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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Every day (well, almost every day; every day that I can) I wear a T-shirt with an optimistic saying written across the front. Most of these sayings are variations on "Life is good." One says "Half full," and another says "Game on."

I wear these shirts not because I'm an incurable natural optimist. I'm not. I'd like to be, but I'm not. I'd like to be a lot of things that I'm not, like a morning person, a handyman, a good singer and thirty years younger. I'll never be any of those things, and the last one is the only one I've ever been. That ship sailed and sank ages ago.

No, I wear these optimistic garments simply to remind myself to put on a happy face. If you wear a shirt that says, "Life is good," people expect you not to scowl openly in public. Some people (those more optimistic than I) might even expect you to smile. And sometimes I even do, even if a scowl comes more naturally in many situations. (Driving, for example, but at least no one can see what I'm wearing while I'm driving.)

So when I walk into the bank or the post office, I remember my shirt and I try to mimic the happy sentiments in my facial expression and body language. As I said, it doesn't come naturally, but it does come easily enough when I think about doing it. And it makes those exchanges of pleasantries ever so much more pleasant. I've had store clerks say, "I like your shirt," and sometimes I even remember what it says without looking down.

My usual response: "Another great day, right?" Somehow that seems to resonate with people, unless, of course, they're having a lousy day. If they are, they usually don't say anything about my shirt. They just look down and scowl.

Early in my working life, I had a boss who had one answer when anyone asked how he was doing. "Great!" He said that even if things weren't so great. He said it even as the store was plummeting in sales and preparing to go out of business. He was known in the community as a good person to ask how he was doing, because you were never going to hear anything about his problems. You were just going to hear "Great!" and feel a little better yourself.

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