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What Do You Like about Your Life?

Pasadena Weekly, by Ellen Snortland, June 28, 2001

“Pollyanna” has become a euphemism for sickeningly sweet. I rented a video of “Pollyanna” several years ago. While “Pollyanna” is indeed a sweet movie, there was a lot more to the little girl than sappy sentimentality. Pollyanna was brave and willing to go out on a limb, both literally and figuratively. So whatever meaning you want to assign to Pollyanna, have at it, because this is a column about my “inner-Pollyanna.”

About a year and half ago, I got to a point where I was really unhappy. I had a laundry list of reasons: weight, age, lack of success, envy of peers who had “made the big time,” blah, blah, blah. I can say “blah, blah, blah,” now, but at the time, I was very upset about it. I was becoming bitter. I was complaining all of the time. I couldn’t see a way out. However, I did know that I if I didn’t do some major introspection, some kind of spiritual or existential drilling, that I could easily end up being a person that I didn’t like. I had a good front, only my closest friends and family knew how much despair I was in.

Coincidentally, several of my friends in completely different areas of the country and spheres of my professional or personal life suggested that I check out The Forum, a course given by the Landmark Education Corporation. They had no clue that I was suffering from my own internal and harsh judgments. They said that they’d gotten a lot out of The Forum; that it had been three days of introspection and exploration that had served to clear internal log jams, true them up to their dreams and helped with getting things straightened out, on their own terms. Sounded good to me. I jumped in and trusted that these friends wouldn’t steer me into something that I would hate.

I wanted to talk about this because I don’t hesitate to let you know about plays that I enjoy, books that move me or political causes that fire me up. I’d also like you to know about what nurtures me. I am so grateful to those friends who encouraged me to attend The Forum. I got re-acquainted with my inner-Pollyanna, that brave soul who takes on big things with joy and without regret.

Flash-forward, I am currently participating in another Landmark Education course called the Wisdom Course. The question we were given to consider and ask others until our next weekend is the simple yet wise question: “What do you like about your life?” Pollyanna, isn’t it?

What do you like about your life? Go ahead, I dare you to ask that question out loud to the person next to you or in the same room. See if it doesn’t take some courage to ask. Can you, as a practice, begin asking yourself and others that question on a regular basis? Try it. It will be fun to do, I promise. People really do, for the most part, really like their lives. They also like to talk about what they like. Why is it that so often, sharing our failures, our traumas, feels safer and more comfortable than sharing what we like? Maybe trauma sharing is simply a habit.

What do I like about my life? I like my family, a lot. I like my friends so very much. They are smart, kind, funny and generous. I like my dogs. I like that I have an automatic icemaker. I like that I’ve managed to carve out a life of writing, reading and speaking, all pursuits that were almost impossible for women in the not so distant past.

I like that I was flown to New York to be an expert/guest on a new talk show, “Iyanla,” but that finding my lost dog Mellow was a bigger deal.

A friend told me today that she received a virtual death sentence from her oncologist. She’s preparing to die. My shock and grief aside, I marveled at how she could easily hate her life, knowing what she knows about her disease. Nonetheless, she likes her life even more right now.

Another person in her shoes could be as bitter as she is peaceful. She is inspiring. Her bravery moved me to talk about my Pollyanna and to encourage all of the other closet Pollyannas out there to come out. Life is truly a miracle. Cliche, cliche, I know but that doesn’t make it less true.

If you’d like to find out more about the Landmark Forum call: (310) 642-1997.

Ellen “Pollyanna” Snortland is the author of “Beauty Bites Beast” and teaches a course on race, justice and the media at Cal. State L.A. E-mail her at: Ellensnortland@cs.com.

Text reprinted exactly from the Pasadena Weekly, Thursday, June 28 2001, Pasadena, California, USA.