Lately, a popular adage across the internet has been rearing its unsettling head. “This year I will cut out the toxic people in my life, and focus on the positive.” There is something so strange to me about espousing positivity and optimism while simultaneously suggesting the abandonment of those of your community, friends and family who do not radiate the same positivity. If you were the parent of a two or three year old child, and suddenly chose to cut said child out of your life because all they do is cry and argue, it would not seem reasonable. It would seem like a situation in which child services might get called. Similarly, if you are not thrilled and uplifted by the behavior of a friend, that is not an excuse to push them aside in your mind. If you notice someone has lost the spark in their eye, no longer lights up a room in conversation, or has even become downright hostile, this may be a warning sign. The external changes in behavior you observe could be indicative of an underlying mental health situation, like grief or trauma. There’s nothing positive about ignoring or jilting those close to you just because they fail to bring a smile to your face.
Let’s not forget the rest of it, focusing on the positive. Should we really? Could we, perhaps, already be too concerned with the positives to notice some of the issues around us? The year 2020 has witnessed a major failure in public health, riots and revolts across the political spectrum, and a rising tide of environmental disaster due to climate change. While a random individual shouldn’t feel guilt or responsibility for the state of current events, there are far too many who are having their eyes opened to the harsh realities of this world for the first time, and quite possibly far too late. The civil rights movement, still alive and struggling for progress, is casually referenced in past tense as a historic accomplishment. Climate change, which could irreversibly destroy our environment and end civilization as we know it, is considered an optional belief that really must be taken care of soon. Thousands of people dying alone, away from their families, or left permanently disabled and scarred from the COVID19 disease, but “it is what it is” and we really must get the economy on track. Perhaps we can turn the smile upside down, and let our heads down for a moment. We mustn’t forget the dark shadow of this bright existence, the pain and struggle, as we forge ahead towards progress, lest we wish to repeat the same mistakes over and over.