Saturday, December 6, 2014

Everything is Great!

The older I get, the less I care about what others think of me. I'm not saying I don't care at all; I'm saying that it concerns me a lot less than in years past. It's also kind of a relief to accept that there are always going to be people that just don't like you and never will, regardless of how many Hallmark cards you send them. Although my 4,967 friends on Facebook( ha!) might make you think I'm universally well liked, I do think some folks think I'm somewhat negative at times. I wouldn't consider myself to be a negative person in general, although I do go on about negative things, whether in my blog, on facebook, or even in conversation. Hey, why spend the time and money whining to a therapist when I can whine to the person I'm talking to right now!

I suppose it would be logical to say that we don't tend to gravitate towards negative people. Indeed, the Saturday Night Live sketch " Debbie Downer" shows the epitome of this type of person. You might be enjoying your birthday at Disneyland, and Debbie Downer can't stop talking about the nuclear disaster in North Korea......( Actually, this sketch is great not only because of the character and the great performance by Rachel Dratch, but also because of the trombone sound effect, plus the fact that Dratch and company couldn't stop laughing...)

I suppose we have all had friends like this. It's never really bothered me. I would rather talk about reality than try to pretend that life is always a bowl of cherries. Obviously, we want to acknowledge our good fortunes. I think it's only human nature to see both sides of the coin.

I remember one tour where one of my band mates chastised me for being too negative. " Man, you are always talking s*$t about something." OK. I decided then that my friend would only see the "positive" side of me....

Hey, good morning! I slept so well, did you? You look rested. Have you been outside? It's such a beautiful day. We are so blessed to have the sun shining today. I'm so glad we are on the road together. You are one of my favorite drummers, did you know that? Do you realize how lucky we are to get to play music together? I'm so glad we are friends. Here, come here, I want to give you a hug.....

After a few hours of that, the consensus all around was that I should " go back to being normal."

I think negativity is normal. But don't just take it from me. The New York Times recently ran an article called " The Problem With Positive Thinking."  According to the research done by author Gabriele Oettingen, women who tried to think positively about themselves lost less weight than ones who were less positive about their ability to lose weight.

Fantasizing about happy outcomes — about smoothly attaining your wishes — didn’t help. Indeed, it hindered people from realizing their dreams.

Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.

The article doesn't recommend a Debbie Downer approach; actually, the hybrid approach is better. Think about your goals, clearly see what stands in the way, and figure out what you can do to remove the obstacles. I think of this as "honesty" or "realism." The truth shall set you free. Some people can't handle the truth. I think it's better to get to the truth sooner rather than later. To solve problems and improve, we must be honest with ourselves.

This is how I approach teaching. This week, I was a guest teacher and performer at the Birmingham Conservatoire in the U.K. I told the student ensembles that I would be positive first, and then give them the bad news. All of the students were very cool with it, and it made for an incredibly satisfying performance. It's not negativity, it's just honesty. I don't want to bum anyone out the way Debbie Downer does. However, I will continue to "be real" with things as much as I can. Of course, someone may give me constructive criticism about this. I'm willing to take the lumps.

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