Friday, April 9, 2010

People like Optimists Because Levity Has Appeal


They do. Well, I know I do. Optimism, I believe, is not only informed by genetics but also by acquired behavior and learned skill. And it most certainly does not happen with ease and without effort. Becoming and staying optimistic feels, at times, like a full-time job and that's not a problematic thing necessarily. It is important to invest in the future, after all, and investments in attitude and outlook are as important as a healthy 41K plan.
I had an unusual conversation over sushi that got me to thinking afterwards.

"So, what is the secret to life?" asks my good friend and I find myself wrinkling my forehead as I didn't think I had heard him correctly the first time around. I look around in an effort to portray some sense of confusion to him and then added, "Secret? Ah. Hmm. Well, no talk of secrets before I've gotten my hypoglycemia under control, guy." We had ordered a few tuna rolls, California rolls, and, naturally some eel. I had exerted myself more than usual at the gym because, well, I got carried away listening to my new playlist. Something about putting Placebo and trance music in the same list, or something. Music tends to grab my attention fully and if I had a penny for every time I've heard, "you totally check out of the conversation when music's playing" then I could head to the Apple store in a New York minute to get the next gadget, I mean iPad. Come to think of it, it was the playlist's fault that one time when I got so focused on the music that I missed my exit to Denver and kept driving in circles around Colorado. But I digress and, of course, music is to be blamed for the digression. Today, it's Shostakovich's "Waltz 2" from Jazz Suite.

Cont.
He insists on asking the same question and after my third California roll I reckon I can attempt some kind of answer. The hypoglycemic levels were under control after all that that was as good a time to entertain a conversation as any. It was something to the tune of, "... well, let's see. Do your thing, do it well, invest in a good pair of Oxfords, always have some Clinique Chocolate Ice lipstick as you never know when you need it to add visual intensity to your day, be unapologetic about being optimistic, check all words of praise and criticism against your own self and core values, never deny yourself good nutrition and exercise, don't go a day without moving about, be hydrated, say 'no' to cigarettes and avoid being around cigarette smoke as good skin does not just happen, always have sun glasses on your person, tell your folks you love them once a week, and, uhm, well, maintain a clean living space. Other than that, hmm, beats me. You're going to finish that Cali roll, by the way?"

As I was talking I remember thinking that the question wasn't as cliched as I had first thought. I suppose that's why the adage says you think better on a full stomach. But, isn't being happy the one pursuit that informs all other achievements and ways of being in the world, after all?

I also added, bike everywhere if you can help it. Bike or run everyday. I have never been unhappy when on the bike and/or running. Never. And that is one piece of solid experiential knowledge that my friend needed to hear, I suppose. Ah, also, make sure to drive along Highway 1 at least once. The view is so spectacular, it will give added meaning to life." Then I really felt I was proving cliches to be true the more I continued to speak, ergo I opted for another tuna roll instead.

Subsequently, I asked him the same question and he said, "Ah, I ate too much. I have to think about it even though I asked the question first. I guess, I withdrew without depositing, eh?" To which I added, "well, next time you bring it up make sure I've had my lunch and I'm on a Macchiato break."
And, what a good way to dodge the question, I thought.




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graph per http://paulbuckley14059.files.wordpress.com/2007/05/sushi-for-2.jpg

7 comments:

Becca said...

" investments in attitude and outlook are as important as a healthy 41K plan"
Amen!
Levity is appealing because it doesn't add to the burden of our daily lives.

Sra said...

Withdrew without depositing. I like that. I feel like I'm doing that a lot right now.

I was once a realist, which is not really optimistic or pessimistic, it just is what it is. But these days pessimism is infecting my life pretty badly. Optimism itself has also always been hard to come by for me, but I like your tips on seeking it, or on seeking happiness at least. Can one be happy and not be optimistic? I don't know.

Nicki said...

I often forget that the things that truly matter are the seemingly simple ones. Some sushi, or Italian in my case, telling your folks you care, loving your person and yourself well, eating well, being well, reveling in kindness and simple goodness. While optimism is not always innate, an embracing of good, simple things is, to some extent, learnable.
It's tough for me to go straight for the positive side of things but when I do, it's somehow easier. Almost comically so at times. Hmmm. Now, 'I got to thinking.'

Nicki said...

I often forget that the things that truly matter are the seemingly simple ones. Some sushi, or Italian in my case, telling your folks you care, loving your person and yourself well, eating well, being well, reveling in kindness and simple goodness. While optimism is not always innate, an embracing of good, simple things is, to some extent, learnable.
It's tough for me to go straight for the positive side of things but when I do, it's somehow easier. Almost comically so at times. Hmmm. Now, 'I got to thinking.'

Anonymous said...

I like the connection between professional expertise and a good pair of shoes here: "Do your thing, do it well, invest in a good pair of Oxfords."
The 'simpler' things are the more substantial ones because they are 'high-frequency' and we have a longer collective experience of them.

Will said...

Ah, Shostakivich. Time to pay him a visit. It would super if people deposited attention as easily as they withdraw from it, right?

B.R. said...

Happiness is a lot of work. I've been actively thinking about it during the past few years especially and last year I became familiar with Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project which made me think about it more specifically. Her site is here: http://www.gretchenrubin.com/happiness/happiness.html

I think happiness is not necessarily a derivative of optimism. As a matter of fact, I know plenty of mainly realism-oriented folk who feel more comfortable residing in critical thought and the occasional happy moment. By the same token, I know plenty of naturally optimistic people who find it easier to look at the positive. I find it helpful to surround myself with both kinds as they compliment each other and my own self quite nicely.
A heavy dose of reality while being future-fixed sounds like a good way to go to me. Naturally, it's a tough way to go too but so are most things worth of pursuit. Happiness is a ton of work and I'm not sure it's not supposed to be so. It makes me, at least, appreciate it more.