Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happiness: a choice... like being warm

I have a confession to make that doesn't feel like a confession because there is simply no shame behind it:

I cried for no less than 80% of Pixar's recently pirated movie Inside Out. The remaining 20% was spent cleaning tissues off the table and shouting out recognized voice actors.

It's just that I've always found myself driven by emotion in the strangest, seemingly profound way. And while you may be reading this as “I'm weepy,” it's not just my weird, adulthood-developed movie-crying habit that I consider to be one of these drivers.

Emotionalism, along with being a decent Avett Brothers album, is defined as an “inclination to rely on or place too much value on emotion when dealing with issues or confrontations.” And then the next sentence on the Wikipedia page starts talking about Adolf Hitler, but we'll address that in a future blog post that will never be written.

I have no problem admitting that I'm inclined to put too much stock in my emotions, I just wonder how many times I could say I've put too much stock in my logical brain when I should have been listening to the thing in my gut saying “wrong way, dude.” And, yes, my gut says “dude.”

Growing up I always heard teachers and guidance councilors and day-time talk show hosts mention the idea of “emotional intelligence.” At face value, this phrase sounds like a new-agey excuse parents use to invent redeeming qualities for their stupid children, which it may be, but there is undeniable value in learning how to get your brain to cope with stress and the general concept of things not going your way.

So often the way we think about life's obstacles is summed up by stupid sayings that sound like a grumpy alcoholic farmer grumbled them from behind a corn cob pipe and people somehow kept repeating it.

“Life's not fair.”
“Life sucks and then you die. Deal with it.”
“Life's a shit sandwich, and every day you have to take it out of the fridge, pack it into your lunch cooler and take it to your job at the shit sandwich factory where you taste-test the shit for proper bitterness before it's packaged and shipped to everyone on the planet so SUCK IT UP, PRINCESS!”

The fact is that life often does suck, you always die, we all have to deal with it, so remember a time that you were feeling bad for a second and stop looking at me like I'm the one that fed you a shit sandwich. I guess I just feel like you can think a little harder than that.

And life's only unfair when you choose to make it that way. I'm looking at you, 6th grade math teacher. I mean... just because I dropped all the worksheets that one time doesn't mean you have to make a joke about it every time you need someone to hand out papers. At some point, you're just an adult being mean to children, you having a bigger desk changes very little.

About once a year, I seem to meander my YouTube search towards a famous speech by college basketball coach Jim Valvano. Accepting an award for courage with a body covered in tumors, Valvano spoke on what seemed to be a mindset that defined his character and personality.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears.”

To some, he's explaining something akin to manic depression. To others, he's describing the last six minutes of their lives. The former isn't a sociopath and the latter isn't a baby. They're both people built with a different set of tools, and they've acquired different ones along the way. It's just easiest to identify with people that have a similar-looking toolbox.

That's why when I see an animated character named Sadness put on that face after making what feels like a life-shattering error, I weep because I know how many times that face has been my face.

It's also why I obnoxiously burst out with laughter when I see Sadness look at an impossible maze of adversity and barely muster the courage to lift their ankle in the air so they can be dragged through it. Sometimes the most joy can come from the same part of you that makes you feel truly awful. Empathy can be a brilliant asshole like that.

So, is it really realistic to expect people to sweep the entire emotional spectrum every single day of their lives? Perhaps not. In the same way that you're not going to ace life's daily logic test, you're not always going to score well on your... well... emotional intelligence, I suppose.

Just, be good to people. Even when you think it doesn't matter or you don't have to or even if you feel like you shouldn't. Be good, and know that you won't actually always be good.

Alright. That's it. I'm nearing the point where I suggest that people “love themselves,” which may be the point where I'd have to officially classify this as a self-help blog, so I should probably shut up.

Keep finding ways to be okay and always correct your shitty parking job.