Bad Attitude

There are some blogs I read, and people I know, that seem to have a better life than I do. An easier life. A more fulfilling life.

Their kids are easier. Their job is more satisfying. Their income is more ample. Their house is more guest-ready. Their marriage is more “he’s totally my soulmate.”

It would be easy to resent these people, and how good they have it. Some days I do. But most days I don’t, because I’ve been alive long enough to know that they don’t really have a better life than I do, they just have a WAY better attitude about it.

Some people just exude contentedness. They just seem super stoked to get up every morning and go through the motions. Sure they struggle, sure they work hard, sure they come up against adversity, but it never seems to get them down. At least not from anyone on the outside looking in.

And while I’m sure they are presenting a polished version of the way they feel, I’m also pretty sure they couldn’t be presenting that version, at least not as consistently and as well, if they didn’t feel pretty positive, despite the hard stuff. I really don’t believe you can’t “fake it until you make it” when it comes to general disposition.

Maybe you can?

I do not have a naturally buoyant attitude. Shit gets me down, a lot. I’m not sure where it came from–nurture? nature? anyone? Bueller?–but it’s there. It seems to be who I am. Perhaps I lack a certain resilience? Perhaps I’ve written into my software a certain sense of entitlement? Perhaps my hardware is glitchy, and there is nothing to be done.

But what if I want to be different?

Is this the kind of thing you change? Your general outlook on life? The way hard stuff makes you feel? What you choose to focus on? Is this what cognitive behavior therapy is about? Or is meditation and acceptance the answer? Will either tool truly change how I feel about something, or will they only give me options with which to react to those feelings?

I just wish I were one of the happy people, because I’m not, and it feels like I’ll never be.

And that is a shame, because for all intents and purposes I have a pretty great life. It seems like I shouldn’t feel so shitty about it so much of the time.

36 Comments

  1. I feel similarly. So much in my life is good, easy, fun… But I get worked up super quickly and can let a perfectly good day go to shit because I can’t handle the kids fighting, for example. I certainly don’t bounce out of bed, anxious to tackle everything in front of me. Heck, I’m in bed now, writing this, fighting the clock of reality.

    I think more people are like you than the shiny people ready to take on everything as an excellent challenge of (enter any admirable characteristic here).

  2. Well, I am one of those people. A lot of it for me is that a lot of my childhood sucked and part of graduate school sucked and infertility sucked and my life has been steadily better ever since. So by comparison now is amazing. Even when we weren’t making as much money (and technically we’re living off savings this year). But I know happy optimistic people who haven’t suffered, so who knows.

    I just read a book on grit from the library but it wasn’t much of a how to.

    1. My childhood was pretty great. Maybe that is my problem right there… Except a lot of the happy people I know also had great childhoods so…

      1. such an interesting post. I think that I probably am often one of those people who give off that vibe, but at the same time I definitely think there are those out there who are happier. Or more consistent.

        The childhood theory is interesting. Mine was kind of meh. I am definitely happier, and “have more” (tangible things, emotional support) as an adult.

  3. Yes, I think I do deep down have this expectation that life should be easy. And when reality fails to meet that expectation, the tendency towards a bit of “woe if me” comes out. I’ve worked REALLY HARD to change that attitude over the past 6 years since having my first child. I think I’ve made HUGE changes, I think I’m much more positive overall, though I do get flustered & angry & down at times—I think everyone has those days/weeks regardless of how perfectly happy they present themselves. But that’s the thing—hard times, challenges, down days, those are a normal and expected part of life, too. Being happy doesn’t necessarily mean never feeling sad or angry or frustrated, I think its more the state of knowing that things will work out in the end, of having hope. In that way, I am usually happy, though not always.
    CBT can help—I am going to therapy now, but I also have a book that is helpful—I forget exactly what its called but I’ll look at it when I get home—“change your mind to change your mood” or something like that. Basically it describes how your thoughts shape your mood and that disordered thinking is at the root of depression/anxiety and has some exercises on how to train yourself to think things through differently and to analyze situations more objectively. (I’m sure you already know all this, but I found it helpful the way they laid it out)
    Meditation also helps, but I can’t seem to keep it up regularly.
    Honestly, its a LOT of “fake it til you make it” for me. When I just pretend its OK and go through the motions, it eventually becomes OK. Also just talking about it/writing about it helps lift the weight off my shoulders. Looking for the little glimpses of good things that are buried even in the shittiest of days and focusing on those things, going over them in my mind at the end of the day, writing them down. Knowing that every day is a blank slate, another opportunity to do better—helps me get out of bed in the mornings. Before anything happens, before anyone is up, its easy to believe that THIS is the day I won’t raise my voice at my kids, or take a snippy tone with my husband, or eat crap food or drink too much wine, or slack off at work.
    I used to be a sort of cynical and pessimistic person, but I don’t think that way anymore. I really do believe that things will be OK, that its worth continuing to try, that I CAN change myself and be happier. I would never have believed I’d think these things, if you asked me 10 years ago.

