by Joanie Butman
Have you ever been around a person whose negativity is toxic? You know the type. Winnie the Pooh’s mopey friend, Eeyore, is a perfect example though he is more lovable than most. Everyone comes across an Eeyore now and then. You may even have an Eeyore voice lurking in your mind that pops up from time to time. An Eeyore is typically a “gloomy pessimist who sees the negative side of everything, is an expectant victim to life, and does little to change his fate or his attitude.” His home is actually called Eeyore’s Gloomy Place. How sad; my home is my sanctuary. Regardless of where they are, Eeyores seem to enjoy being miserable. So much so, in fact, that they want to share it with everyone around them.
I learned a new word when I Googled the spelling of Eeyore. Wikipedia describes him as anhedonic, which I discovered is “a psychological condition characterized by the inability to experience pleasure or happiness in response to experiences that are ordinarily pleasurable.” My unscientific term would be a ‘downer.’ A vampire of sorts that drains the life force right out of you if you spend too much time with them. Trust me, it is contagious. I’ve caught it on more than one occasion, and it was more toxic than my cancer.
While some may indeed have a psychological condition that causes their grumpiness, I think it is safe to say the rest of us choose it. I’ve spoken about my father-in-law’s unique way of expressing himself before, but one of my favorite euphemisms he coined has got to be lipshits. I walked in one day and asked how he was doing. As he rolled his eyes and tilted his head towards his wife, he responded, “I’m fine, but she’s got the lipshits.” He never fails to make me laugh and surprise me with his observations and his frankness. He went on to explain that the term describes someone who complains about anything and everything. We all have those days, and with good reason. Life isn’t always easy – especially at 96.
The other reason I found the term so funny is because secretly I have always believed that ending up with the surname Butman was payback for making all those crank calls to the Lipshits when I was a youngster. I’m too embarrassed to relay what my friends and I use to say, but now I’m the one getting the calls from giggling tweens. And I can’t help but laugh along with them.
When I went for a colonoscopy, I joked with the staff, “No jokes about my last name once you put me under!” which they all agreed would have been better suited for a proctologist.
Seriously, being around an Eeyore isn’t easy and neither is being one. It’s exhausting. I’ve had my stints with that particular malady, and the biggest problem I found was not letting myself get so comfortable there that I lost the desire to make the effort to change. It’s easier than you think to assume the role of victim.
I know I sound harsh, but I’m not talking about situational sadness or clinical depression. I’m talking about a permanent general attitude towards life. Our outlook doesn’t have to be determined by our circumstances. It is possible to remain joyful amidst hardships. I’ve witnessed it, and I’ve lived it. Not always, but no one’s perfect. Ironically, it’s the little things that trip me up, not the ones you’d expect – like cancer.
You can always find something to complain about, but you can just as easily always find something to be thankful for even if it’s the fact that you woke up that day. (A true Eeyore would lament even that and, shame on me, so have I some days.)
Don’t get me wrong. Venting is healthy as long as you’re careful not to let it become a way of life. That’s what girlfriends are for, no? I’m not sure men take advantage of their friends like that. You’d think the golf course would be prime venting time, but not according to my husband. Our typical dialogue following a round of golf:
“What did you talk about?”
“You just spent five hours with someone and you didn’t talk about anything?”
Must be a guy thing. No wonder he talks to himself.
So what’s the secret to choosing a positive outlook? It will be different for everyone, and I would love to hear the various ways people combat the irresistible urge to complain. Trust me, no one wins that battle consistently, and if we didn’t complain nothing would ever evolve. There is a time and a place for appropriate complaints to be voiced because they initiate needed change.
On a personal level though, I will tell you my joy comes from knowing God will get me through whatever comes my way. It is His presence within me that allows me to be joyful amidst suffering. I just need to tap into it. Believe me, there are plenty of days I stubbornly refuse to take that step and choose to wallow in self pity. Those are wasted days. Has it ever changed anything? No, and seeing that none of us knows how many days we have, why would we want to waste one in that manner?
You can always find someone worse off than you. In no way does that diminish your own suffering, but it does help put it into perspective and gets your mind off of it. If you are having trouble snapping out of a bout of the lipshits, choose to go help someone else. I’ve found it to be the best antidote. You can’t help but feel joyful when you are serving others.
I had an amazing Godwink this week I believe I am meant to share. After finishing this essay late Monday night, I opened my daily devotional early Tuesday morning to read:
You have been on a long, uphill journey and your energy is almost spent.
Though you have faltered at times, you have not let go of My hand.
I am pleased with your desire to stay close to Me.
There is one thing, however, that displeases Me: your tendency to complain.
You may talk to Me as much as you like about the difficulty of the path we are following.
I understand better than anyone else the stresses
and strains that have afflicted you.
You can vent safely to Me, because talking with Me tempers
your thoughts and helps you see things from My perspective.
Complaining to others is another matter altogether.
It opens the door to deadly sins such as self-pity and rage.
Whenever you are tempted to grumble, come to Me and talk it out.
As you open up to Me,
I will put My thoughts in your mind and My song in your heart.
AMEN TO THAT!!!