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A Year of Living Positively

This is the first day of the last month of the Julian/Roman secular calendar year, a time when I habitually get reflective and make plans, like many of you out there. Having been working at being a serious writer for a few years now, I've also been trying to think up more writing projects. I think one of my plans for the next year shall involve writing some observations of life.

Let me explain my concept of this new project. One day recently, I was marveling at the unexpected nice gestures that can pop up from day to day from all sorts of people in my life, and contrasting it to days when I've been preoccupied with all the negative communications and gestures seemingly aimed at me. I think that I have not been thinking enough about and appreciated the goodness that permeates my life. 

I remember reflecting on the good things that have happened to me, and marveling my luck under certain circumstances, or the thoughtfulness of others, and even the timing of such events. There needs to be a more concentrated effort, though.

We working humans can let ourselves become immersed in the habit of focusing on negativity. Now, there are plenty of spiritual advisers and life counselors and philosophers that are always talking about positive thinking. Not that it would be counter-productive to contribute to such discussions, but  I think my task here should be to contribute to positive social media input and output.  

We should not dismiss the reality of malaise, mental ill health, attitudes of aggression and lack of empathy that are endemic and indeed very problematic in today's societies. Unkind and even cruel acts abound, unfair and non-constructive criticism is too easily let go, predators stalk and maraud, impersonators trick others, lies and black propaganda are spread. It is just that kind of atmosphere that needs to be combated. Actually, the corporate owned and controlled media is a handy tool built up, exploited and unleashed against positive human movements and efforts at healthy societal change. It is quite a big job for the "little guys" involved in progressive social media or alternative media to assert themselves, develop scientific yet humanitarian argument, investigate issues, create campaigns for political action, battle for day-to-day social justice, and promote a vision of new and kinder world. 

The anti-social presence in the media penetrates the thought of whole populations, so that negative attitudes and pessimism can be absorbed by even the most conscientious among us, stirring up ill thoughts about and ill-will towards our neighbours, colleagues and even friends. We can be infected by such poison. The remedy is the cure of kindness, and mindfulness of positive social behaviour and the concern for fellow humans that I am sure is there. I want to challenge the negative attitudes and pessimism that seep out of myself and lots of people to help make us more mindful of the best of human endeavours and exchanges. I want to do it from looking at daily life, even mundane experiences. 

Social media can be a place for people to spout, often quite spontaneously, which may result in some fallout. Let's face it: a lot of the newer communications technology is pretty convenient and it can be extremely tempting to inject's one's two cents of commentary before we think it over. Sometimes the most innocent and innocuous posts might inflame someone, and you can be surprised when your cheerful intervention prompt a swift and biting reprimand. This kind of scenario is getting more and more tenuous the more and more widely social media is used, and messages are unintentionally shared. I hear acquaintances comment that they now wish to cut down their participation and withdraw from social media opportunities.

It is therefore best to choose topics carefully and plan as you would write an essay. The best ones are well researched and have a high level of intellectual and moral integrity. I think a blog on a chosen theme can turn into a sound essay, even a book. Indeed, has not that happened to many well reputed bloggers? The readers shall decide what they like and value, period. If the material is relevant and well written, it will get attention.

My wish is not just to get attention, but bring attention to positive daily social behavior, celebrate it, share it and encourage it. Here's how.

I want to document the best behaviour that I experience every day for 365 days starting on the day after my next birthday, which happens to fall in mid-December. I intend for these blogs on this thread to be a testament to the many ways that humans express kindness towards each other, express concern for one another, and offer aid or gifts without being asked. I want this blog to lift up readers emotionally and spiritually and encourage them to have faith in human relationships and aims.

We will have to see the outcomes before we can assess this work as an accomplishment. It will be a challenge to keep it up every day, though I am confident, before I even set out on the journey, that I will find enough material to write about every day for 365 days straight. Wish me well, and you'll be helping to ensure that the material is there!

Dec. 2, 2013
PS: These days I'm feeling more secure, which makes me fell lighter and more carefree. It's a big difference from an era in my life when anticipation of criticism and bad news always clouded my life. I guess I grew up in quite a negative atmosphere although the 60s are recognized to have been an upbeat time.

I grew up with unhappy parents in an unhappy marriage that lead them to be cold, indifferent and pessimistic about their future and their children. We learned not to believe in ourselves. We learned not to expect much. The negative messages attacked us from inside the home, and seemed to outside, though there could be moments of relief from external sources. Of course, we attacked each other. We kids learned fear of life and people. That fear and the neglect (steady psychological abuse) naturally bred distrust and anger, which fed a festering depression. Our achievements and talents mostly went unrecognized by our parents and each other, but our failures and shortcomings got well reinforced.

It got so that, I think, we liked it. At least, as of the age of 15, I often thought that our parents wanted to hold us back, keep us from growing and accomplishing things. They say misery loves company, and I believe it. 

