I want to be more positive. More than that, I want to be a force for good and happiness in the world. I want to share the joy I feel. And I think that my contentment will grow as I help others grow their contentment.
The question is: how?
When we go onto social media, we see people ranting and raving and sharing vitriol and unloading their frustrations with the day they’ve had and the life they live. Like it’s happening to them, not influenced by them.
And everyone chimes in. Everyone has a bad experience to share. We all wind ourselves and each other up into a frenzied state of dissatisfaction. For some reason that I have yet to analyse, this feels cathartic. We feel released (a bit) after we’ve done this. We feel connected by the pain we share – even if that pain is nothing more serious than a thoughtless fellow parking-lot-user who makes it impossible for you to get to where you’re going by blocking the whole driveway.
Sometimes people even jump onto social media to talk about how they’re so tired of all the negativity. They won’t engage with it. They’ll block the people who share it. They’re done with it. They hate it. No more! They shout from their soap boxes.
They fail utterly to see how that very attitude is more of the same. More negativity. More vitriol. More hate.
Certainly, it’s not making matters BETTER for anyone – not even our hero, so bravely building walls and shutting doors to keep the darkness of others out – far away – and her own darkness safely locked inside with her.
But how can we escape this cycle?
You’d think that sharing something positive, uplifting, or happy would be just the ticket – the perfect antidote to sharing negative stuff. Right?! And yet the very opposite seems to be true. If you tweet about your happy day, you’re labelled a poser, a Pollyanna, a hipster wannabe, a show of. Your joy and contentment is misdiagnosed as smug self-advancement.
And it doesn’t just happen on social media. This attitude is pervasive. I see it everywhere I go.
Most of my friends are ready, at a moment’s notice, to drop everything and come and listen to me talk about something horrible that happened to me. Or near me. Or that I heard about from someone else when it happened to their cousin’s neighbour’s ex’s sister when she moved to Timbuktu. If you see what I mean.
But when I have something to celebrate, it’s not the same. Especially if that something is what we might call something small. Like still being alive at the end of a day. Or having a car of my own. Or the incredible luxury of fresh, potable running water – pretty much ANY time I need it. Or the amazing marvellous magic that is the internet … all technology, really. It’s just incredile in the truest sense of the word. Every day I can hardly grasp the amazing privilege that it is to be alive here, now, today. Everything is – quite literally – awesome.
Even in Church, when we share things we’re thankful for, theses things are considered too small, too ordinary, to be included on the list.
And thus I am branded twee. And smug. And very slightly weird (there are other factors that affect this, I am sure :D).
It’s like people think I’m trying to earn brownie points for the afterlife by being overly (fakely?) grateful for what most people (I infer) take as their due.
“Surely a happy and abundant life is the baseline, and everything else is measured from there?” they imply.
Perhaps that’s what it is. Perhaps taking a moment to enjoy the very essence of each rich moment seems so ludicrous (and terrifying) precisely because it makes people question their own contentment. Their own foundational assumptions about life and what they deserve from it.
Let’s just get some perspective for a bit. Running water is a relatively new addition to life on earth in a historical sense. And having it in the house? It’s little more than a dot on the human time line. Electricity is even newer. If all of human existence were one single human life, we’d have had the marvel of electricity for less than a blink of it.
What about the internet? Is this not the most marvellous of all marvels? The entire breadth and depth of all human knowledge is a few keystrokes away at any time. (Granted, we use those keystrokes to watch cat GIFs and Jimmy Fallon clips instead, but we have the CHOICE.) And even THAT is amazing … choice. The choices women now have in our society. The choices PEOPLE now have in our society. The fact that we have any say in our society at all. It’s just mind-blowing,
Shouldn’t we be doing happy dances in the street every moment that we’re not surfing the web? Shouldn’t every second be jubilant when we consider how far we’ve come, and how very easy our lives now are?
But no. We have what we have and now we want more. And when anyone dares to express awe at what we have, well, that person is some kind of yokel whack job. Clearly not very sophisticated at all.
Gonna Take A Lot To Drag Me Away From You
Here in South Africa we have a lot of crazy stuff going on. And there’s a long legacy of very good reasons behind the dubious rewards we’re reaping now. But I know my crazy gypsy spirit well enough to know that if I hadn’t been born here, I’d have ached to live here anyhow. It’s a wild and crazy place and all we who live here are brave and mad and immeasurable lucky.
Every person I’ve met here, in all my life, has been truly wondrous. They’re all so different, and vibrant – pulsing with life and energy and a special kind of creativity that borders on nothing so much as deep magic.
And we all want to run away. We’re scared of what the future holds. We’re afraid of our neighbours. But they’re afraid of us, too. They want to run away, as well. And when we all wash up on the distant shores we hope desperately to call home, those same scary neighbours become our dearest friends … our only daily memory of (wait for it) home.
Africa gets into your blood and takes hold of your heart and plants deep thorny roots that feed you and kill you at the same time. I choose to love it. I choose to live without fear. Should bad things happen, I choose to believe that they are isolated things, and that I was briefly unlucky.
I choose to forgive.
I choose to believe that I may be forgiven.
And I bravely and madly choose to make a life here, and to celebrate it. Every rich and vibrant and unexpected and untamed moment of it. Mock me if you will. Join me if you dare. It’s nothing to me – that’s your life.
This is mine.