Friday, June 26, 2015

Cultivating A Good Attitude

As a teenager with a bad attitude, it became obvious to me that both positive and negative outlooks
on life weren't accidental--they are voluntarily cultivated. You don't wake up one morning thinking that people are bad and there's no point in trying. Nor do you suddenly wake up and see the world as full of infinite possibility and it just being a matter of how best to be awesome when you didn't see that yesterday.

Zoey, a magnificent prize flower in my new garden
If you want the right attitude, you first plant the seeds. Then you wait, making any necessary adjustments. Nothing grows overnight, good or bad. The more you need your good attitude to grow, the harder it is. I don't know why, but that's just how the universe is made. The more you need a job, the worse you do at an interview. The more you need anything, the less likely you are to have it. Desperation isn't sexy. It takes some Zen thinking to let go of fretting over the results of your garden and focus the actual gardening, because that is what determines your success.

It's also harder to plant the seeds if you are really sad. They take longer to sprout in bad weather. More delay. Again, it's proportional to your need, unfortunately.

But it can't stay cloudy forever, and planting the seeds of your good attitude isn't rocket science. Plant enough seeds and some will sprout, and some of those will thrive. You don't need them all to thrive. And just like when the bad seeds thrived, the good seeds will sprout and grow in succession. Having bad things hit in succession is inexplicably horrible, but having all the good things hit you at once is inexplicably wonderful and magical.

Once the sun pokes through, and the seeds of a positive outlook start growing and flowering, it becomes a little easier. The old garden still calls to you occasionally. That negative garden you spent so much time tending to, with all your failed hopes and heartbreak. All that wasted effort. All that unresolved stuff.

After a while you can look at that bad garden with all the messed up stuff you grew in it, and you can look at the good garden struggling to flower and grow all this awesome stuff you planted, and it's obvious which one your heart is in now. Maybe you even tend to that bad garden in your spare time. But it's not satisfying like the new one. You wake up in the morning in a good mood ready to work on the new one.

Then clarity comes that you can't return to that bad garden. It can't happen. Can't happen. Not even if at one time it was the most awesome garden imaginable. Not even if you put half your life into it. You won't grow poisonous fruit. You won't because you can't. You don't have it in you.

And there's the second Zen-like detachment: saying goodbye to the old garden and putting everything you have into your new garden. At this point all your gardening is bearing good fruit you put in a hard day's work for. Momentum is on your side. Good momentum. It's hard to starve with so many fruit-bearing trees.

What I did was put the things into place I thought I needed to be happy: Good health. The dogs. The outdoors. Technology and science. Self employment. New friends and business opportunities. Being near my siblings. I did a gut check and started a life with only what I wanted in it.

Now I am tending a garden of awesomeness, and the few thoughts I have of the bad garden are slowly being replaced by thoughts of the good garden it used to be. Nobody sets out to grow a messed up garden. Nobody plans to be sad.

It's a lot of work being happy, and I'm starting to feel my age, but I'm focused and my head is straight. And I'm swinging for the fucking fences.


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