I’ve received some fascinating letters and emails during my run as a Q&A columnist, ones that for obvious reasons, I decided against responding to. (No, I could not find a Georgia prisoner a wife (!) anymore than I would be willing to buy a plane ticket for a man who wanted to come to California because he “really needed” a vacation.)
But I recently received an email from a man who focused on a rather unique aspect of both my philosophy about life in general and the way I often respond to people in my column. He wrote:
“Dear Tracey: I don’t read your column. Never had. Before, when you had that one about families, my wife always left it on the table for me to read. Wouldn’t do it. Now all you ever talk about is life after fifty. Well, I’m 71 and who wants to think about getting old every week? What a waste of time.
But the reason I’m writing is because I don’t think anyone can be as positive all the time like you want us all to believe you are. I think you’re a phony. My wife says that you “always find the silver lining.” Well, I’m not buying it. There must be things that bug you, just like the rest of us. How come you never talk about them? It would make you more believable. It makes me think this is all an act. No matter because I’m not gonna (sic) read your stuff anyhow. I just wanted you to know that not everybody buys into you.”
Not much reason to respond to this email, right? Really now, in my annoyingly positive kind of way, my response would probably only further offend this man. But then I realized that since he didn’t read my column and he’s already offended, I did have something to say. Here goes.
When I first read your email, I burst out laughing. Sorry but I thought maybe a friend was playing a joke on me. It was so odd to think someone would bother to take the time to compose, and then send, something like this to me, a complete stranger.
Sadly, however, I knew the email had to be legit. The reality is that throughout the years, plenty of people have told me how wrong my answer was to a problem. My credentials have been challenged, my experience negated. Nope, this wasn’t the first time I’d received criticism. It comes with the territory.
But as I read your email again, I found myself feeling downright sorry for you, not to mention your poor wife. (I can’t begin to imagine being married to someone who has your outlook on life.) It must be difficult to go through the days as you do. The reality is that I’m grateful I see the world as a glass half full and not half empty. I believe that this approach, as challenging as it is at times, makes me healthier and happier all the way around.
Sure, there are plenty of things that bug me. I’m human! But what value is it to you if I rant about how topsy-turvy our culture is that we place so little value on tending and educating our children? (They’re our future, folks!) Or if I rail against people who speed through a safety corridor or fail to use their blinkers? (It’s all about consideration and safety, people!) And don’t even get me started on people who chew with their mouths open (Yuk!) I could go on but why? A weekly column peppered with these kinds of irritants strikes me as being utterly useless.
I show up here, week after week, to try and offer solutions to problems or to support people and causes doing good in the world. (Someone who knows how much I earn from writing this column told me that it was my “community service.” She may be right.) By my way of thinking, if each of us looked for that silver lining more often, and did simple, little positive things throughout our days, the world would be a better place and, by golly, we’d all be in better moods.
Have a good day!