Beth Mann's Blog

Beth's Urban Tales of Wonder and Decay

Beth Mann

Beth Mann
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA
November 11
Hot Buttered Media
I'm a writer and creative consultant. I have years of experimental comedy and strange theater under my belt. I surf. I cook. I love wine, men and song. And puppies. I effin' love puppies.

MAY 2, 2012 9:52AM

The Positivity Police and the Good Weather Glee Club

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The Good Weather Glee Club

The Good Weather Glee Club: I can't stand this rain. It's supposed to be 85 degrees tomorrow and sunny. Can't wait.

Me:'s March. I find those temperatures disconcerting this early.

The Good Weather Glee Club:  Really?? I LOVE it.

Me: Do you wanna marry it?

The Good Weather Glee Club: What?

Me: Nothing.

And I walk away, wondering why the world is so damn fanatical about "nice" weather. It's almost cult-like, how people treat a sunny day. Yes, Virginia, there are clouds, rain, snow...sometimes even sleet. Hell, hail! It's neither good or bad; it just is.

Radio Announcer: It's another beauuuuutiful day today out there, folks. Looks like we'll hit 80 degrees, if we're lucky! So you better get outside and enjoy the sunny day because it's sunny and sunny is good and I'm positive because I love the sunny weather. Back to you, Joan. Sunshine!



Dark, rainy days always offered me the luxury of doing nothing guilt-free. It's suddenly alright to roll into fetal and mindlessly zone. Besides, clouds are amazing natural works of art. Strong winds possess a haunting sound that stir the soul. A storm rolling in makes me believe in dark powers. (Yes, dark powers - the scary ones that are mean and wild..and dark.)



The Positivity Police

The Positivity Police: How are you today, Beth?

Me: Pretty irritable today. And rife with existential angst. You?

The Positivity Police: Oh...well, I'm not that. I'm good. I'm better than good. I'm great. I'm delirious from feeling the best I've ever felt.

Me: Well, happy days for you, Mary Poppins!

The Positivity Police: Excuse me?

Me: Nothing.

And why is negativity so frowned upon? I mean, you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to feel negative in this day and age.

A quick recap of our dire condition:

Our environment is pretty much ruined. The corporate interests have taken over and barring a revolution, they'll screw us toward an untimely death. And we're too gluttonous and lazy to do anything about it, except watch it happen from our beige couches.

And come on...what about relationships? Can people get anymore lame? After decades worth of TV and Internet hypnosis, we're emotional vegetables. Go ahead, just try to get your needs met by the zombies banging around out there. Flatliners, the whole lot of us.



But it's more than just the slow, torturous downward spiral of our civilization and the slow deterioration of our ability to relate; it's this positivity contest we seem to be caught up in. As if we're all trying to prove to each other how we'd never be caught dead with any of those nasty, ugly emotions.

The Positivity Police: But don't you understand, Beth? When you feel negatively, you bring more negativity into your life. What you put out into the world comes back to you.

Me: Ah, I see you've read that piece of New Age bullshit called The Secret.

The Positivity Police: Yes and it's sooo true. When I radiate positivity, only positive things happen.

Me: Sounds terribly simplistic. Do you believe in flying purple unicorns too?

The Positivity Police: What?

Me: Nothing.

Ah yes, The Secret. When you're negative, you're a walking misfortune magnet. Cancer? Your fault. Car hit you? You and your bad thoughts! Dog peed on your leg? You asked for it.

Interestingly, that kind of dogma doesn't sound that different than many types of religious rhetoric, where you desperately try to eschew dirty thoughts from your mind in an attempt to be pure. Can't do it? Burn, baby, baby. It's emotional propaganda and just plain annoying.


Quick Quiz:


Do we really want to think nothing but positive thoughts?

Do we have little to no capacity for the dark side of life, and if so, why?

Could we be trying too hard to be positive as a defense for the tremendous amount of fear and pain we carry?

Can we ever feel proud of feeling shitty?

Could we be so chronically depressed as a culture because we're constantly feeling the need to feel upbeat even when we're not?

Can we sit with ours or others' negative feelings without the perpetual need to fix it?


Negative emotions, just like "bad" weather, serve a purpose. Anger can propel you out of a bad situation and into something new and healthier. Jealously can remind you of the deep vulnerability you feel when you love somebody. ("I don't get jealous!" Oh yes, you do. Or you've denied yourself the opportunity to, for fear of weakness. Or you don't really care what your partner does, which is a whole other problem.) Sadness and grief...what feels better than a good cry?

Don't get me wrong: I do believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe that you can (sometimes) make wishes come true by envisioning, requesting, chanting, praying, screaming, drawing a picture of it...all of that mumbo jumbo. But I also allow space for the other side of life, which possesses its own dark, regal strength and beauty.

Weather and emotions don't always need a happy face stamped on it.



                                              Besides, I'm a little creepy and hollow anyway!



