Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Power of Not-Always-So-Exasperatingly-Positive Thinking

The other day while I was watching children, one of them came running up to me in "Tattle Mode."  I hate "Tattle Mode."  The part of my brain that has worked with children for 13 years, that has been to workshops and training seminars and such, well it understands that sometimes children can't see past themselves, and therefore interpret any action exercised by another person, however minor or innocent, is something done against THEM.  Then there's the part of my brain that just thinks the kid in "Tattle Mode" is just being a short little jerk.

It's particularly hard to be patient after the fifteenth ridiculous tattle (i.e. that boy just scratched his head, or that girl just sneezed without saying excuse me).  But sometimes, sometimes there are tattles so ridiculous that it just makes me want to reconsider my entire career and go become a Forest Ranger.

Little girl in "Tattle Mode" rushed up to me and declared, with much urgency, "That boy just told me that cheetahs are REAL."






Oh, tattles like that make Baby Jesus cry.

After a brief facepalm, I calmly explained to Tattle Girl that the boy she was tattling on hadn't done anything wrong, since, well, cheetahs do have the tendency to be real.  She replied, "No.  They aren't.  They aren't real.  Cheetahs scare me.  Things that scare me aren't real.  So cheetahs aren't real."

That's it.  I'm off to Forest Ranger school.

Actually, I found Tattlin' Tina (that's what I've decided to name her) to be unintentionally profound, because the more I thought about what she said, the more I realize that there are a lot of grown ups who think the way that she does.  And there are probably even some grown ups who would praise her logic.

There are probably adults who would say, "Oh, but she's saying that her fears don't exist, and so she's overcoming them!  That's bravery."  And I guess I can see what they're trying to do.  I am just far too literal minded, and children are literal minded, and so I don't think that Tattlin' Tina is being brave.  I think she might even be the opposite of brave.  She's either taken something a well-meaning adult has told her to the extreme (i.e. an adult told her that she shouldn't be afraid of ghosts or something that ISN'T real, and she interpreted that to mean anything she's afraid of isn't real), or she has learned to lie to herself.

Given Tattlin' Tina's tendency to misinterpret reality, I'm kind of going with the latter.  She's learned to lie to herself.  If something scares her, it isn't real.  And if someone tries to tell her a truth she doesn't want to hear (i.e. the boy who said cheetahs are real), it upsets her enough to feel the need to tattle.

I know a lot of adults like that.

As a realist, I get a bad rap.  I've blogged a lot about that lately.  The thing is, the so-called Donnie and Debbie Downers of the world aren't always being as down as some might believe.  Are there people who go around complaining and painting every situation in the saddest light possible?  Yes.  Yes there are.

But then there are people who just speak the truth and have to figuratively pay hell for it.

Sometimes, it's something really simple.  I could just say, "It looks like it will rain" or "My throat is starting to hurt a little" and get called a complainer.  For years, I used to think something was wrong with me when people called me a complainer for saying things like that.  But the thing is, I wasn't always complaining.  It's not necessarily a complaint to just point out a truth.  If it looks like it will rain, it's not necessarily a complaint to point it out.  If my throat is hurting (and I just state the fact without moaning and groaning about it), it's not necessarily a complaint to just state a fact and ask if anyone has any cough drops.

This is especially irritating when someone actually asks me how I'm doing, and I reply back with an honest answer, such as "I'm tired," or "My back hurts a little," and then I'm accused of complaining.  I understand that most of the time, people just ask how you are to be polite or as a greeting, but, as I said: I'm literal minded.  If you ask me how I am, I might just tell you.  And sometimes the answer might be "Fine," because I might be fine.  Sometimes, however, I might not be fine.  And I might tell you how I'm really doing if I'm not fine.  My thought is, if you asked, then let me answer.  And don't get upset if the answer wasn't what you wanted or expected.

Also, and this might be a bit of a surprise to some, but I've got a bit of a sarcastic streak.  No.  Really.

(See what I did there?)

And I get it that sarcasm isn't everyone's love language, okay?  Not everyone gets the humor.  But sometimes, I'm being sarcastically hilarious, and some Positive Peter or Polly decides to ruin the joke by telling me to stop complaining.  I'm sorry...but if you can't take a joke, then who's the one being negative?  I'm not at ALL condoning sarcasm that hurts people or cruel jokes at the expense of others, but sometimes things are darkly funny.  And, I'm telling you Positive Pete and Polly (can I call you P.P.?), it's okay to laugh.

The thing is, like with Tattlin' Tina, there are some people who just can't seem to tolerate anything that's not over-the-top positive, whether it's an actual complaint, sarcasm, or just a simple statement of fact.  I guess I can see why.  There is a lot of complaining in this world.  You can't find a restaurant or movie theater or anything that doesn't have at least a couple of really horrible Yelp reviews.  I've read some bad reviews for some great places, and those same places have very few good reviews.  It's not always because the places are bad.  It's because people like to complain about something more than they like to say something good about it.  So don't hear me wrong and say I don't think it's okay to be positive.  I think that sometimes we need to be more positive.  I just think that some people over-correct and become super-duper ultra uber positive to the point that they can't handle a neutral comment, loving criticism, or a gentle rebuke.

A while ago, I went to see a movie with some friends, and after the movie I wanted to talk about some of the things that really bothered me.  These were fairly important issues, as the movie in question was geared towards tweenage girls, and one of the main characters was rewarded for some inappropriate behavior.  I thought the protagonist was a poor role model for tweenage girls, and I said so.  Before I even really began my argument, one of my friends stopped me and said, "Can't you just enjoy a movie without being so critical?"

No.  No I can't.  Because that's not the way my mind works.  But there is a huge difference between being critical and being negative.  And I'm a little afraid for a world that doesn't seem to be able to handle thoughtful criticism.

I've struggled just a little bit in the writing/publishing world, and part of me just wants to throw the towel in before I struggle anymore.  Part of me doesn't even want to bother because there are so many politics involved even in the publishing industry.  I've discussed in writing forums and online groups and such about the dangers of book reviews.  If you want to be published and you write book reviews, it's incredibly dangerous to give a book a bad review.  You risk offending the wrong person, be it agent or editor or publisher or whoever.  And the whole thing seems so dishonest to my realistic, literal mind that I just want to go be a Forest Ranger.  It's sad to me that people can't just be honest without risk.  But then, being honest has always been a pretty risky thing.

I'm just going to touch on this a little--because we live in a world that's so tolerantly intolerant.  It's okay to believe whatever you want, as long as you don't disagree with anyone.  That's why you can't give someone a loving rebuke when they're doing something wrong.  If you are, then you're being intolerant.  You're being negative and judgmental, just for trying to speak the truth.  And all I'm going to say about that is that if people who speak the truth today have to pay figurative hell for their truth-telling, then at least we can be comforted that Jesus paid literal hell for doing the same thing.

That's all I'm going to say about that.  For now.

But I have a problem with the Tattlin' Tina's of the world.

In Tattlin' Tina's world, it's impossible for there to be anything that frightens her.  Some people might actually applaud that and say she's being courageous for overcoming her fears.  But I don't see her overcoming her fears.  She's just denying them and pretending they aren't there.  That's actually cowardice, not bravery.  And Tattlin' Tina is just a five-year-old girl.  And I think it's just a phase (I hope it's just a phase), but if she doesn't grow out of that mindset, she's going to have a pretty rude awakening one day. when she visits the zoo.

But for those of us who aren't five years old anymore, maybe it's time we stop pretending cheetahs aren't real.

And I've decided that I might just want to be a Zookeeper instead.

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