Monday 25 September 2023

Self-Help For Cynics #5: The Glass Half Empty

Keith Gattis - Half Empty

If ever anyone calls me a "glass half empty kind of guy", I usually respond that the glass has been dry for years and is currently shattered into a million pieces that lacerate my feet whenever I cross the kitchen floor. 

Nick Lowe - I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass

Being a grumpy old git, and playing on it, has been my default setting since I was a teenager. It usually raises a laugh, and then I get the social validation that comes from people reacting in a positive way to something I've said. Don't look at me like that, we all know that's how it works - you get a smile or a laugh from a friend, a colleague, or even a total stranger, and you get that little dopamine hit that keeps you going. 

Little Man Tate - Half Empty Glass

But as part of my Cynical Self-Help Programme, I'm challenging everything now. And I've started to wonder if playing this part all these years has been a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Well, d'oh. 

My mental state is all a-jumble
I sit around and sadly mumble
Fools rush in, so here I am
Very glad to be unhappy
I can't win, but here I am
More than glad to be unhappy

Frank Sinatra - Glad To Be Unhappy

The question is, can I still get the same response from others by being a happy person? I mean, as we all know, there's nothing more annoying than... well...

REM - Shiny Happy People 

When I started this series, I toyed with the idea of calling it Positive Thinking For Negative Bastards. How do you turn that frown upside down... without being the kind of person who says things like "Turn that frown upside down"? Because you know how annoying those people are.

I'm sorry for all of my insecurities, but they're just a part of me
"Envy is thin because it bites but never eats"
That's what a nice old Spanish lady once told me
"Hey Debbie-Downer, turn that frown upside down and just be happy"

Courtney Barnett - Debbie Downer

Part of the answer is not to preach. 

But what are you doing here right now, yiu hypocrite? 

Oh look, there's the voice of my intrusive thoughts again. I'm going to call him Ian. Ian Trusive. I think it's important we acknowledge him when he has something to say. 

Patronising git. Isn't the very act of blogging about this subject preachy? Come read Rol's great sermon on how to be a better man? 

Nick Lowe - A Better Man

"Oh woe is me, and just listen to how smug and sanctimonious I am about it..." 

Maybe so, Ian. But I'm not writing this series for anybody other than myself. It's nice if people do read and occasionally leave a comment (all hail the dopamine hits!), but that's not why I'm writing it.

At the end of his album Peace Queer, Todd Snider talks about how some people have accused him of getting more and more opinionated in his songs. He replies with a line I'm going to steal, because it perfectly sums up this series...

I did not do this to change your mind about anything
I did this to ease my own mind about everything 

Todd Snider - Ponce Of The Flaming Peace Queer

Whether the glass is half empty or half full is only a matter of perception. And like a lot of the things we think, it's a matter of choice. I'm trying to choose the other path - and if Ian and his pals consider that the high road, well fair enough. I'll still be in Scotland before him...

I heard enough of the white man's blues
I've sang enough about myself
So if you're looking for some bad news
You can find it somewhere else

Last year was a son of a bitch
For nearly everyone we know
But I ain't fighting with you down in a ditch
I'll meet you up here on the road


  1. I know this series is really for you, but I love reading it. I also read your second para out to Mr SDS as you articulate so well exactly how he is too. If you don't mind me asking: is Louise the glass half full to your glass half empty? - I wonder if this is how it works in many relationships.

    1. Hmm. Not sure that's the case here, C. Louise's glass is either full... or poured over my head.


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