Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The dominating attitude here

Sometimes I wonder why things are the way they are. No - I wonder why things are the way we make them. Why? 
When I was 12, Elsa and Iilya and I were on a hurried trip to Cleveland from New Delhi. We left Palam airport in the middle of the night and flew to Tel Aviv. In the darkness, at Tel-Aviv, our jet was swarmed and boarded by big men in dark suits. Adults, separated from the children, were forced off the plane. Iilya and I sat for hours staring out the jet's window, watching Elsa inside the terminal. She stood against the window, watching us back. Hour after hour she smoked cigarettes and watched us. Why did someone make this happen? What was the dominating attitude? I thought 'surely people don't accept this attitude, do they?"

One summer in Beirut, I learned that my physical body was a mere tool to the Lebanese men. I was an object to be touched, pushed, shoved, fondled. I hid within my father's overcoat. Why did someone make this happen? What was the dominating attitude? Again, I thought 'surely people don't accept this attitude, do they?'

So here it is Thanksgiving. Families gather. Friends without family come to our house. Only one family member will be joining us. The one with defensive pessimism. The one who objects to driving to our house ('I don't like to drive that far. You know how I hate traffic'). Or who resents the gathering ('Why do you have to have THOSE people? You know they are only coming for the free meal'). Or who doubts you can pull the dinner off ('where are you going to make us sit? You know how I hate soft chairs.').

Before the gathering can start it is ruled a disaster. A failure. Oh, I hate hearing these dominating attitudes! Why does someone adopt this pessimism? And I think 'surely people don't have this attitude, do they?'

David Rakoff has written the book Half Empty. In the book, he introduced me to the term 'defensive pessimism'. I have seen it modeled all my life. Now I know its name.

And I give thanks that the defensive pessimism gene skipped me. Even the doubts planted won't take root. 

Thanks to my friends and family, and for the dominating attitude that is Thanksgiving. For this, I give thanks.


11 comments:

Sandra said...

I like the comment about the way we make them. I think that happens a lot. I have friends who say "why is God doing this to me?" my answer to her was, God did not do this to you, you did it to you. you have given me much to think about and i thank you. I lean towards pessimism, not as bad as this person but I do see the glass half empty most of the time and am guilty of saying Cheer up, if anything bad can happen it probably will. Like the ultimate Murphys law. i needed a little slap in the face. thanks.

Tracy said...

"Defensive pessimism". I like that term. I have seen it often but never knew its name. I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving. It sounds like you will.

BANJO52 said...

"Defensive Pessimism" is a great term, and I know it all too well. Among MANY others, my mother had it in spades. I've tried to rise above it, sometimes win, sometimes lose. Good luck with T-day. I bet you'll be fine; real FRIENDS will be there to see YOU two, not the bird or the guest list.

Surely terrorism or child molestation are in leagues of their own? Any Taliban on your guest list? (can I say that? why not?).

Pierre said...

Hi Brenda. Thanks for the comments.
I don't like the holidays because of how they were for me growing up. The past still gets in the way when they come around. Yet my kids and theirs are great to be around, and the holidays are the way I always hoped they would be.

You will have a happy Thanksgiving.

giantspeckledchihuahua said...

Defensive pessimism seems like it might be a sympton of depression, in some cases.

Pat MacKenzie said...

It sounds like you're doing a good thing with your Thanksgiving - inviting the lonely ones to give thanks with you. It'll be a wonderful day for you.

On another note, my pet peeve about Thanksgiving day is people calling it Turkey day. That completely shifts the meaning of the day from a day of gratitude to a day about a big ugly bird who happens to taste delicious.

altadenahiker said...

I really wouldn't want to live in that mind. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Brenda cuzin. You're an absolute delight and revelation to know.

Gus, Louie and Callie said...

What a great rendition..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Kathy said...

I hope you see positive signs of attitude adjustment this holiday seson! Happy T'giving Day!

Al said...

I definitely have the pessimistic gene, but I try to keep it under control. Because there is one family member that doesn't, and as you say, everything's a disaster before it's even started, and this can make it a challenge to spend large amounts of time with this person. And I don't want to be perceived that way!

Birdman said...

I like to think I got the positive gene... glass half full and all. BTW like that photo today.