The Guest House by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.










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I don't mean to wreck your day but this sort of made me feel better.
When people ask me how I am, nowadays, I say, " Loaded question."

The positivity police is out in force, especially in Sunny L.A. They taze you for not being terse, too. Twitter?

I didn't get you wrong but loved this:

Don't get me wrong: I do believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe that you can (sometimes) make wishes come true by envisioning, requesting, chanting, praying, screaming, drawing a picture of it...all of that mumbo jumbo. But I also allow space for the other side of life, which possesses its own dark, regal strength and beauty.
Thank you, thank you! Why do we always have to be so godd*mned happy all the time? Life is hard and full of losses, big and small. Life can also be dull and tedious for long stretches, so let's just drop the pretense!
Yeah me too - sometimes you have to sit in it and just be part of it in order to adjust your focus - great post
I've always favoured Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", myself, as a sort of mantra.
Can we ever feel proud of feeling shitty?

LOL I was wondering about this. Seems like we should deserve something...then again in 2nd world countries we have had it too good for too long and deserveth not.
Beth, this is such a great post. Even if I am one of those people who NEEDS the sun. My mood is improved 100% if the sun is shining and it's warm, and I can get outside.
But I respect the wisdom of Rumi~
"Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond." ~r
Thoughts are just...thoughts. We can know they are thoughts, recognize them for what they are, and not believe them. Waiting for a pathology report or smelling a rain-soaked peony, we can pay attention. Paying attention is what makes ordinary life extraordinary.

with love,
yer pollyanna friend
The Cult of Positive Thinking makes me queasy. I'm all for looking on the bright side, but these megachurch God-wants-you-to-be-rich and Secret-writing charlotons are just snake oil capitalists. I think you have to be a very concrete, black-and-white thinker to buy into this stuff. What worries me is that these are the kinds of people who could put Mitt Romney in office.
The power of positive drinking is so underrated...I used to be able to reduce my positive friends to sobbing, blubbering puddles of dread and unhappiness in less than an hour, and generally, I would use the Margarita pitcher (a powerful presence and metaphor), to try and reverse their downward slide, by showing them it was half full.
As a lifelong negativizer, my take is one can survive with my mindset but other people generally respond better to the positive types--which of course snowballs both ways. Have to do periodic course corrections, otherwise I'd end up sleeping in a cardboard box.
bless your dark regal strength and beauty, and i'm raising a glass of blood to mine, beth. life is life, all its sadness and joy, lows and highs. i love wet, stormy weather and dark grey days and wish i lived where there were more of them. and i detest that fucking smiley face. great piece.
The fun stuff is on the dark side.

Been there. Will be back.
I'm with you girl: hate the Positivity Police. No one is truly human who has not felt both happy and sad, and had good and bad experiences in his/her life. Our "shadow" selves are equally important to our good and light selves. Rated.
Ah, the weather ... such fodder for meaningless conversation. I don't mean this blog, of course, I'm with you. I need some grey days to brood and contemplate the shittiness of some things, if for no other reason than to avoid them, learn some lessons from them, write an Poe-inspired poem etc. etc. But hark, what is that out my window? Could it finally be the sun? I think it might be a good day to take off of work. (Deliberately did not put a smiley face here)

Lovely poem by Rumi and so true.
FWIW, I'd like to waterboard the guy who coined the saying, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." I'd also like to waterboard the guy who came up with "FWIW."
The full range of emotions are not bad. I don't know why we (not me) have drugged ourselves until there are no feelings left at all. I like the way you spelled this all out.
"Dark, rainy days always offered me the luxury of doing nothing guilt-free. "

Yes, indeed. Sunny days make me feel assaulted by the brightness and the heat and my to-do list is nipping at my heels. When the rainclouds roll in, I am jubilant because even I don't expect much from myself.
My retort always is: "I don't consider the truth to be negative." What people really hate is pulling them out of denial so they slap that false "negativity" label on anything they don't want to hear.

As for the weather, Lennon said it best.
I also believe in the power of positive thinking. I'm positive that tomorrow will be even shittier than today.
Yes I am appreciating the balance of life more and more. "dark, regal strength and beauty" thank you for this!!.
Beth, you are soooooo on target. I believed that positivity stuff for eons, I think back to when "a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." So far, the Prize Patrol hasn't knocked on my door, either. The only prize I've got is today, where I'm above ground and vertical. So change that smiley to a straight line and Have A Day!
Every feeling is a valid feeling, it's whether or not we deal with it constructively that matters. To ignore "negative" feelings is not constructive. I think you're incredibly honest...maybe we're actually refusing to be honest if we think we should only be positive?
Thanks for saying what I am always thinking better than I can think it.
You've been inside my head again Beth. I call the positivity police the Pollyanna Taliban and loathe the witless materialistic narcissism of The Secret with all my heart. I embrace the darkness (maybe more than I should) because there is no positivity without negativity. The Guest House is one of my favourite poems.
I am with alsoknownas.
I'm more with Barbara Ehrenreich, who wrote "Brightsided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America"and managed to ferret out and dice every trope, from "God wants us to be happy" to "Whatever you put out there will come back to you."

