On Monday, Zoyah started off AuGuest 2011 with her thoughts on bitterness and how to overcome same. Read that post first, if you haven't already.
I admire the post, because I see the value in the advice. No logical argument can be made against the notion of avoiding extended bitterness, and for choosing instead to be, as she describes herself, a "glass half-full" type.
Yet like so many things that one can acknowledge as proper but can't always initiate, I admit to sometimes having a hard time being the person Zoyah suggests in her piece.
It is important for me to point out that sitting here now I am far, far closer to the worthy ideal that she writes about than I was, say five years ago. Hell, even one year ago. That is because I do see the "Zoyah Standard" if you will, as something to which I, and others should aspire at times. It is a slow climb for people like me, and while when I look up I see much climbing left to do to get to that peak, if I look down I can also see how far I have come. That is because I hold several, even if not all, of Zoyah's tenants as a beacon of sorts.
To put it another way, it is a much longer journey for me than it is for Zoyah. For her, and others like her, the philosophy is like a GPS in the car. Turn by turn directions for how to live better on the day. For me, such advice is like the North Star. A guide to be sure, but distant. Slow, deliberate celestial navigation towards larger, less specific areas of the globe.
Who can say why I am Too XYZ for the faster approach? I suppose we are all just built differently. I know that many will say that it is just a matter of choice whether or not we are happy. (Though I think Zoyah stops just short of this blanket statement.) For many it is easy. For me it is easiER than it was say in college, or high school or two summers ago, but that is only because years and years of work and introspection led to it. To be frank, sheer numbness to the blows inflicted upon me have also contributed to my feeling less bitterness. (Though I would wonder if that is a healthy way to not be bitter...)
Her post covered many things, and I don't think I could, or need to respond to each of them. But one sectipn stands out and in my view is the bulls-eye of why it is so hard for some people to do what she does. Zoyah wrote:
"Circumstances have a huge impact on your behavior...sometimes circumstances or situations can grab hold of you, exhibit some sort of power over you, and even change you - maybe not forever but for a long while."
This I think is the crux of it for people like me.
Zoyah shared her story about her bitterness in the wake of her "first love" not working out. She goes on to describe how unpleasant she felt and acted to the world until her sister snapped her out of by pointing out her bitterness. I have been bitter, and in some places am still bitter, due to certain circumstances grabbing a hold of me. Those circumstances are different for each person, and I don't want to enter sad-sack autobiography mode in this post. But suffice to say that a succession of things grabbed a hold of me. Before I had a chance to snap out, or even just crawl out of the bitterness of one, another would clamp down. And then another. Until bitter numbness, (as opposed to the being numb to bitterness that I described earlier) began to set it.
Like memory foam, certain parts of my consciousness have been squeezed into a certain shape for so long by so many different hands that it has taken quite a while for my psychology to regain its proper, pre-onslaught shape. Parts of it are still recovering. A few parts have actually been torn off of the pillow and cannot be replaced even once everything springs back.
Thank the Divinities that I am not still in as bad a shape as I used to be. That I am not as angry as I once was. Yet I still envy Zoyah's situation in multiple ways.
She seems to still have the ability to choose on the moment to see the half-full glass. Like anyone she can get bitter, but has the power to choose to override it most of the time. I do not, but I envy the ability.
I envy that her default state is optimism. When that is your default setting, my guess is that you can return to it with more gusto when the time comes. My default state is usually, "Prove it." So even when I am beat down, and attain full recovery, the best I can usually hope for right now is a return to the normal levels of skepticism about humanity. I am not ashamed of my default, it is what I am. But I sometimes wish it were a little less of what I am.
Envy for Zoyah also creeps in when it comes to the wake up call she received from her sister. (Whom I also know, by the way.) I know that Zoyah and her sister are quite close, and while I am close with some of my sisters and distant from some, my siblings and I generally do not have the, "snap out of it" sort of dynamic with one another. The whole family is full of quasi-introspective and sometimes brooding, independent introverts. We don't usually say things like that to one another. It's just the way it is. I don't wish away my family, but if my family doesn't have anybody that could cut right to the quick of my bitterness and make me see the need to course correct, I wish I would have had somebody somewhere who could have.
Then again, that may be impossible given how quickly and deeply bitterness has at times in my life, overcome me. Plus, at the time I don't usually call it bitterness. One man's bitterness is another man's "justifiable disgust". In the vast majority of cases, I have, and to be frank still do feel justified in how pissed I have been at certain situations and people. Maybe one day I won't be, but for now...
We need people like Zoyah, no doubt. And while I am not ashamed of what I am, and do think that something fundamental about Ty Unglebower would be lost if he were suddenly to become a full time optimist, I cannot help but think my battle would be a bit more endurable at times if I were able to make Zoyah-type choices every day.
But at least I have the North Star.