The term “pet peeve” has always bugged me. I mean, aside from the fact that “peeve” just sounds weird and sets my teeth on edge, the term itself is just an excuse. Someone is giving themselves permission to be negative because whatever just happened is their “pet peeve”. As my sister would say, well, bully for you.
My Dad had chronic pain when I was growing up. Rheumatoid arthritis. Dreadful. Anyway, in spite of this, he strove to raise us in an ultra positive atmosphere. The things normal people disliked were usually my favorites because I didn’t know we were supposed to hate them. I have crazy love for things like Mondays, broccoli, cats and rainy days. I was homeschooled, so I didn’t know until I got out into the “real world” that there was something inherently wrong with this. I learned how to keep this disturbing part of myself hidden for a long time so I could fit in with normal people, but various other abnormalities kicked in, and my plan failed. So now, it’s just all out there in the open.
On the downer side, I am as guilty as anyone. I watched a movie last night that wasn’t a cinematic masterpiece and the very next thing I felt the need to do was get on Facebook and gripe about it. Seriously? I should have just gone to bed. It was late. I even, despite Daddy’s best efforts, have pet peeves myself. Don’t say “snuck” around me or mention that you drink Diet Coke. Just don’t. It’s super bad.
I have noticed our trend toward negativity really increasing here lately, (like, since slightly after the creation of mankind), and its severity is alarming. So, here is my question for we complainers, critics, Monday haters and pet peeved … why do we feel the need to not only be negative, but also, share our negative feelings with everyone? Why are there Facebook rants? Do people really have to know that we aren’t happy with the service at the local car wash? Do we need reminding that it’s hot outside? Do we just want people to know that we’ve also noticed that Sally’s hair looks particularly bad since she dyed it?
I was looking for reviews on a book I wanted to read the other day and quickly wished I hadn’t. There were several raves over the book, and one that I assumed was fairly negative from the title: “I don’t know why people think this book is good…”. Guess which one I looked up? The review itself was scathing, but then the comments section went on for ages. I could have spent all day reading all the terrible things about this book including such gems as “the author doesn’t use big enough words” and “why would she name her main character that?” I finally got a little disgusted with all the “contributors” and decided to see how many award winning, best selling novels they had written … oddly enough, none. Weird, right? You’d think people with that level of expertise … but I digress. I went back to the main page and noted that about three people total had pressed the little button saying that they found the positive reviews helpful. The negative review’s little button had been pushed 126 times. Sigh.
The answer to the question is not just that humanity has fallen. That’s fairly obvious. I think there is a level of peer acceptance involved. We want people to know we noticed the flaws too. We’re really smart, so we didn’t think it was great either. Why has negative become synonymous with intelligence? It’s true. Just try telling people that Mondays are great, that you really like the restaurant they’re ditching, and start a conversation with the local gossip by saying, “we really need to pray for so and so, that something wonderful will happen to them. They did the nicest thing the other day. Let me tell you all about it!” Read your Facebook newsfeed, or better yet, check out your own status updates. Over 50% of mine are negative, because I’m so deep, so smart, so above people. Blech! I need a new perspective.
So here is my plan and you’ll love it! It’s step by step. I love things that are step by step. Give me ten things to do to earn more money in 2014, a five step plan to better health … you name it, if it has steps, I’m in.
Step One: Establish our “pet loves”
Okay, yeah I know that sounds shmucky, but do you want to be happier, or not? I had a college professor who was a genius at this. She was dying of cancer, and had battled it off and on for over 20 years. She was the most joyful lady I ever met. Ever. She celebrated everything! If someone got roses in the dining hall she would clap for them and sing, “Happy roses to you!” to the tune of Happy Birthday. She walked down the halls, or was rolled down in her wheel chair, breathing life into people. Telling them good morning, asking how they were doing, reminding them that she loved them, that God loved them. She was so beautiful. Her pet loves were redbirds, rubies and rainbows. She wrote a book about all the times that God had gotten her through just from sending a red bird to sit on her porch, or putting a rainbow in the sky. She absorbed happiness like we absorb Facebook rants. I have gathered my pet loves already. I am poised and ready to notice them everywhere, clap for people. Sing more. (Sorry in advance for that one.)
Step Two: Positive Social Media
I’m kind of a realist here. I don’t think happiness is going to go viral. If that were possible, the news would only tell us when wonderful things happen. But, we can make a difference in our own social media. We can stop ranting. Stop posting every time something annoys us. I intentionally unfollow friends who only talk about how terrible their life is, how sick they are, or how much people annoy them. I have four kids, a house to keep up, homeschooling and writing to do. I don’t have time to be depressed by the emotional vampires of Tumblr, Facebook and the Twittersphere.
I have a dear friend who did a thing at the start of the year she called “One Hundred Happy Days”. I think it was a thing going around, I don’t know. All I know is, I super love the idea. She took a picture of herself enjoying one nice thing every day and all of her status updates were positive and ended with the hashtag #onehundredhappydays. I’m going to try this. I think everyone should. Besides … it’s one of the steps.
Step Three: Learning to keep quiet
This one is mostly for me, but ya’ll feel free to join in. My mother spent half of my life saying things like, “you didn’t really say that did you?” and “Jules, just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you need to share it.” God bless her. I still need the reminder sometimes. So what would happen if we didn’t tell people the bad thoughts we had about that movie, hairstyle, book, parking job? What if we did what our moms used to tell us to do all the time and “if we can’t find something nice to say, just don’t say anything at all.” I can tell you that at least 126 people reading Amazon book reviews will find this philosophy unhelpful, but seriously. Is our negative opinion necessary to anyone’s survival? If you’re a doctor and, in your opinion someone has a brain tumor, you should probably share that, but otherwise, I think we could all stand to talk less and smile more. Yeah?
There you are. So from now on, you can say snuck around me all you like and I won’t say a word. I will even try desperately to keep my mouth sewn shut about Diet Coke. I just read a super mean blog post bashing “food police”. So now I feel bad about that one. Sorry.
When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will. Abraham Lincoln