Actually, I can remember specific acts on the part of both our parents that proved it. My father, for one, had a deeply jealous streak. Life had dealt him some unfair cards, and resentment smoldered inside of him and would explode once in a while. His mother, my grandmother, had a caustic tongue and could dish out sarcasm like no-one else. I realized later in life that she must have been quite depressed most of her adult life, and she had taught it to her eldest son, my dad, well. (Relatives, maybe my mother, said that she'd had a "break-down" in her early 20s.) He was forced to do manual labor, though he was a self-employed contractor because of his psychological issues and problems in interacting socially, and because of lifestyle preference, I suppose. It seems he preferred a simple life, and he refused more business when his business grew and he was in demand. Yet, he had quite a jealous streak in him. He would get jealous of the opportunities we had, and what we did and could achieve. I am sure that he employed a conscious strategy of brow-beating his wife and children psychologically. (He probably did it physically somewhat in his early years of marriage--both of my eldest brothers had broken noses that my mother used to always say was from them having fallen off bicycles. They hadn't had bicycles.)

My mother had a different personality, but showed her depression clearly. She would spend whole days laying around the house, not doing anything, except reading pulp romance novels by the crate-loads.  She became more and more disinterested in the house, after she had started out enjoying it. My father was too controlling, and he held back funds from her so that we barely had anything to get by on, as he was giving away batches of his earnings to local radical fundamentalist, nazi-adoring Christians. She certainly was not interested in me. She liked the boys best, with whom she could be quite clingy. She never had any confidential mother-daughter talks about life and women's affairs. She never asked me how my day was. She never praised me. Quite the contrary. In the beginning of my pre-teen and teen years, I brought friends in occasionally, and she would praise them and try to come between me and them. When my father was in town, she would come to life though act nervous around dinner time, because he would always complain and he liked just generally to make others uncomfortable and be uncooperative and difficult. Did she want anything to change? Nope, I don't think so. Both my parents escaped into their separate dream worlds. I think both my parents tried to live like children, with as little responsibility as possible, and my father was angry that he unexpectedly had two more mouths to feed in the early 60s, and just gave up. (I always believed that she had tricked him into getting pregnant two more times, after contraception was readily available, probably out of loneliness).

So you can no doubt see how children "raised" (well, we mostly raised ourselves) in such an unhappy environment could learn unhappiness and general negativity as a lifestyle and world outlook. Of course, it was more than that for at least three of my siblings who have been clinically diagnosed with mental illness.

I worked hard at holding it together, and not getting mentally sick myself. I can say that overcoming that risky situation and not falling into some other one such as drug or alcohol abuse is my biggest achievement. I soaked up all the self-improvement, and new thinking of the 70s, and grew to believe in personal and social change. All the same, it took many years to shed the darkness and it's still a battle to do it today, when I could be labeled a "senior citizen". In spite of all my efforts to be a strong, and bold achiever, I can see that I have been pretty meek and conservative (though not politically so) in my daily and personal life most of the time. I can see I adopted self-defeating behaviour way back then, and have missed opportunities because of it.

It's ironic that I ended up working in the field of education, since I never liked the classroom experiences that I had as a youth. I realized as a young teen that the attitudes expressed at home were spilling into school life, somehow. I also realized that society was imbued with a lot of negativity and, well, just plain weirdness. The community seemed to be steeped in conservative values, with the requisite fear and distrust, and lack of faith in children and humanity. Many community members including well respected teachers, doctors and clergymen liked to criticize anyone who did not seem to be toeing the line and living up to magazine and TV images of modern people. I guess that's still a great problem today; it certainly continues to affect girls in many negative ways. 

Anyway, what I am getting at is that I could see some social and economic causes for the mindset of the day. Not only that, I could see that society stood by some of the behaviors and ideas I felt were unworthy and harmful to humans. I knew what I saw in my parents' beliefs and ways, if you could consider them in isolation of the dysfunction, were what society had been preaching. I could see a dire need for change, and I wondered how others around me could not see it.

 Hence, I eventually focused on being a catalyst for societal change, once I felt emotionally and intellectually strong enough. I try in my very small and humble capacity to be part of efforts for change towards social and national liberation, towards social justice and defense of human rights and dignity for the majority. I came to appreciate more and more how culture is one theater in the struggle. I applaud others who try to promote new healthy ways of life and bring about change in consciousness that way. Really, a lot is being achieved, though it's a long and weary road that probably never ends.

Personally, much  of the burdens of my past have been lifted. Especially considering the economic security that I have been enjoying for the past few years, I have much less to worry about. Sometimes I experience an anticipation of aggravation, criticism or complaints, or some kind of interference, and hesitate before I accept some good news or personal advancement or commendation. It's like I often expect something to go wrong when everything is going fine. 

There used to be so little of the good present, or so it seemed. I think I stood in my own way for a long time. Nowadays, my mind and heart are much more open and I can just relax. I can let myself have success. I can let myself enjoy a few degrees of personal liberation. Of course, it is part of the rewards of ageing, but I acknowledge that my efforts to challenge myself and overcome myself, combined with my activities as a bit of an agent of progressive change in the community, are paying off. I want to share the feeling and the knowledge.

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