A couple of weeks ago I lost a greenstone bracelet. Given to me by a dear friend, it had become a talisman (like the Chills’ leather jacket: a protector and reminder ‘til we meet again); travelled the world with me, except for the time I forget to take it, went to the states and got deported. I last remembered seeing it on the bathroom sink at the Muttonchopped Mountain Man’s house, where Airbnb guests proliferate like non-English speaking penguin hunters who pay the mortgage. I blamed them immediately. “I bet one of them has stolen it.” I said, as well as other things about Asians and jade both hasty and racist which I’m too ashamed to repeat here.
“None of them would steal anything,” protested MMM. “It will turn up.”
I huffed and muttered and gave the next people the stink eye until I went to put some clothes away and there it was, fallen into a drawer. “Oh.” I said. I didn’t apologise (the guests had long left) and might not have were it possible, because I was embarrassed.
Its so easy to believe the worst of people, though. Trump doesn’t help. Jong doesn’t help. The media doesn’t help. Humanity seems at an all-time low, marrying at first sight, maggots in the KFC. Kurtz’ ‘horror’ is all too real and we seem to live in the Heart of Darkness. Plus, “We believe the worst because we go on what people have put us through and expect others to treat us the same way, let us down,” said my wise friend Angela. This is certainly the case with me. Last year, after life poked my tentacles I went on an unmanaged retreat, a self-imposed exile (not quite Count of Monte Cristo but there was a lot of dancing with myself) and its taken until now, when I have a job in an office with people, noise and “Good Morning!” for me to build a raft and sail away from that shipwreck on the Auckland Islands of my mind. During this time though, I thought everyone was lying to me, doubted their motives, and escalated every situation into the most negative possible conclusion: I would be burgled if people knew where I lived, so-and-so was a drug dealer (actually, he was), the house would burn down even though I didn’t own an oven to leave on … I was constantly jumping off the deep end, picturing worst-case scenarios. This kind of thinking has become so prevalent in today’s society, psychologists have given it a name: awfulizing.
Anthropologically speaking, we can’t help these self-defeating thoughts and behaviours, and even the most optimistic of us can fall in to the awfulizing trap. That’s because it’s evolutionary: our prehistoric ancestors developed rapid and intense reactions to negative stimuli because such events often were a matter of life and death. This impulse was a subconscious physical response that was essential to survival. We, of course, are the decedents of those folks who were particularly good at this (the others were eaten) and as such, our physiology is designed to draw us strongly toward the negative – apprehension, rage, pessimism – whenever we feel even mildly threatened by the sabre-toothed tigers of life.
MMM doesn’t believe the worst in people. He’s descended from Vikings. “We were the worst.” True. And also the reason why, on First Footing, its bad luck to find a blonde man at your door.
This week, via a serious of truly weird associations, all of them Oamaroovian, I was accused of the theft of a pearl necklace, believed to have been taken from an elderly lady’s house while her windows were being cleaned. I don’t clean my own windows, let alone other people’s and I already have several pearl necklaces. I don’t wear them, ever since my daughter pointed out that ‘pearl necklace’ is a euphemism for something grubby. Karma is bitch though, isn’t it? And fast. Obviously, I didn’t steal anything, I’m too blurty for successful thievery, lack subtilty, but now I know how it feels to be accused of something you haven’t done. Its poos. Perhaps this was a dementia-related mistake. Heading that way myself: shoes in the oven, glasses on your head, I hope the pearl necklace turns up, put away somewhere daft. In the meantime, I’m going to try to not be such a negative dick. Unless someone’s actually stabbing me, the knife up to the hilt in my intestines, I’ll believe in the good.