I have a serious question for you. I’ve been told recently that the best way to handle one’s expectations is to follow the sage advice of Benjamin Franklin and expect nothing so that you will never be disappointed. That’s kind of the way I live nowadays. I refer to it as the “other shoe” phenomenon. I just keep my eyes wide open and wait for the alternative sole to descend. True to fashion, it always does.
But lately I’ve been coached by several of my more “woo-woo” pals to “Expect a miracle,” that “You get whatever you imagine,” that “what you believe you make true.” For a fairly negative thinker like myself, this concept is terribly troubling.
I was raised to work hard, believe in yourself and trust no one. My dad was a “Pull yourself up by your boot-straps” kind of guy and my mom was cursed with what we lovingly refer to as the “Nudelman negativity.” I envision the worst possibilities everywhere. I catastrophize over each and every less than perfect happening. I literally look over my shoulder when the sky is falling so that I can always stay at least one step ahead of disaster. So the notion that my attitude creates my reality is a staggering downer.
You mean I’m responsible for creating every lousy thing that happens in my life? That makes me feel even worse about myself. If only I had seen the world through those proverbial rose-colored glasses, then I might not be…fill in the blank; in financial ruin, an emotional basket case, unemployed, etc… Seems to me that this philosophy is an awful lot like “blaming the victim.”
Feeling like we are solely responsible for every peril and pitfall we encounter is not only depressing, but also completely debilitating. I mean I can only do so much to change my attitude. I see potential despair everywhere. That’s just who I am. Telling myself to “think positively” is a useless exercise in futility.
I guess I could just “Fake it till I make it.” But candidly, that kind of input is truly sickening to me. The truth is that bad stuff happens. It happens to everyone and it’s important to keep it in perspective and not let it completely destroy who you are. But telling me to pretend that every misfortune is some kind of “blessing in disguise” is really irksome to me.
This kind of preachy Polyanna propoganda grates on me just as much as the opposite consolation in which a helpful friend seeks to buoy you by pointing out that yes, you have lost an arm in battle, but it could always be worse, you could have lost both arms, and a leg, and a head. It can always be worse therefore you should rejoice in your minor pain and misfortune because something even more horrible may be lurking around the next corner.
What is a person to do when life gives you lemons? I think it depends on the type of lemons, the amount of lemons and the size of said lemons. I mean, a few lemons, some Grey Goose and a pinch of Truvia and you’ve got a darn delicious skinny lemon drop Martini. But when it’s pouring lemons, big lemons, and they’re coming down fast and furious, you had better seek cover and protect yourself lest you risk being pummeled to death by the tough-skinned canary-colored citrus.
So I guess the upshot of all this is that you have to “appreciate what you have,” and “develop an attitude of gratitude,” and…blah blah blah, add whatever platitude you feel best fits. But at the same time, keep one foot grounded in reality and pay attention to the potential risks that await you.
My final advice is this: It’s okay to wallow in misery every now and then. That doesn’t mean it’s your own fault that you’ve had a set-back or that you brought the bad upon yourself. Life just feels bad sometimes and you shouldn’t have to pretend that it doesn’t. But don’t let yourself get stuck in the quicksand of disappointment and regret, because that will pull you under, fast. It’s a delicate balance; one that requires time, effort and sometimes a lot of lemons before you find that sweet spot in an otherwise sour situation.