Bounce

The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Theryn “Beaver” Fleming


Eeyore & Tigger
Photo Credit: Brandi Korte

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you. —Randy Pausch

In the speech usually referred to as The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch says that being a Tigger or an Eeyore is a choice, and obviously, he chose to be a Tigger. Obvious because he has a positive attitude even though, at the time he gave the lecture, he knew he had only months to live.

Eeyore and Tigger are, of course, two of Christopher Robin’s stuffed animals in the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne. Eeyore is the pessimistic donkey. He expects the worst. He puts a negative spin on all events. His best mood could be described as not unhappy. Tigger is the optimistic tiger (though he’s always referred to as a tigger). He expects the best. He puts a positive spin on all events. His best mood could be described as exuberant.

Tiggerish people are popularly portrayed as aggressively cheerful individuals. Eeyorish people, portrayed as cynical realists, perceive Tiggers as phony. In the Eeyore’s mind, that irritatingly upbeat Tigger at work is only fake-happy (because, according to Eeyore logic, everyone is miserable). At home, the Tigger cries herself to sleep (as all Eeyores do). In other words, Eeyores see tiggerness as being a superficial characteristic, a costume or mask the Tigger wears in public, but casts off in private. Eeyoreness, according to the Eeyore, is the real human condition. Internally, everyone is an Eeyore. The difference is that Tiggers hide their misery, while Eeyores do not.

The same is not true from a Tigger perspective. Tiggers do not visualize Eeyores as being stealth Tiggers (grumpy on the outside, gleeful on the inside). From the Tigger perspective, Eeyores are most definitely Eeyores, and Tiggers are most definitely not. Tiggers know they are Tiggers through and through. What’s on the outside is a manifestation of what’s on the inside, not a cover-up. But that is equally, if not more, problematic than being fake from the Eeyore’s position, for, in this world, anyone who truly isn’t miserable must be a shallow and unthinking person:

To live in our society sometimes feels like living under the tyranny of Happiness. Much more important, perhaps, to be engaged with life and all that life offers, to be curious about people and experiences. To feel things deeply, and not to be afraid of unhappiness, of feeling the magnitude of life. —Nicole Krauss

Krauss, I think, captures the essence of writerly feeling about the Tigger/Eeyore divide. To a writer, eeyoreness is a badge of honor. Tiggers are tyrannical bullies wielding capital-H Happiness that must be resisted at all costs. Like Eeyore, serious writers think they should carry their problems (or the problems of the world) around like a storm cloud of gloom that matches their monochromatic clothing. Angst is to be prolonged and mined for all it is worth. No self-respecting writer wants to be like Tigger, an airhead bouncing around in a zany orange and black faux-fur coat.

But is that really all there is to Tigger? I recently reread The House at Pooh Corner, and I realized it’s a misconception that because Tigger is optimistic, his mood never changes. While Tigger was bouncier than the average stuffie, he wasn’t redlining the cheerfulness at all times. He had his ups and downs, just like the others. He couldn’t find anything he liked to eat. He got stuck in a tree. Rabbit tried to lose him in the forest on purpose!

Here are some lessons I learned from Tigger:

  1. Try new things.
  2. You won’t like everything you try. (No worries. Try something else.)
  3. Eventually you will find something you like. Keep doing it.
  4. Take risks.
  5. Sometimes you will fail. (It’s ok.)
  6. Sometimes you will be scared. (That’s ok too.)
  7. Don’t dwell on your failures. Dust yourself off and move on.
  8. When you’re optimistic, someone will try to quash your enthusiasm. Pay them no mind.
  9. Be kind and helpful, even to your frenemies.
  10. Bounce. It makes you look bigger.

Turns out, being a Tigger is about much more than just blind optimism. He’s got some pretty good strategies for life or for writing. As a short person, naturally my favorite is number ten: bounce. Piglet sees Tigger as being big, although Pooh notes that Tigger really isn’t big. He just seems big because he bounces. This reminds me of how I once mentioned to a friend that I always forget how little I am until I see myself in photographs with other people. She told me I have a tall personality. Maybe what I really have is a Tigger personality.

I can’t tell you whether choosing to be a Tigger (or an Eeyore!) is right for you. But Tigger isn’t bouncy just because he literally jumps around, but also because he bounces back after hardship. Being a Tigger doesn’t mean you can’t ever be unhappy, can’t ever go through a bad time, can’t ever be depressed or angry. Of course you can. But when you’re a Tigger, these are acute feelings, ones that fade over time, as the wound heals, just as a physical trauma does. Tiggers are able to let negative emotions go when they no longer serve them, while Eeyores collect snubs, real and perceived, like medals.

If you’re a writer who’s living in an Eeyorish permafunk, ask yourself if that attitude is serving your writing or a detriment to it. Are you busy tallying up criticisms and rejections, unable to fully enjoy successes because you’re always looking ahead to the next slight? Have you become so absorbed with keeping current with publishing trends that you’ve lost the joy of writing? Maybe it’s worth thinking a little more like Tigger. You don’t have to go all in, just dip a paw. Try something new. Take a risk. Extend a white flag to that fellow writer you’re feuding with. And if you’re really feeling brave, bounce.

Go ahead. Do it now. I won’t tell. What have you got to lose? At the very least, it’ll make you appear bigger.
pencil

Email: beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com

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