I wanted to answer a question that comes up in dating optimism at some point or another: “Do you always have to be positive about dating?” No. You don’t.
And when I saw the theme of this week’s “Shiny Happy People” episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I thought it was a good time to remind us all of this.
This is how Grey opened the episode:
“It’s a common belief that positive thinking leads to a happier, healthier life. As children we’re told to smile, be cheerful and put on a happy face. As adults, we’re told to look on the bright side, make lemonade and see glasses as half full. Sometimes reality can get in the way of our ability to act the happy part, though. Your health can fail, boyfriends can cheat, friends can disappoint. It’s in these moments when you just want to get real, to drop the act and be your true, scared, unhappy self.”
Later in the episode, when a patient named Amber found out she was going to lose three fingers, her positively-trained reaction was to smile and be grateful that she was alive at all. As her friend said (played by Emma from Glee!) Amber should see the bad news as just a small bump in the big ride of life. But Baily (played by Chandra Wilson) could tell Amber was struggling. She was faking her feelings. So Bailey gave Amber permission to embrace her true, scared, unhappy self instead.
Bailey: “You can cry, Amber, it’s fine. It’s a lot to take in all at once.
Emma from Glee: No, she needs to stay positive. That’s how we get through, we stay positive.
Bailey: She was excited. She was hopeful. She was eager. And that has been crushed. She has the right to have some feelings. She can be positive tomorrow. [to Amber] You can be positive tomorrow.
The truth is, real health and happiness comes from feeling it all. When bad things happen—and bad things do happen to good people, all the time—you may be tempted to try to look on the bright side each and every time. And I encourage you to get better at doing that. But sometimes, the hurt is immense and our heart needs to sit with it for a while. Sometimes we need a good cry so we have the energy to be positive tomorrow.
So if you’ve been going through a rough time and had your hopes in dating, love or life dashed, I say this, as Bailey did: You can cry. It’s fine. Keep wiping tears and writing angry letters that you’ll never send to your ex or to God and keep sobbing it out, because the only way you’ll get past the messy stuff is to empty it from yourself, until you can’t cry another tear and frankly can’t be bothered to. You can be positive tomorrow. And with all those tears shed, you’ll be far more able to.