And I couldn’t do it, or keep doing it, but at least I learned something, and it also wasn’t a total failure.
I can point to a number of difficult things in my life that wore me down emotionally, and none of them is the cause. I was the cause. But it was a pretty good personal lesson, and I probably actually wound up doing a better job of staying positive than I would have otherwise. A limited success with some useful lessons – better than a trainwreck.
Scott Adams – you may know him as the creator of Dilbert – is a fan of a lot of things. Like me, his diet is nearly vegetarian (and he was vegetarian for many years.) Unlike me, he’s a fan of Donald Trump. But Adams is a fan of systems over goals – not to have a target end so much as a system that, in due course, will create the good ends desired.
What success I had in maintaining a positive attitude came from systems, and especially from systematically subtracting things. I did engage in less bitching about people – not zero, but less. I mostly got off of Facebook, which helped me avoid a source of unpleasantness and pointless conflict. I spent more time in silence – not silent reflection, but a little bit more withdrawn from people. That was bad – and good. When I had little or no skin in the game on a topic, I was mostly careful not to get involved (not perfectly so, but better). I did make progress in studying linear algebra – to work that part of my brain – and in learning a little French.
So the failure wasn’t total. But I needed to do more, and still do – a lot more.
One of the things I realized – not exactly news, but I faced it head-on a little better – was that the second biggest deadweight loss in my life was time spent in traffic, and that the biggest was my tendency to focus on the negative in my relationships with people. I tend to assume the worst, remembering bad times, thinking about bad experiences with people past or present instead of the many people who give a damn about me now and, for whatever odd reason, want me around. These are probably pretty good professional habits but terrible personal ones. Getting this through my head almost makes me want to call the failed experiment a success.
The shadow of death has been close-by in my life and the lives of people I care about. Major health challenges for people I love and their family members have been major emotional focuses of mine over the last year to two years. I do fear evil.
A few small things I realized, remembered really, over the run of the experiment:
- Classical music, Slavonic chant, Ethiopian mezmur, jazz make the world better.
- A lot of modern life doesn’t make the world better, but happily one can turn the volume down.
- Sleep is precious.
- Friends and time with friends are precious.
- I miss the old me, the old ways and the old attitude.
- With a little effort and luck, life can sometimes be sweet like raspberry wine. (Link and image above courtesy of http://www.WineTurtle.com, who have lovely recipes for buying and making wine.) . If you don’t drink wine, then cold iced tea that’s lemon-sour and sweet at the same time – you know you need it in this heat.
More than once in my life, I have done better on a second strike through on a topic than a first. On the Bar exam, I outperformed a decent number of classmates of mine who had outperformed me in class, in part I suspect because though my short-term memory is unimpressive (IQ equivalent maybe 95-105) my long-term memory tends to win. People today assume I was a strong student when I really wasn’t – just forgot less law over the years than average, maybe. I cannot cram well, but will remember things for a long time once they are “in.” This was also true for me in college on several occasions; my midterm exam answer on the conditions of farmers in medieval Japan was embarrassingly bad, but my paper on the same topic 6 weeks later strongly impressed the same professor. Seems to be how I roll badly, or perhaps in my better moments roll better.
The reward of a job half done is the opportunity to do it over again. So that’s a small part of what you can expect to see here – attempts at laying out, despite every reason not to do so, a place of positivity here, slow and steady.
Stay awhile, and pour yourself another glass.