. We have beating hearts. Yes, we can be happy. And yes, we can be sad. And yes, we can feel defeated. And yes, we can feel like we’re absolutely #winning. And yes, we’ll probably revisit these emotions and thousands of variations of them in random order as long as we live.

May they provide us with great stories, great friends, steady health, legendary failures, supreme successes, and a lot of lukewarm mediocrity in between.

P.S. And yes, I’ll get out of my angsty little cave eventually. Thanks again for your words of encouragement:)