Sunday, January 15, 2012
Gratitude and Cynicism: Finding the Balance
I think we all want to live our lives with more gratitude, less complaining, and a truly glass-half-full mindset. I think we also realize there's a reason for the axiom, "too much of a good thing".
Let's be honest, we've all been around those peppy people whose glass is not just half-full, it overfloweth with positivity and potential. To a point, it's inspiring. Give them enough time, though, and you'll want to break their brimming glass and corner them with a shard of its jagged remains.
We're Americans. We were raised on cynicism. Heck, for some of us who don't smoke or drink, it's really our only catharsis from a world that seems, all too often, to have all the order of Jackson Pollock's drop cloth.
Let me be clear here. I try to wake up every morning and look for the good that is coming my way that day. More importantly, if I am truly present, I can appreciate even the crazy makers, the speed bumps, and the full-on detours that come my way. Problem is, sometimes I'd rather be Patton Oswalt than Pema Chodron. And with that comes - I dunno, is it negativity, or is it just a survival mechanism that allows us all to separate the superficial and the stupid from the pure sublime?
It's an election year. It's the year that many believe the world will end, be it because of Mayans, Nostradamus, or some poor evangelical schnook in California who keeps getting the wrong 'save the date' notes from Jesus. Our television sets are overrun with people that P.T. Barnum could not have invented if we'd given him a jigger of mutant DNA and free reign over Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory. To not be cynical is to not be alive, in many ways.
And yet, just as too much Sister Mary Sunshine can make you want to punch someone in the throat, the constant, insistent cynic is just as painful a dinner partner.
Perhaps, as a whole, we do a pretty good job of balancing these two seemingly at-odds traits. We must be a fairly optimistic nation to keep spending like we do as we slowly climb out of a brutal recession. And we must be fairly cynical if we can turn on Jon Stewart every night and laugh at him poking fun at said economic hardships.
I don't think we're completely in denial either. I think it all comes down to how we feed our souls. Some can do it all on faith. Some have an empty tank where that's concerned. And for those of us who ride the middle ground, we find it healthier to believe in our better angels, while realizing that all the most delicious moments here on earth are - at the very least - created with devilish wit.
So, I wake up every day grateful for this nation, but cognizant of its flaws. Grateful for my family, but aware that they will serve up equal parts of frustration and joy. Grateful for my health, but willing to test it with the occasional cheeseburger. Grateful for my work, but fully aware that sometimes clients have no earthly clue what does and doesn't work creatively. Grateful that I can stay in touch with so many friends on Facebook and aware that some people shouldn't be allowed to post anything online, ever.
Gratitude & Cynicism. They may be opposite sides of the same coin, but sometimes they harmonize as beautifully as Simon & Garfunkel.