The Case For Cynical Optimism (Or, The Synergy Of Selfish Good)

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I spent a long time being mad I didn’t cook.

“So cook!” you say. Well, I didn’t. Anyone with nagging cyclical self-failures can relate: I wanted something simple and I didn’t even try. It scared me and I repeatedly and dramatically failed in every attempt. I believe that people have different talents- predispositions to math, words, the physical, the emotional, not completely fucking up some scrambled eggs- and I assumed I couldn’t.

And it pissed me off.

I was lazy, I thought, dumb, a coward, wasteful. Eventually, not being able to cook calcified as a fact about me. It was an extra throw-in on my scale of self loathing, an added comma to a litany of my failures. Soon it spun out into a distant symbol. The angst of my failure built into frustrations. Why couldn’t I better myself? Why was I so lazy, so afraid, so naturally unskilled and dumb and unambitious and awful and whiny?

Then, one night, I made some eggs in a trance.

They were pretty good.

***

We aren’t as lazy as we think we are. If anything, we should be lazier.

Let me explain.

I thought not cooking was the lazy answer. But it wasn’t. It was exhausting and anxious and dumb. It was disproportionately expensive and difficult. I created a wide berth around my anxieties when it would’ve been cheaper, long term — lazier, with energy as my currency — to just move through it.

Not fight through it, not challenge myself, not bash its face in like I thought, but to chill out. To be kind to myself and just be chill and try to make some eggs. I only made it because I was stoned and hungry — that’s the trance above, we good, we honest now? — and I was in a zone past worry. It was meditative, kind and gentle: it was also infinitely more productive than the anxious thrashing I was used to.

And it made me wonder how much we let our anxieties make our lives more difficult.

***

I’m sure some of you are like “he really couldn’t make eggs?” To which I say: everybody has their own anxious hiccups. Maybe you’re afraid of flying and you curve your life around that. Maybe you’re too afraid of failure to try to share the thing you’re dying to share. Maybe you too aren’t cooking eggs. We all have our fear and paralysis that we know are dumb but can’t fight through. But struggling through them only builds them up: it’s like the old Chinese-finger traps they gave out as kids- the stronger you pull, the more you’re contained. Sometimes the only way to beat of your anxieties is to calm down and slip out from them.

It’s easier said than done, but chill kindness to yourself is more productive than frustrated self-imposed anger. Improvement is easier when it comes from within, when it’s logical and wanted. “Oh, it would be tasty to make eggs,” got me cooking not “what’s wrong with you, you lazy piece of shit?”

I tried the latter. Paradoxically, it’s easier to be mean to yourself. It burns with a spiteful “hurts so good,” meanness. But it also doesn’t work. You think it works — it must, right? — but it doesn’t.

The weird, happy truth is that kindness and a grounded personal vision is what gets you moving.

Give it a shot. Find the honest reason why you want to do something: the simple, fun reason. Find an honest reason you want to do something and you will get it done!

It’s the unlikely, optimistic truth that being angry at yourself simply isn’t as productive. If you’re really as ambitious as you think you are, try being good to yourself with the same fiery passion you used for angst.

You might just make eggs. TC mark

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