Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Clarification of Semantics

Given the responses I got from yesterday’s post I feel the need to clarify my meaning. And today’s word of the day just happens to lend itself perfectly to the task.

When I spoke about life sucking and letting go of Hope for it getting better I was speaking mainly of my job. You all know this already because I’ve been kvetching about my job situation virtually non-stop since I was hired six months ago. Most of you are pretty damned sick of hearing about it, and I’m right there with you.

What I mean when I talk about letting go of Hope is letting go of the notion that something- be it a crappy job, a bad relationship (which thankfully I have none of in my personal life) or a bad personal habit will improve when you have no evidence to back this up. Hope, in this context, is destructive. It prevents one from focusing on the problem or working on fixing it because it keeps your focus on the future and that imaginary hope of things being better in that future.

Hope in this sense is very different than the context it is often used in when speaking casually. I.E. “I hope it stops raining this weekend.” This use of the word is perfectly appropriate because you have evidence to base it on: It was sunny before, it has gone from sunny to raining and back again in the past, there is good reason to believe that this current episode of rain will end and it will return to being sunny. That kind of Hope is perfectly appropriate.

Hope in the context that I’ve been using it in is not appropriate. My job did not become crappy after being good for a while. It was crappy from the beginning and for many months I hoped that it would improve. This was not a wise choice as I had no evidence on which to base the belief that it could improve other than a misguided faith that nothing could actually be that laughably bad. That’s the kind of hope that I need less of in my life.

For the majority of my adult life I’ve been experiencing things- events, people, what have you- that have made me think “Well, it can’t actually be all that bad.” Or “he can’t be that much of an asshole.” Or “they can’t really be that stupid, right?” The answer, unanimously, is “Yes, actually it/he/that can.” And hoping for whatever it happens to be to improve when everything you’ve ever experienced has taught you that it really is that bad is a crappy plan.

It is in cases like these that hope is destructive. Because hope, in these cases, keeps one in a perpetual state of denial. “It can’t really be that bad” leaves one waiting, anticipating and hoping for some future improvement that you have no factual reason to believe will occur. And waiting is inaction. Inaction breeds stagnancy, bitterness, cynicism- basically all the things I have become by hoping.

So, if I abandon hope and accept that things are really that bad then I can focus not on some future which most likely will never come, but on the present. And specifically on what I can do in the present to bring about a positive change for myself. For example: my job. If I accept that it will not improve I will have more energy to focus on getting the hell out of it.

And in the meantime, if I accept that it will not improve then I can stop giving a useless status update to those who care about me. Instead of answering “Nope, it still sucks.” And kvetching about how much it sucks I can instead focus my attention on the things that are good in life.

This is what made me think of Wemmick. Wemmick was one of the most miserable bastards you could ever hope not to meet when the main character first encountered him. We later learned that this was because he had to be in order to remain sane in such a cruel job. But outside the office in his personal life he was one of the most jovial people you’d ever stumble into and he made it pleasant to be around him. (He lived in a castle with a moat, for pete’s sake! That’s awesome!)

In this respect, I want to be Wemmick: my job can be crappy all day, everyday. But instead of coming home and complaining about how utterly miserable it makes me to everyone around me I need to focus on the rest of my life. My relationships, after all, are pretty great. My hobbies are pretty bad ass. My favorite holiday is coming up. These are things I should be talking about and focusing on. Happy, giddy Bev outside of work. Stone cold, no crap Bev inside of work, to survive.

So, to clarify, my life in no way sucks. There are many things that I have to deal with, as a matter of circumstance that have, do, and probably always will suck. It would be a disservice to me to continue to hope that those things will improve.

However, if I let go of that useless hope and focus on the small percentage of things in my life that I do have control over and therefore are pretty damned good (see John’s comment which lists quite a few of them), I can and will be happy, for the most part.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking “Well, yeah- that’s what optimism is.” Or “Duh, that’s why they always say ‘(insert random phrase I’m not familiar with that sums up everything I just said in a much more succinct way)’. But for me, it’s a bit of a revelation. (Which explains these posts describing it.)

P.S. I intend to end the month on far more silly, ridiculous, fantastical and happily Halloween-themed posts so stay tuned!

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