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How to be Optimistic and Happy :: Zelda


Six people sitting in a circle take turns speaking.  There is a moderator.  She is there not to steer the ship but to prompt conversation. Tease words when energy runs low.

Zelda is the most reticent of the six.  He is also the newest addition, so the shine of being a newcomer hasn’t worn off yet.

Zelda has never handled attention well.  He prefers to be unknown.  A silent observer.

The hour session begins with a casual description of how everyone has managed since the last meeting.

Zelda prepared his answer while alone in the car.  He didn’t listen to popular radio on I-75 southbound, as was his habit.  Instead, he formulated what he was going to say.  That way he wouldn’t fumble his words.  He would sound smooth, calculated, at least for a few minutes, and then he could get back to being unknown.

When it is his turn to speak, he leans back in his chair, clears his throat quietly, and fidgets his fingers to calm his quickened heartbeat.

Days have been fine.  I get to work on time.  I am pleasant with coworkers.  I finish my tasks responsibly.  I eat my lunch without anxiety.  At home, to take my mind off life, I immediately slip into running clothes and hit the pavement.  These runs are without thoughts.  There are times when I catch myself smiling at the treetops.  I actually feel optimistic.

The moderator nods.  She encourages his interaction with the treetops.

But with nightfall comes negative thoughts.  This negativity comes even though I took your advice from the last meeting and have been keeping the tv off.  At first, the silence was insufferable. To make up for this hole, I turned on the radio.  Not talk radio, not NPR, but popular radio.  Popular radio always makes me feel like I have a friend.

Again the moderator nods.  She encourages his interaction with popular radio.

The real problem comes when I get tired of popular radio.  For a shortwhile, it’s great.  I dance and sing and clap.  I imagine women dancing, singing, clapping.  But then I get frustrated.  Everything begins to turn sour.  My mood takes a swing for the worse. I am alone.  I am not out having fun.  I am not adapted into society.   I am a stranger in my own living room.

To beat this tidal shift, I turn off the radio and peruse my bookshelf.  I’ve tried using a sketchbook like you suggested, but my drawings are macabre.  I’ve tried writing in a journal, but my train of thought is ghastly.  I’ve tried taking deep breaths, meditating, but my mind wanders off into folds that suffocate.

So, I peruse my bookshelf.  I try to find a good read to whittle the hours before sleep. But do you have any idea how pessimistic literature is?  Have you ever thought about what you’re reading?  The subject matter of the most beautifully written masterpieces is ultimately black and depressing.

I first realized this the night before last, when I dreamed with a childhood friend.  He stood before me and asked, “What are you reading now, Zelda?”  But he didn’t give me time to answer.  He continued, “I know whatever it is, it’s bad for you.  Don’t you know how delicate your mind is? Is it not obvious to you how impressionable you are?  All those books you read are hurting you.  They make you think too much about what’s in store.  They make you imagine what it’s like growing old, what it’s like withering away in senility.  They make you imagine what it’s like being a cuckold, what it’s like trying to make everything work.  They make you disgusted with society, with the crimes of the world wars, with what’s happening now in governments and on the hard streets.  What’s good about that?”

I tried to answer my childhood friend.  I tried to defend literature.  But I couldn’t.  I now have no more books.  I’ve also gotten rid of my music  collection and my artwork.  From now on I am going to be aware of how impressionable my mind is.

I am going to carefully assess the nature of everything I let inside.  Only positive energy, only happiness and optimism.  Why shouldn’t I take this precaution?  If I’m diligent, soon everything in my life will be like the treetops.

The moderator nods.  She encourages his interaction with the treetops.

September 24, 2009 9:31 am

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