Monday, August 13, 2012

The horrible and the miserable

For months I've been embittered and unrelentingly pessimistic. There's something about life that does that to a person. When difficult tasks mount and seem to be never-ending, or when hopes get high and they're dashed because whoever had them in their hands lost their grip.

Even with the occasional spotty positivity, it's been hard to transition back into a state of whimsical romanticism - a trait I believe I've always possessed, even as I went through my punk/goth Green Day-loving pre-teen years. I've been spoiled by the feelings of rejection and emptiness.

It only takes one person to change your whole outlook on life. As if their opinions matter, you change the way you see yourself and everyone around you - assuming stereotypes of particular people based on some qualifier. Men are scum is a popular one. And of course there are racist and other offensive alternatives that become a fallback when we feel we've been wronged by someone or something.

But in a few weeks time I've felt myself returning back to that hopeful, if somewhat naive persona. Like whatever part of me had been wronged and turned negative has been reborn and reminded of all the good there is in people.

You'd think it would be hard to bounce back from that. But with the right words or actions at just the right moment, what's past is past and the future is no longer bleak.

Woody Allen's Annie Hall
This morning I watched a two part documentary on Woody Allen. The movie referred back often to the negativity that pervades all of Woody's films. The long tirades on death and lives gone on unfulfilled, the speech in Annie Hall about how life is divided into two groups of people: the horrible and the miserable.

It feels like an easy way out. Like if we just blame it on the universe, we can finally accept that optimism isn't the way to go. That childlike notions no longer carry any weight. We can move on from our own naiveté.

I still agree with Woody to some extent. Sadness is an inexorable part of the human experience. If it didn't exist, neither would humanity. Somehow, just like love and humanity, despair and the human race co-exist. They're givens.

But must we dwell on what makes us upset? Should we allow the people that destroy our lifelong positivity and faith in mankind to maintain power over us?

It's hard to look at that question with any sort of objectivity when you're facing the dilemma that Woody presents - that feeling of a nugatory existence. If something had the power to bring you there, then it's hard to know what can bring you back out again.

You can keep fooling yourself into thinking that you have the power. That's what people kept telling me - by distracting myself from sadness I would finally return back to homeostasis (weird science metaphor, I know. I'm no biologist).

But those people were wrong. Who was right then? The ones who kept annoyingly reminding me that "time heals all wounds."

Now I know they were right.

Even with a few missteps along the way, even with moments of moving forward one space then being pushed back two, it's patience that brings answers and restores equilibrium.

This kind of philosophical discussion can apply to a lot of different problems for a lot of different people. And it's for that reason that I'm not being incredibly specific. I like to think that when I look back on this, I'll only half remember what I was writing about.

With that lack of knowledge, I will forever be able to apply my current wisdom to whatever problems I face in the future, because I can guarantee I will forget it not long after today. New problems will arise. I will retreat back into my shell, forever a "miserable" by the Annie Hall distinction.

Maybe not forever, actually. Because sometimes I'll turn off the Woody Allen documentary and watch Sleepless in Seattle. And the positivity, however mind-numbing and unrealistic, will show me that romanticism still exists - in me and in the world. Just like misery and life go hand-in-hand, so does happiness and existence.

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