This piece appeared in early 2009, but I find myself rereading it from time to time lest I forget these valuable lessons. It seemed a good time to share it again.


There’s a woman who goes walking in my neighborhood every day. What’s so noticeable about her is that she always looks furious. I have been tempted to holler at her and ask, “Doesn’t your body produce endorphins?”

I know that wouldn’t be well received, however. She’s taken a strong position as one of the perpetually miserable among us and she’s not about to give it up.

I got thinking about such people one day after encountering a miserable looking woman as I was going out of the grocery store. I realized that she wasn’t just having a bad day; this was a permanent state of being for her.

I also concluded that the miserable are really expert at maintaining their stance. Here’s what they do to keep themselves from wavering:

* Ignore or block out anything that might disturb misery. This is turning selective awareness into an art form. Good news is not given a second glance. When good fortune does sneak in, turn lemonade into lemons.

* Remain planted in an environment that fosters misery. Bad relationships and dreadful jobs are great tools for keeping misery alive and well. The more insufferable the people around, the better.

* Recount tales of misery for anyone who will listen. No matter how long ago it happened, keep the pain alive. If there’s no one to talk to, mentally go back to the horrors of years gone by. Repetition makes anything stronger.

* Avoid new ideas. What the miserable already know is enough. Besides, new thoughts might cause confusion or, even, contradict cherished beliefs.

* Stifle any impulse to laugh. This is especially important when in a group where others give in to laughter. Let them know that you are not amused.

* Never empathize. If someone else wants to share their misery, just add it to your own bank of evidence, but don’t get sucked into feeling sorry for them. And under no circumstances show any empathy for the optimists that might slip into your world.

* Hoard. Do not offer compliments or any form of praise. And by all means protect money and possessions from others. Sharing is for idiots.

* Have a Misery Insurance Policy. The most effective is to decide that whatever you have is not enough. This guarantees you’ll remain miserable forever.