Coping With the Perpetually Unhappy

Why be happy to be unhappy?

Yesterday I did something rather normal even for me, I went grocery shopping. I had a printable gift certificate that I wanted to use and given that the grocery store I patron had just changed point of sale systems a few weeks ago I expected a little bit of trouble. I have been through this before and at this point I can tell the checkout clerk the exact steps to take to use the gift certificate so I was pretty confident things would go smoothly.

The checkout clerk was a little frazzled to begin with, it seems he wasn’t having too good of a day. This is fine I tried to be as cheery as possible making small talk about the weather and such, my ID already on the counter for him as I was also getting cigarettes. And then the gift card, he scanned it first. This of course was the wrong way to go and it resulted in a little bit of delay which he apologized for. My response, “I’ve got more time than money no worries man” I wasn’t worried as I expected it and really I had nothing pressing and was in a particularly good mood to begin with.

Unfortunately there was a woman directly behind me who had just gotten in line that did not share such an upbeat attitude. Immediately she began to make comments about having ice cream and frozen chicken and making some of the most intense and ugly faces I have seen in quite a long time at the cashier and myself. The cashier made several attempts to assure the woman that it would not be very long she gathered all her items and turned around to use the self-checkout, giving us the finger after she moved her groceries.

This woman did not have a whole lot of groceries, I’m not sure what the hang up was, nor do I really care. In the end I was rung up and checked out, and as I walked by the woman who was still checking out at her new post all I could do was smile and say “Have a nice day mam” Having been around a lot of people in a lot of situations I have learned to identify those that seem to only be truly happy if they are unhappy. This woman fit incredibly well into this category, as she continued to grumble and make more nasty comments she proved that not only did she fit in the category, she *wanted* to be there.

I just couldn’t jive with this at the time in fact I had to actually try to keep quiet. I wanted to comment regardless of knowing that it would do no good other than to validate her anger with the idea that the world is against her. I have had times in my life where I have been in a hurry and things would hold me up and slow me down; in fact if you’ve read yesterday’s article on ADHD and have experienced any of those such symptoms you might understand how incredibly frustrating this could be to me. Still, I don’t think I have ever been so passive aggressive to throw snide comments at the world around me simply to validate my own existence. This woman’s anger actually attached to me and made me angry.

Wait… I have spent the last several days trying to spread positive attitude in the same exact way! I have set out to purposely spatter happy positive thoughts on anything and anyone I could. The confusion I have is that this woman most likely had no conscious idea that she was spreading her negativity. The dynamic is something for me to consider in depth for sure, why is it that spreading positivity is so difficult to do yet spreading negativity happens so naturally and often with very little effort?

The question of why popped into my head as I was driving home with my stock of veggies and healthy stuff (and yes the cigarettes) why would this person exert so much energy just to be sure everyone was absolutely aware of her disdain for what was a common and unintentional mishap? What does anyone stand to gain through such efforts? I began to think about times in my own past when I had acted in such ways and realized that in fact I myself had spent many years with the same negativity demon. Anybody that has known me for any long period of time can most likely bring up several instances of me exhibiting this same action. Oh wow!

I eventually let the thoughts fade off and returned to my new positive and happy to be here attitude that I have found to be quite simply much more enjoyable and healthy overall. I actually began to feel sympathy for this poor woman as I thought about the experiences I missed myself by pushing anger and negativity outwards. It was actually quite depressing thinking about it, so I found myself in this anger -> depression cycle that kept going on and on, I was angry that I had missed out because of my anger… the only answer was to come back to my positivity.

Bringing life back to the present, I try (and after a while it is starting to come naturally) to be as positive as possible, small talk and good comments no matter how trivial they may seem have absolutely changed my life and hopefully at least the days of others. If avoiding that one comment, or making a simple gesture and putting the small effort of a smile in can make somebody else feel better I now have a hard time understanding why anyone would not do this.

In the days of instant everything, the microwave, the internet, online shopping we have all but destroyed the reality of patience and god forbid we be held up for an extra minute or two even if we have nothing planned. Let’s take a moment to relax, and understand that maybe things do not need to happen so lightning fast for our own good, let’s compliment those in front of us rather than pander to our online friends. Today I choose to be positive and happy, I will take my time and enjoy my actions on purpose simply because I can!

Don’t shoot the messenger,

~Joe

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