I have yet another confession to make. (If you are not tired of my confessions by now, you are either studying deviant behavior for your Masters or you are nearly as bat-shit crazy as I am.)
I have spent my life inhabited by (and struggling with) a particular mental aberration shared by many other poor unfortunates. The rest of you may thank your lucky planets that your mind is untroubled.
I think negatively.
You are probably tittering to yourselves (all three of you who are jiggered into reading this blog) about how I am making a crevasse out of an ant-hill. Loads of people think negatively. Critics make their bones thinking negatively on the occasion when the artistic or civic products demand it. Teachers and professors (teachers who have spent more time and money delaying the inevitable) are paid to place blue and red marks next to errors of grammar, syntax, logic, fact and a host of variables which often wander into ignorance. So what is the big deal about thinking negatively?
I think negatively even about positive things!!! That is what distinguishes me and my ilk from the rest of you who only think negatively about negative things. (I am quite fond of my ilk. Everyone should have an ilk to share things with.)
Take this quick (and copyrighted) test to discover if you can ilk around with me and my fellows.
1) You see a mother and a three year old child at an animal farm lunging forward to greet the smiling llama behind the fence. You then think to yourself:
a) That child is going to remember this moment all the days of her life.
b) That mother is really great.
c) The llama is probably going to spit at the child and the mother.
d) That mother is trying much too hard to look like a nice mom.
e) That child is going to be scarred for life.
2) A ten year old soprano amazes the world by singing an aria from a Mozart Opera so perfectly that the entire world weeps with joy. You declare:
a) What a wonderful gift he has shared with the world.
b) I am so lucky to be alive and say I heard him perform.
c) I wonder how hard they had to beat him to get him to practice 12 hours a day?
d) He has missed his entire socializing process and will be institutionalized by the time he is 19.
e) When his voice changes his life will be over..
3) An email pops up in your in-box from one of your friends or children you have not heard from in 6 months. You immediately assume:
a) Somebody you know just got a new job for twice the money!
b) Somebody you know has come out of a deep depression and wanted to share the good news with you.
c) Somebody has a disease, probably incurable cancer. And that mole on your own face is not looking so good.
d) Somebody and his or her spouse both caught cancer and need money for their operations and they can only turn to you.
e) You forgot somebody’s birthday and they are dropping you from their Facebook account.
4) There is laughter coming down the hall from another cubicle at work and you pause and decide that:
a) You work at a really nice place where there is great morale.
b) That great YouTube video you linked to has been a real gift to others who like Dilbert as well.
c) You never should have worn the Birkenstocks over your socks this morning.
d) Dilbert is so 1970’s you have ruined your fading reputation.
e) There must be toilet paper stuck to your shoe. (And you check.)
If you answered c, d or e to any of the 4 questions, you have a tendency to think negatively even about positive things.
If you answered c & d to any of the questions, you tend towards the dark side.
If you answered c & d & e to all of the questions, welcome to my world.
DO NOT DESPAIR!
There is a pot of gold at the end of the tunnel and light at the end of the rainbow. There may also be a brand new pony under the pile of manure. Your glass can become half full.
What I discovered with the help of more than one trained professional is that a) my ability to see disaster in a bowl of Quaker Oats and in every love affair has made me a successful writer of fiction. I spent 25 profitable years in daytime television which demanded that I help my fellow creators come up with absolutely awful outcomes for the most mundane of lives—doctors, nurses, newspaper publishers, billionaires, rakes, rogues, innocent virgins, fashionistas, lovers and moguls—week after week, month after month. That was the equivalent of making 151 Proof Grain from a bunch of icky lemons.
My childhood fear of somebody lurking under my bed sealed my fate and delightful future as the man who put Betsy Palmer under Kevin Bacon’s bed (courtesy of Tom Savini and assistant) with a hunting arrow in the original Friday the 13th. (I could go on but I fear you get my drift.)
And secondly or b), even if you do not use your childhood tendency to hyper vigilance for a writing career of horror and pathos, you and I now have the illumination of maturity to say to ourselves these key words:
THAT WAS THEN—THIS IS NOW!
For reasons which lie buried in the torrents of yesterterror when I was age 0-age 3 inclusive, I grasped onto what was a reasonable coping skill for someone who hadn’t learned to speak, read, function or go to the bathroom unaided. It would appear that I intuited (with 10% of my brain having been hooked up) non verbally that it would be a brilliant move to assume that all hell was going to break loose almost all the time. That way I wouldn’t have any rude surprises.
Great Success until I matured in all ways EXCEPT with my aging coping skill. It had become second nature, unexamined, unnoticed, simply there. When some wiser folks branded me as defensive, I smugly and privately assumed they just didn’t have a clue about me or real life.
It turned out I didn’t have a clue about me. As a problem solver (self-taught, the worst kind) I found other ways to soothe my inflamed nerve endings from the outside in, never aware that the problem lay inside the hyper-vigilant sleeper cell from infancy. (cf. religion, booze, cigarettes, cigars, and sex, not always in that order.)
Now that I am on the other side of awareness I still am given to have the negative thinks about positive things, but I, more often than not, titter quietly inside my 73 year old brain pan and say, THAT WAS THEN—THIS IS NOW. I can examine each situation with some degree of wisdom and decide whether I should fear the runaway car in the parking lot with the same degree of vigilance as the woman looking at me as if I am an inchoate sex offender. All events outside of my immediate control are not always tragic.
I must tell you that it is a whole lot easier now than when I was 3 or 30…even. And it should be, shouldn’t it?