    1. Deep down I’ve always felt that life is hard and I’ve been pleasantly surprised whenever it hasn’t been. I think I’m naturally a pessimist, but there are also happy optimists. A really big thing is that I generally feel like if I work hard enough I will overcome,which is part of what made infertility so demoralizing– no matter how hard I worked my body was still broken. But then metformin did its thing.

    2. I will check out that book. I’ve definitely heard of it before, but I needed the reminder. Thanks for the reco.

  4. Ahhh…. there was that fbk post about “I love you honey bunny” two days before the announcement of the divorce papers being filed. SO, some people lie and paint a Rockwell picture that does not exist.
    Some people really do live charmed lives…. before or after some really nasty events that are never mentioned. Some people feel entitled to ‘perfect’ worlds, some people are amazed and thrilled and totally grateful for improved but not perfect worlds.
    In this culture we grow up with fairytales about adulthood and adult lives, it does make it harder when we are confronted with reality. Ariel falls in love with a singer on a boat and he falls in love with not her but her voice and then everyone lives happily ever after. Not reality, or good judgement.
    You choose to tell your truth. It resonates with many people. And while you do not mention it in this posts I have seen over time how often you also mention the joy of your husband and your children. Is everything unicorn horns of joy? Nope. But you always keep going forward, striving for both honesty and improvement. SO remember back 7 or 10 years ago, what you had and what you wanted and then compare it to today. You really are winning in life, and you really do stop and appreciate your joys and the beauty in your life, while also being honest about your desires right now.
    Keep hanging in and things change in ways you cannot imagine today. Hugs.

    1. I do look back a lot at when I didn’t have any of what I have now, and remember how much I wanted it. The thing is, I didn’t think it would be anything like this. I was so naive. I had no idea how hard it would be.

      Some people I know are about to have babies and I oscillate between being enviously happy for them that they are about to embark on this journey and still have an opportunity for it to be everything they (maybe I’d?) hope it will be, and dread for them that they have no idea what they are getting themselves into…

  5. I have what I call Pollyanna syndrome. I am a cheerful fucking person despite most circumstances, I can look on the bright side with ease. I was thrown into my darkest place with ongoing unexplained pregnancy loss, but even then I got up every morning and found something to smile about, even if it was through tears. This does work against me. I stayed in a dumb ass relationship for 10 years because even though it was awful, I was happy in all other aspects of life so I just focused on them. I have zero professional ambition, if you can be happy while poor why bother bettering yourself to make more? I do fine without cable, expensive clothes, electronics, we provide for my child and that is essentially my goal. I do not have retirement, a college fund for my kid, an in case fund to fall back on. I’m borrowing my roommate’s hideous car that would be parked and rotting if I wasn’t driving it. No radio, driver window doesn’t roll down, but my car broke and it costs more to fix it then we could turn around and sell it for. Buying a new car is a hilarious thought. I am completely aware, as an adult, I’m pretty much failing on all the major fronts. (I do fabulous with my kid, I’ll give myself that.) But. I’m happy. Fucking weirdo right?

    1. I feel compelled to add I do not post things like; it’s national happiest marriages on earth day!! Post if you LOOOOOOVE your hubby!! I post things like; it’s national junk punch your jackass husband day! Post if he deserves it daily! Then I tag him in it. He knows he’s a jackass.

    2. But if you don’t want to achieve those goals, what is the harm in not achieving them? I’d much rather be content with what I have, than feel compelled to always want something different or better.

