“To expect defeat is nine-tenths of defeat itself. ” ~Henry Louis Mencken
On the flight back from Hawaii, one of the movies offered for my in-flight viewing pleasure was Silver Linings Playbook. I’d seen it in the theaters just before the Academy Awards, but I had liked it so much I told myself I would have to see it again. (Someone must have told United Airlines this, which is why I was able to view it not once but twice on our six hour flight from sunny Honolulu back to snowy Denver.) If you haven’t seen the movie, rest assured I won’t ruin it for you with this tiny summary. The story’s protagonist, Pat, is working to regain control of his life after an ugly downward spiral. He plans to overcome his difficulties by focusing on the positives, the silver linings that life presents to him. Pat’s willingness to remain open and look for the positives touched me because, well, I am not great at that.
For most of my life, I’ve regarded myself as a cynical person. I’m Eeyore. I would like to believe the best and be a Tigger. I really would. But people keep disappointing me. Just when I think I see a glimmer of hope, a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, I am proven wrong. I hate to be proven wrong. I hate it so vehemently that I am careful about what I say because I want to avoid just that fate. If I don’t know the definitive answer to something asked of me, if I’m not absolutely 100% certain, I will insert a disclaimer. I’m an attorney in my own mind because being this way saves me the future headache of explaining my wrongness. I am many things, but I try earnestly not to be irrevocably wrong. (Yes. I know I have issues. My therapist and I are working on it.)
There is something worse than being proven wrong, though. And that is being proven right on something you truly hoped you were wrong about. This usually means having a negative opinion about a person or a situation and then determining by some word or deed that your original, less-than-positive assessment was entirely correct. Doesn’t that suck? Now you’re right, which is what you prefer to be, but unfortunately you’re right about something you wish you had rather not been right about at all. And that’s just wrong.
When I stretched these thoughts out before myself tonight to investigate them fully, what I uncovered is that I am not cynical at all. I say I am cynical because negativity is easier than positivity. If I expect things not to go well and they don’t…well, I’m no worse for the wear. I expected as much. If I expect, however, for things to be fine and they’re not, I struggle. So, like water, I take the path of least resistance. A tender heart is far better off dealing with an expected disappointment than planning for the best and being forced to deal with the worst, right? But this is where things get sticky. To have been disappointed in the first place, there must have been some sort of room for that, some positivity…no matter how hidden. How sick is it to try to convince yourself that you’re negative when really you’d rather be hopeful? There must be at least 40 sessions on my therapist’s couch for acknowledging that I choose to be negative because it makes facing disappointment a trifle easier.
I know the best way to be is to remain without expectation, but I’ve never been very good at that. I would like to be like the Dalai Lama and be open to the guidance of synchronicity rather than allowing expectations to hinder my path. But, dammit…it’s hard. I’d like to be like more like Pat in Silver Linings Playbook and look for the good without always keeping a wary eye out for the bad. If expectation of defeat is nine-tenths of the defeat itself, maybe I should try a bit harder to think positively and therefore potentially avoid the defeat altogether? Perhaps that’s my next life assignment on the road to Zen?