Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Nature or Choice?

The cowboy has asked the Bag Lady many times, “How can you be so f***ing cheerful in the morning?”

This makes the Bag Lady wonder how someone can NOT be cheerful in the morning. She is cheerful most of the time. Perhaps she is too dumb to know that she shouldn’t be cheerful. In fact, her mother was fond of telling people that when the Bag Lady was a baby (of course, she wasn’t called the Bag Lady then – she knows you’ll be shocked to discover she has a different name!) when she was a baby, her mother never knew when she was awake because she never cried. Hmm, perhaps there IS something wrong with her! Actually, she made up for that in her angst-filled teen years, according to her brother. HE accused her of being hyper-sensitive, which upset her all the more until she figured out what that big word meant.

The Bag Lady has quite a happy nature, but she also made a conscious choice years ago to strive to be easy to get along with, to have a positive outlook and, for the most part, to ignore the negative. She does not always achieve this, mind you; she’s cheerful, not a total idiot! She has a dark side to her nature, too, but she chooses to keep it to herself most of the time.

Now, she wonders how her blogging relatives will respond to this post. Do they see her as cheerful? Hmmm.

The Bag Lady must have an open, honest countenance, though. She is the lady in the supermarket that strangers talk to. Almost everyone smiles at her (perhaps she’s funnier-looking than she realizes), and she is always surprised when total strangers speak to her. Case in point: she was in the baking goods aisle one day when a young, 20-something woman walked up to her and asked her if she had a recipe for fruit dip. Now, as it happens, the Bag Lady does have an absolutely fabulous, simple recipe for fruit dip, but what she doesn’t understand is how this young girl knew that the Bag Lady would! Does the Bag Lady look like she throws fabulous parties? Or does she just look like she must have a lot of recipes for really Good Things (Martha, eat your heart out…)

But I digress.
What the Bag Lady wants to know is this: how much of being cheerful is nature, and how much is choice? Are you cheerful most of the time? Or do you make an effort to appear to be cheerful? Or do you go around, bitchin’ and moanin’ about your plight, growling at anyone in the vicinity, making everyone else’s life miserable? And if you do this, does it make you happy?
Just wondering.


Leah J. Utas said...

Yup. You're cheerful as all get out. You're cheerful by nature and you've chosen to go with that. Good for you.
I decided several years ago to look on the good side of things and it is a great help. I know too many people for whom the sky is falling every single day no matter how good they've got it. I choose to not be around those people whenever possible.
You give off a really approachable energy, cousin.
Mine's not so much except people tend to trust me whether they know me or not and like to tell me their troubles.

Anonymous said...

Great question!

I'm not "cheerful" by nature (gosh, what a shock, I know). But I'm pretty amiable. I tend to get crabby about things or processes or People in General more than actual real-life people who are around me.

And when someone does make me cranky, I'm pretty well able to pretend otherwise and then I go bitch about them behind their back later on.

I've taught myself to be somewhat less of grump over the years, and do a lot of conscious reminding myself of all things that I have to be grateful for.

But, nah, cheerfulness doesn't come naturally for everyone!

And I suspect the truly disagreeable people would claim there's nothing wrong with them--they see themselves as quite reasonable and even-tempered, and all their troublesome social interactions are really everyone else's fault.

(And I have to agree--you seem quite chipper and like you'd be a blast to be around!)

the Bag Lady said...

Crabby - the cowboy always says he's even-tempered - mad all the time!
And I must be a little like you - I tend to get up-in-arms about social inequality, etc. rather than individuals. (although there have been some individuals once or twice who are lucky to be alive...)

Thanks Leah - I do try to be easy to get along with. "Approachable energy" - cool. And you come across as calm and collected, most of the time. Although I have seen you laughing hysterically on occasion, which rather put the lie to the calmness!

Emily said...

I think your mood is 50% what you want it to be and 50% how you're wired. For instance, I can tell my self every day that I'm going to think positive thoughts and not bitch at everyone I meet, but if I don't take my little pill every morning (to even out the chemicals in my brain.) Then I turn into Godzilla with PMS...not a pretty sight. And believe me, I would much rather be the sweet easy to get along with person any day; it makes me feel horrible to be such a monster!

the Bag Lady said...

Oh, yes, Emily, I do agree that the way a person is wired has a lot to do with it. I do find, though, that some people don't seem able to even make the effort to appear they are trying to get along (did that sentence make any sense at all?!)
And at least you are making the effort by taking your little pills - there are some people who won't even consider the possibility that they might need some sort of chemical assistance (and I'm not talking about the self-medicating chemical assistance...:) -- I'm sure we all know the type: "there's nothing wrong with me!" as they slowly self-destruct before our eyes!!

Hilary said...

I'm neither cheery nor grumbly by nature. I do tend to see through a negative filter though... which I believe is more of a reflection of myself than others. I love social settings but I'm also very shy around people that I don't know, though I'm nowhere near as uncomfy in my skin as I used to be. It's a process!

Reb said...

Oh, but I know the real you..... Yes, you are a cheery person. I've even seen the random-people-talk-to-you effect. They even do it when I am with you, I guess I am not as scary to some people! Actually I think I have lost my scary, because random people are starting to talk to me too!

the Bag Lady said...

Hilary: The Bag Lady, too, is quite shy until she gets to know someone, then turns into a bit of a goof...(gasp! Really?!)
The Bag Lady still is not very comfortable in her skin (why is it so big? It didn't used to be...)but tends to try to cover her insecurities by joking around. She's sure this is news to everyone...

the Bag Lady said...

Hi, Reb: maybe you are becoming more like me as you age? Oh dear, poor kid!
I just happen to think that life is too short to be bitchin' and moanin' all the time. Although I do have days when I can bitch and moan with the best of 'em, I try not to inflict that on the general population. Just a little ray of fuckin' sunshine here!!

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Interesting question.

I think certain traits are inborn, such as introversion and extroversion (where you draw your energy). This an affect a person's perception of someone's nature. An extrovert needs to share happiness. An introvert needs to conserve it.

But other factors matter too, such as nutrition, exercise and overall good health.

I'm basically optimistic and easygoing, but I'm an introvert and need my space or I get depleted and cranky very quickly!

Anonymous said...

I seem to be in agreement with many here - I think a person can be naturally cheerful, even in the a.m. (hard as it is to believe), but I think a person can work at being cheerful. I did this and found that it got easier over time. Now some even think I am a nice person!
But no matter how hard I try, there is always going to be one or two people that just RUB ME THE WRONG WAY. Anyone else have this problem???

the Bag Lady said...

Bunnygirl: you have a point there. There are factors that determine the degree of a person's cheerfulness. Chronic pain can certainly affect your general attitude. That having been said, the Bag Lady has a relative who has a crippling form of arthritis. Despite his obvious pain and suffering, he has a cheerful attitude and doesn't let his disease get him down (or, at least, doesn't let it show). The Bag Lady has always admired him and when she's feeling whiny and sorry for herself, thinks of him.

Missicat - there are people who rub the Bag Lady the wrong way, too, but she just tries to avoid them. If she can't avoid them, she ignores them. And when that doesn't work, she's been known get a wee bit cranky!