      1. I appreciate this point of view. The yin to my yang; aka my BFF, is a perpetually unfulfilled overachiever, and I look at her and lament that she is not hard wired to be content. And then equally lament that I don’t have GOALS.

    1. I’ve meant to keep a gratitude journal for a while, but I never seem to start one, or stick with it. Maybe this time I can finally commit to doing one every night, because I’m sure it would help my outlook immensely.

  6. I too know that my life is objectively great, and I kick myself for not being all gaga about it. But the truth is that I am not a happy person; I am moody, gloomy, and oriented inwards to the point of driving myself and everyone else nuts. I am a curmudgeon and always waiting for the other shoe to drop, while hoping it wouldn’t. I am pretty sure it’s the upbringing, as everyone is grumpy and gloomy and complaining non-stop where I come from, and my family was no different. Living in the US among the seemingly unfailingly joyful Midwesterners makes me feel guilty about not being happy, because it seems that not being happy is… essentially rude, I suppose?

    Anyway, let me cheer you up. All three of my kids have had recurrent ear infections. A couple of years ago, I am at the doctor’s with kid No 3; he’s old enough that we might be cautiously optimistic that not every cold will turn into an ear infection, and I said “Nah, I am bracing for the inevitable fever a few days from now.” The doctor actually said that this grumpy, bracing-self-for-the-worst-outcome attitude is actually highly correlated with survival is really stressful situations. She said she had read about a study of people who spent a long time imprisoned in Vietnam, and those who were optimistic and cheery (“I bet we will be home by Christmas!”) ended up psychologically destroyed after the many, many disappointments and fared much worse upon returning home than those who were not optimistic and were taking the long and less rosy view (“I will rot for years in this fuckin’ place”). Curmudgeons unite?

    1. Although there are individual differences, I don’t think of Midwesterners as being particularly optimistic. They tend to take things as they come and to make the best of them. Cheerful maybe (at least at university if not the older folks as the holiday dinner table) but not optimistic. Plan for (Expect) the worst, hope for the best. Stoic would be the adjective I would use.

      1. I don’t say they are necessarily optimistic, but my impression (as a total outsider) is that it’s considered poor form, essentially rude (as in, letting out too much of what you are really thinking), to complain or to generally appear unhappy.
        I contrast that with the place where I grew up, where it’s perfectly socially acceptable to bitch and moan and walk around with a frown (we’re not sunny people).

        1. I would put that down as a, “suck it up” attitude. Very few people want to listen to chronic complainers (though there are plenty of them in the midwest at older ages– do you not have faculty who should be emeritus who will talk your ear off about their health problems?). And a big rule is, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” which means that silence speaks volumes if you know the language.

    2. We sound like two peas in a pod, though I can’t blame the gloominess of people around me. Both my parents were pretty upbeat people, at least as far as I remember. Maybe my recollections aren’t accurate…

      I don’t know if I’m one of those people who would survive because I expect the worst and then am relieved when it doesn’t come. It’s not that I expect the worst, but more that I am just overwhelmed by the reality, if that makes any sense. I don’t know. I’ve always just attributed it to my underlying predisposition toward depression, but maybe that is a copout on my part.

  7. I read this and my first thought was, oh she is probably thinking of me. And then I felt bad and then I didn’t. Maybe I am one of those people, maybe I am not?!

    I definitely have a glass is half full attitude. Have a pollyanna fucking sunshine attitude on life. Always have. There are things in my life that totally fucking suck and I could spend years on a couch having them analysed. But there are also things in my life that are amazing and I just choose to focus on them.

    I read in a novel once that you have one life and you choose how you get to live it. You can give joy or you can take joy. And I choose to give. It is far less panic inducing, soul destroying, frustrating and debilitating to look at the positives and not the negatives.

    I had a miscarriage three weeks ago. A surprise natural pregnancy after seven years. I found out two days after I completely let that side of my life go and said I was happy with one. For one week I was gloriously 6w pregnant and then at 7w I wasn’t. I could let that absolutely drive the next seven years of my life. I could write blog post after blog post about how it is not fair. Focusing on how fucking shit the world is that I was pregnant and had a miscarriage and I wont lie and say I am not really angry, bitter and hurt about the whole thing. But what’s the point and railing at the infertile world for another screw up in my infertile life. This year has been much harder on people I know in ways I haven’t discussed on my blog because I literally can’t talk about it without crying and it isn’t my story to tell. So instead I focus on the positives that I have a living, breathing, crazy, beautiful, frustrating daughter. I have a husband that rocks my world – even if he does annoying things and I have parents that would drop anything and come to me if I needed it. I also have a genuinely amazing circle of IRL and URL friends that I can turn too when the shit hits the fan. Always. And yes, that makes me feel better.

