Stupid and Cheerful

One nationally syndicated talk show host/psychologist has a favorite bit of advice that gets doled out on a regular basis, often in situations where a call-in client feels slighted or possibly taken advantage of–or feels that his/her actions might cause someone else to feel that way. “Just be stupid and cheerful,” is the antidote for handling many seemingly sticky situations. In other words, you pretend you don’t know something that you may actually know or suspect, so you fake not knowing whatever it is that is causing the stickiness–or that there is stickiness at all–and because you “don’t know,” you’re cheerful–happy, even. Simple enough–unless, of course, you trip yourself up.

Problem is, I have trouble playing stupid when I’m not. Fortunately, or not, for me, there are many times when no playacting is required–I am just naturally stupid, and happier for it. Sometimes I astound myself at how stupid I can be, and it’s usually when I would like to appear ‘not stupid,’ as well as totally aware, that I personify total stupidity.Take last night. I was in a class in which I was the only student. I guess that would generally and logically mean more pressure on me, although I can honestly say I didn’t actually feel that. That was probably stupid because the focal point of the class, given that I was the only one in it, was my life–and its lacks, that are due to my not having come to terms with a few key elements of my being. Like knowing what my life’s passion is.

Truth be known, I’ve had different passions at different times, and although some themes have repeated, there has not been one identifiable passion that has driven my every significant decision. I’ve always been envious of people who’ve had that one overriding passion, whatever it is–guitar playing, sheep herding, flamenco dancing, or collecting rocks–that drives and motivates their lives from an early age. For me, first it was horses, then boys, then horses again, then psychology, more horses, ballet, foreign men, foreign cultures, foreign living experiences, cats, and after an early-on taste of being “employed,” an underlying obsession to be and remain self-employed, and that has taken most of my time for many years. Maybe that’s my passion.

But, no, that doesn’t qualify, as I learned last night. My passion has to be in service to something other than me–animals, the environment, education, people–something, other than I, must benefit. Fair enough.

And the rest of it, according to last night’s class, is that to find this passion, I have to become a leader of women. Women? Talk about a Wizard of Oz moment–think of how Dorothy felt when she found out she had to procure the ruby slippers just to get home to Kansas. That’s how I felt when I found out about organizing the women.

Have you ever tried to organize a group of women? I gave up on that years ago when I realized that organizing just a friend or two to go to the movies took six weeks of complex planning that was likely to fall part at the last minute anyway. That’s when I learned about going to the movies alone. It’s the most valuable gift I’ve ever given myself.

I’m not a group person, and especially not a women’s group person, although I did my group stints as I grew up. Now the thought of organizing and then leading a group, especially of women, gives me a migraine.

I did the group leader thing–starting with the 4-H club and ending with my college sorority. That was a good ten years of leadership that included, in addition to being president of half the groups I was in, being class secretary and editor of the school newspaper. It was the sorority president gig that finished me off on groups and presidencies. If only I’d known about the stupd and cheerful routine back then, I could have put it to good use.

But back to last night’s class…I think I would have been better off playing stupid and cheerful instead of being stupid and cheerful. As it was, I was pretty much in the dark–and not fully knowing it, until I thought about it in retrospect. What had gone on?

Outward appearances were that I was under attack and being coerced into something against my will. However, inner voices said that wasn’t the case–that I was being made to see my own life through techniques that I was not familiar with. Tough love? Maybe, or maybe there was something else. Or was I hallucinating? I was definitely confused. Was that part of the plan? Was there ‘a plan?’

Had I been more alert and less stupid, maybe I could have fended off this assignment of organizing the women. Maybe not. And maybe that wouldn’t have been so smart after all. I’m still confused.

I wonder if being stupid and cheerful would be the advice that talk show psychologist would prescribe for me now. Regardless, that pretty much describes my present state. I think I would prefer enlightened and cheerful. Sounds a lot better to me. I’m going for that.

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