Creative Nonfiction: Positivity Lost
By Margo Griffin
Why must I “just stay positive”? Phrases like “look on the bright side” and “things could always be worse” (DUH!) sound more like admonishments than encouragement and just pile up on top of my bottomless list of annoying things people say lately.
I can barely refrain from an eye roll over the endless variants of optimistic clichés, such as “look for silver linings,” “the glass is half full,” and so on (and on). In fact, I find it insulting, barraging people who are perfectly satisfied being unsatisfied with these unsolicited cheerful musings. These, perhaps, well-intended but wholly intrusive verbal assaults aimed at brightening my mood are inevitably fruitless. Why ask me to disregard my current state of emotion? Why should I ignore or undervalue my honest fears and anxieties? Why can’t I just sit here and mourn what I feel I have lost for a bit?
Until recently, personal feelings of doom were fleeting, like periodic high tides formed by a Full Moon, whereas positive thoughts resonated frequently like the rising and setting sun. But, due to the current state of American politics and the COVID-19 pandemic, my view of the country has become increasingly bleak. The pessimistic tide seems unceasingly high, never ebbing, and I can’t help but float in its disagreeable flow.
More recently, the oft overused expression “gone to hell in a handbasket” pleases me immensely. Similarly, “impending doom” more precisely describes what I see unfolding around me and accurately captures my heightened state of anxiety. I feel a burning hostility, my worldview appearing darker with each new month. When I find myself straining to see or feel something light and joyful, it is a little like turning on one of those LED lamps, except it remains dim, never getting quite as bright as it should no matter how long I wait. And then, I am left squinting, trying to find happiness in something that I just can’t make out.
Over the past few years, many people have found themselves suffering emotional and economic losses. There has been human death and, in some ways worse, the end of relationships. Relationships among people are more distant, strained, or in some cases, they have dissolved entirely. People are more complacent and yet, also rebellious. Basic courtesies, facts, and respectful dialogue are replaced with angry outbursts, misinformation, and insufferable lectures. Many people seem desensitized and carry on as if nothing is amiss. I want to grab those people by their shoulders and shake them hard, saying, “Snap the hell out of it!” or “Wake up!”
But for now, I will sit here and mourn my loss. I mourn what I perceive to be the losses of others. I mourn for those who don’t recognize what is lost. I mourn my positivity.
Margo Griffin is a 30-year urban public school educator from the Boston area. She is the single mother of two college-aged daughters and adopted mom to the love of her life, her rescue dog Harley.