    The other stuff is just stuff. Yeah, I do have a guest room ready for use. I also have matching sets of towels. I also have a good dinner set and good wine glasses and when I get them out for guests it makes me feel so good. My house is always pretty clean. Sometimes it isn’t but most of the time it is.

    I do get down. A lot but I also choose to get back up because I hate feeling fucking sad all the time. It is exhausting.

    The only thing is you have to fight the demons in your head telling you that things are shit and it’s a tough fight and for some people the wiring makes it even tougher. That doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you normal.

    For what its worth you have some crappy things to deal with. But you have some fucking awesome ones as well. On days like today when it seems you are taking stock of those really embrace those ones and push the negative ones away and honestly create one space in your house that is just yours that is clean, tidy and free of clutter that you can escape to when all the other mess is caving in.

    1. Just to be clear, you are not one of those people, because you are honest enough for me to know what you are going through and that you are actively choosing happiness over the alternative. The people I’m thinking about only ever present the positive, or they only present the negative after they’ve “learned from it” and “moved on.” It’s always in retrospect, never something they are managing at the moment.

      Your ability to see the glass as half full, of fucking champagne, is truly remarkable to me. You are an inspiration and I think about you a lot when I’m stuck in the muck. I hope someday I can be more like you.

  8. I believe that there are naturally happy people, who don’t understand why everyone else can’t be happy too. My mother-in-law is one. The friend I had lunch with today is another. And I think there are people who struggle with happiness too. But I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

    I am not sure where I fall on the spectrum. When I was a child, my mother would tell me periodically that it was “time to read the Pollyanna books again.” so I obviously wasn’t all sweetness and light! I’ve been a worrier all my life too.
    Since my ectopics and infertility, I’ve been in the depths of despair, and I’ve found contentment too. I found learning to take pleasure in the little things helped me be able to feel joy, and to look on the bright side. I also found that learning to accept myself and my failures (not being able to gave children was the big one) meant that I no longer take bad luck as a personal insult, or as a judgement on my individual worth. That’s helped me enormously in learning how to roll with the punches.

    1. From what I know of you from your blog, I would say you’re more predisposed to happiness, but I would also believe that you ended up in that place after some really hard, soul searching work you were forced to undertake because of some devastating circumstances. You are actually one of my personal examples of someone who has grown because of her struggles and ended up stronger on the other side. I hope I can be more like you when I grow up, actually. 😉

  9. I’m not naturally buoyant either, and I think it’s a hardware glitch as well as the way I was raised. Depression makes it damn near impossible to be optimistic. ((hugs)) I get it. (and I also feel like I pull a C- on any given day: trying to get to a space where I’m ok with that)

    1. I fall back on my “depression” as an excuse for my attitude a lot, and then I wonder if I’m just letting myself off easy. Depression has always been there for me, which makes me wonder if it really is a thing I suffer from and not just who I am. I wish I had a time I could look back on and not have depression be a part of it. Then I think I’d know if it were real or just made up in my head.

        1. I actually already do take a medication for depression/ADD and it has been the most effective I found for myself in 15 years and 7 different medications, so I don’t really think I could find something that would work better at this point.

  10. My brother and his wife lead charmed lives and it drives me f*cking insane. Literally nothing goes wrong for them. Their children are little monsters most of the time (entitled little monsters), but beyond that…Bro and Jewel rarely worry about anything, yet mostly I hear them complain about the smallest inconveniences in their lives. In fact, Jewel spent a good 30 minutes ranting about how it’s so hard to find GMO-free food in their town…and that’s what she’s really worried about these days. Sigh…

    Oh wait, but I had a point. People generally think I am a “happy” person. However, it’s because I put on a damn good “game” face. I don’t tell people about how I’m having bad day…although I’m working on that. If we were to meet on the street…life would be just dandy. Most people don’t know about Cadet’s struggles or the fights I’m having in my marriage or even if I’m having a rocky day with anxiety.

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