About twenty years ago, a friend in Seattle gave me a tape: How to Be Positive. One side was subliminal (they say). The other featured a man with a kind voice filling me with good thoughts about myself (or anyone who listened). New Age hooey?
I told a woman who'd known me since high school. Her response? That's your biggest problem, Sarah, your negativity. My Seattle friend, Lucile, smiled.
Home in my apartment I lay on my fabulous couch, so comfy and roomy it had been and would be the scene of pleasure. I listened. I believe the nice man's voice told me I was being showered with good energy. Within minutes I was crying. He'd hit a nerve.
It could be said that I made my first bid to fight can't-do, negative, disabling, "alcoholic thinking" (via my father) (a most under-your-skin variant of useless thought) at any number of junctures in my twenties and thirties. I read spiritual works, from Baba Ram Das' Be Here Now to Parmahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi to Gurdjieff's Meetings with Remarkable Men to books by both the St. Teresas (the Little Flower in Lisieux and the Interior Castle in Ávila).
A movement therapist had worked with me on relearning walking so I didn't simply use the outer sole--so I connected with the ground. My shoes wore down more evenly. I continued the work here in New York with Alexander Technique, although my aberration was more subtle.
I had become part of a community--Quakers--that worked toward a greater good--as many religions do. I'm no longer a Quaker but there is nothing to throw off in what I learned. I simply a wanderer.
But this tape was something wholly new and affirmative, which dandled a nerve running to my core holdouts against "positive" "accentuation thereof."
That was, say 1990. This is, for sure, 2010. Lo! Twenty years later and still I'm on the front lines. See, I'm a very smart chick and reasonably talented, but continue to see myself as a misfit. My theory, all psychological insight aside (just like that) (wipe those Freudian childhood connections from the table) is this ongoing struggle I have with alchemy--transforming the easy conclusion that life sucks to the greater truth--a truth I believe but not in a useful way--that it's joy.
So for the next bit of time I am going to wage that battle here, on my blog. Why? Write what you know and I know this obsession of mine with my obsession. I saw it in my father most with his alcoholic negativity, in my oldest sister, second most, maybe because she was the front line, and, well, I'll stop there.
And by the way, the title of my poetry collection, The Future Is Happy, is not predictive but insistent. The gifts are here. Look at Elie Wiesel or Nelson Mandela. If those two can arm wrestle with the devils and evil after what they've been through, so can simple American me.