Joe Pisani (opinion): Most people would rather not be Eeyore

Eeyore from the Dinsey version of "Winnie the Pooh."

Eeyore from the Dinsey version of "Winnie the Pooh."

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Mating season is here. At least for the birds.

I consider myself an amateur ornithologist. Well, the truth is I’m just a bird watcher who spends a small fortune on bird seed. For me, breeding and nesting season is one of the most enjoyable times of the year, second only to Groundhog Day and National Squirrel Appreciation Day on Jan. 21. (I also feed ground hogs and squirrels.)

In springtime before dawn, the birds start to sing and chirp and strut their stuff … the males that is. They’re looking for a mate and they’re excited about starting a family, which means they’re on their best behavior. Breeding season is the bird equivalent of “The Bachelorette.”The chorus of songbirds is one of the greatest pleasures imaginable, when orioles, sparrows, house wrens, titmice, goldfinches and cardinals exercise their vocal cords. Did you know they have two sets of vocal cords? The singing is so spectacular it surpasses the Vienna Boys’ Choir, and the performance is free.

Which brings me to my point…

This is a tale of two women, both friends of mine, both deceased. For one of them, it was the best of times, and for the other, it was the worst of times. I think of them every breeding season.

Several years ago, I stopped at the deli for my morning coffee, and the owner, Dee, said, “I was lying in bed this morning, listening to the birds singing, and I felt such peace I didn’t want to get up.”

When I got to work, I met the other woman, who looked at me with bleary eyes and grumbled, “I’m exhausted. Those @#!*&! birds woke me up, and they wouldn’t stop singing. I couldn’t sleep with all that noise. Damn those birds!”

Two opinions and two different outlooks on life. The positive woman tried to stay positive until the end, even though she developed cancer. The negative woman stayed negative until the end. If she’s in a better place, I just hope there are no birds.

I felt sorry for her because she was probably raised to look on the negative side. Today she’d have plenty of company because there’s a national choral society of chronic complainers in the United States. Grumbling has become the American way. It’s a pandemic that afflicts the human spirit. No law can stop it. No editorial will change it. Politics and social media only make it worse.

For many years, when I was a newspaper editor, people would snarl at me and say, “Why can’t you have some positive news in that paper?” But I’d blow them off and snicker: “Haha, I’m a paid professional journalist, and I know more about news than you do. My job is to afflict the afflicted or comfort the afflicted or afflict the comforted or whatever my job description says.”

Today, however, I often find myself scouring papers for positive news, which I suppose is my professional penance.

Too late in life, I also discovered that readers, average Americans, good people, hard-working people, Democrats, Republicans, and even Deplorables don’t want to listen to self-righteousness and negativity day after day. They tune you out.

A friend recently told me, “When I get up in morning and read the headlines, I want to go back to bed and cover my head.”

The painful reality is the world is not a nice place, and it’s getting un-nicer by the day, so we need reasons to have hope, reasons to think tomorrow can be better than today. Recent surveys show Americans no longer believe our future will be brighter than our past, and they have no hope in political solutions. We seem destined to be miserable even though we live in a country vastly more blessed than any other.

However, negativity is self-destructive and takes an enormous toll on our physical health and mental well-being. It can lead to depression, anxiety, cardiovascular problems, cognitive and digestive issues, and a weakened immune system.

For much of my life, I was surrounded by complainers. Some of them could look up at a perfectly blue sky on a crisp October morning and mutter, “Dammit, why aren’t there any clouds!”

Whenever I saw them coming, I wanted to walk the other way because I knew the first words out of their mouths will be complaints, so I prepared myself to have a perfectly good day perfectly ruined.

A woman recently told me her husband’s nickname is Eeyore in tribute to the gloomy gray donkey in “Winnie-the-Pooh,” because for him the glass was always half empty. Eeyore is known for such memorable phrases as “If it is a good morning … which I doubt” and “It’s all for naught.”

Another friend, who’s suffered her share of adversity, told me, “If your glass is always half full, it’s time to get a smaller glass.”

But back to the birds. Mating season is here. When you listen to the symphony in the morning, say “thank you” in remembrance of my friend Dee. Then, pause a moment to reflect on the words of the poet Rabindranath Tagore, who said: “Faith is a bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”

Former Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time Editor Joe Pisani can be reached at