On the other hand, Mr. Justis is onto something--the power of positive drinking IS underrated.
Exactly but I take solace in knowing that those banal minions of our TV overlords will never survive the coming zombie apocalypse. And, anyway, what's so great about the sun? Some of the best things in life take place in the dark ;-)
This is why I joined my small country church and love it to death! Everyone there is old or sick or addicted or all three, with the exceptions of the children who are on their way to becoming one of the above. We don't lie about it, just acknowledge, "yeah, life is hard" and then have a great hour and a half of prayer and singing. Very much like the Who's in Who-ville and sang together after the Grinch stole their Christmas. If you looked down upon us, that's what we'd look like. rated.
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down. And that's ok with me.
I've always followed the "Facts Of Life" philosophy, "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have... the facts of life." Yes, most of my life philosophy came from hokey sitcoms.
When people would ask my father, "How are you?" He would answer, "I think I'm wonderful." Sounds like a load of positivity, but really meant eff you. I miss that guy.
LOVE the rumi - lately becoming one of my favorite poets.

and I love this blog beth. I'm pretty much a curmudgeon. at least that's how I have to describe myself because otherwise I'd only be a cranky old lady with hair on my chin, so curmudgeon gives me a certain je ne sais quoi.

I completely agree that collectively, we're totally fucked. and now I have natural gas leaking through my lawn so I'm pretty much personally fucked or at least my grass is. but his week I am very aware that my life may blow up around me at any given moment, although the truth is, natural gas be damned, it could happen to anyone at any time. such is life.

still, even curmudgeons should pause for a moment to freshen the lipstick so we can look fetching while we recognize the evil about and shake our fists at the forces upsetting our applecarts, however flimsy. and when we can, we do have to laugh because it's more more fun to laugh and besides, what else is there to do? the absurdity of all this fake positivity is that behind it is a fragile lunatic fear of what is real. some people need more gin.
If I don't tell you enough, it's your comments that keep me coming back to OS. It's almost as if I write a piece, but you create it, build upon it, expand it.

My writing group here on the island reads the comments you guys leave and always say that it's half the fun for them. Everyone is so clever...a very clever posse that refines my ideas via comments. Very grateful and lucky for this community.
Rounds of applause. My sentiments exactly, though I could never have expressed it all so eloquently.

Living in England means the weather is one of our favourite topics. Although I'm sick of constant rain right now, I do like the variety of conditions we generally have.

As a naturally negative person I tire of the philosophies and platitudes from the Pollyannas. Be me and live my life before you pass judgement applies to everyone.

Anyway we need to feel one extreme to appreciate the other. Living happily ever after in constant sunshine is not only unreal, but would surely numb us of genuine human emotions.

Excellent post.
I'm religious but have always preached against the "Secret" selling snake oil mongers who give faith a bad name. I am, to tell the truth, a bit tired of all the rain we've been having in Brooklyn lately. I'm less inclined to go for long walks when it's raining and long walks are good for my body and soul. But the Positivity Police are hell's minions. Just ask C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape!"
So, so true. I especially hate the people who insist there's "good" and "bad" weather. Bonus points for the fricking idiots here who want summer weather when we don't have air conditioning! People actually die in France during heatwaves, but the weather people are just idiotically grinning away.... Okay, I'm a little bitter about that...and as you point out in your post, that's okay, too. I think a lot of people have lost the idea of balance - that you can't have one absolute thing all the time, and that you probably shouldn't. If places that have variable weather and seasons suddenly always had only sunny 80-degree days, what the hell would happen to the environment, agriculture, etc? No one ever thinks about that...ugh....
Excellent. I wrote about this since mid-90s, needless to say it got me attacked a lot. Glad to see someone writing about this in a way that is accessible and that convincingly debunks much of what I've had to fight.
was just listening to a radio program about attachment parenting that argues that the whole point is that your baby doesn't cry...ever...

positivity is sort of the same thing for adults. but the problem is that sometimes crying feels good.....ask a baby....
I don't think we can feel proud for feeling so shitty but whats from stopping you? Thanks for the call to arms.
I like darkness and storms, in me or in the sky. They make me feel alive. The idea that you create your own misfortune because of your attitude is toxic. If you really believe that, you don't have to feel responsible for anyone's fate, or even bother to empathize. It's their choice, so how is it unfair for someone to get sick or have a financial disaster or get fucked over in a relationship? No need to care what happens to anyone at all.
I used to be just like the weatherman on the radio in Montana. When it was rainy, I was sad. When it was a sunny day, I was happy. Now, I can appreciate rain. Beautiful rain.