Dear Levenson: I'm recently divorced. My ex-wife got the apartment, the furniture, the TV and the cat. The only thing she left me with was a little bit of money. I had to give that to the lawyer. I can barely get out of bed in the morning. What's there to look forward to?  – William, North York, Ontario

Dear William,

Positive thoughts are the one thing nobody can take away from you. Although they'll definitely try to, because every last person on this burning, suffering, good-for-nothing Earth is a scheming, creeping, toxic poison.

So: Positive thoughts. Like I said. That's the main thing. 

One of my favourite exercises is to visualize all the negativity in my mind as litter. With each deeply exhaled breath, I collect and deposit another piece into a fantastically large trash bag. As I repeat my mantra, the bag grows larger and larger – until it's as big as a car, and weighs thousands of pounds. I then drop it on my ex-girlfriend as she's getting a bagel.

William, I'm in my thirties, which means that as soon as a girl smiles at me on the bus, I've already mentally experienced the tragic third act of our relationship. As in – the Joni Mitchell records, the underpants, the lonely, relentless pacing. Do you have any idea how boring it is to experience that on the bus? 

Anyway, OK – I meet someone new, one thing leads to another, there's some Netflix, gelato, a Rothko retrospective, yada yada yada – but let's talk business: With what savage maneuver will she ultimately wrest the last gasp of life from my corpse? 

That's always the terminus, my friend! The shocking denouement! Has it ever worked out any differently? A brief reminder: If you're actively available for a relationship, then your success rate with relationships, to date, is exactly zero. Every single other one of these things you tried was a failure.  Screw-up after screw-up after screw-up! A string of disasters! So: Pretty eyes, a deep appreciation for Dostoyevsky, really cute handwriting ... it all checks out! Now, how many of my closest friends is she fucking simultaneously?

You're calling me crazy? If you're “thinking positive” despite an unbroken record of failures, then it's you who needs the Park Avenue shrink – and I'm sorry to have tell you this, but the only place in the world where you can suck this bad and still keep working is Los Angeles. In what other field of pursuit would anyone tolerate such a history of failure? This isn't perseverance, you schmuck – you're batting .000! You possess no aptitude. Who encouraged you to do this?

Not for nothing, but I've suffered the Death of Hope at the hands of women more often than I've folded laundry. I'm talking total devastation – the type of scene with your elbow propped on the table and your fingers on the bridge of your nose. Like that – for 18 months. Mozzarella sticks on the floor. Sauce everywhere. 

Meanwhile, to run into some of these chicks on the street, you'd think this “hope” shit springs eternal. Standing there on 7th Avenue smiling with a yoga mat and a green juice. Just sippin'. Respecting their bods, etcetera. Who are they? What are they so happy about? Where is all that positivity and optimism coming from? Are they succubusing it?

Oh, I'm done trying to figure it out. (Blowing every person in the entire world probably has something to do with it). OK, you're right, I said I was done. 

Here's the point: Relationships are the only challenge we face in which our accumulated life experience works against us. If you wanna give yourself the best shot, you gotta pretend you've never learned ... anything. 

Generally speaking, I find this to be impossible, which is why I'm often found eating Cocoa Krispies for dinner. My advice? Save the milk for last.




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