I read the weather forecast and despite the gloom, felt good about living in the Pacific Northwest again. The mild winters, the sing-song pattern to the forecasts: rain changing to showers, showers changing to rain. Heavy rain tapering off before another system moves in to bring more rain, heavy at times.
I walked out front in my socks and listened to the rain in the dark, a pitter patter like static, calming. It made me want to curl up inside it, to bed down. The sound of tree frogs singing, the emerald look to the lawns. The dreariness made poets of us all. Made us feel, if only a feeling of dread.
And it made me think that you can train your mind to feel good about anything. Like the colonoscopy I’m getting tomorrow morning. There was no need to despair about that! I pictured myself donning the tie-in-the-back hospital bib, clapping my hands, cheering on the team as I climbed onto the table, let’s get to work!
Maybe this was the key to happiness in fact, how we choose to feel about our lives. (If feeling in fact were a choice.) Maybe we did have some degree of choice through our own personal narrative, and that’s where attitude comes in.
You can choose your attitude and there’s scientific proof that a positive attitude can lead to more successful outcomes—to lower blood pressure, happier marriages, and more profit for large corporations. That’s what the consultant said when we went through a team-building exercise at work and each of us got lapel pins that said “attitude.” You could choose to be positive, to turn that frown upside down. To buck it up, and get on with it!
The consultant was a former professional football player in the NFL, a large black man with glasses in a suit named Eric. Eric told the story of the first time he played on national television, Monday Night Football, what happened when the coach put him on his first play. Because he was a wide receiver, Eric’s sole purpose was to catch passes and run. He knew the ball would be thrown his way, but Eric was so nervous being on national television for the first time he kept telling himself “don’t drop the ball, don’t drop the ball”—and so when the pass came to him that’s exactly what he did, he dropped the ball. Now if Eric had had a more positive attitude he might have told himself “catch the ball” instead, but he hadn’t gone through the positive attitude training yet because he was a professional football player back then and not a corporate consultant.
What we took away from this, with our lapel pins, was to not dwell on what could go wrong but instead focus on making the play. On winning. To set our attitudes to “go” mode.
My therapist suggested that with my resistance to AA and the “higher power” bit that maybe I explore psychoactive drug treatment to shake things up a bit. Like for a disintegration of self. My 12-step sponsor recommended ketamine therapy and I talked about it with my therapist and ultimately called bullshit on myself which felt clarifying and real and cost me nothing. Why am I considering spending thousands of dollars on psychedelic experimental drug treatments to lower my resistance to AA when the truth is I want neither? Am I so over-privileged and deluded I’m creating my own artifice? So she gave me a website for a place that does breath work at $80/hour and I think I’ll call about that instead.
The thing about us people is we’re either not able to see what’s needed when it’s right in front of us, or we’re constantly wandering off-course in search of the wrong thing.
I think I’m happiest in the early morning stepping out front for a sniff of fresh air, like my dog. There’s a lot to take in with that, and it really can change your attitude. No lapel pins needed. No having to read what other people think to make you think the right way. Let me be with the tree frogs, they seem happier to me. Happy enough to sing in the dark, happy for the rain.