This is what I’ve learned so far: It’s all about the choices. Not just choices about what you do, but how you think and feel as well.
Psychologists call it cognitive therapy — learning to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Changing your thoughts and attitudes in turn changes your feelings. Thoughts and feelings are connected, like your cardiopulmonary system. If one starts failing, the other’s soon to follow.
Abe Lincoln said, “Most people are as happy as they choose to be.” Abe wasn’t only honest, he was wise. Your feelings are a choice.
“Easy for you to say,” grumbles someone suffering from depression. And I sympathize. I’ve been in the pit of despair too. If you’re lucky, you get thrown a rope. If not, the only way out is to wipe your tears, suck it up, and start crawling out, inch by inch. But it begins with a choice.
One of my psychology professors said something that stuck with me: “The fastest way to change an attitude is to change the behavior.” You see, if the body’s doing something inconsistent with the mind, the brain takes note: “Hmmm…. I realize we’re sad, but we seem to be going swimming… OK, I’ll play along…”
But it begins with a choice. You can choose to reclaim the right to decide who you are, what you are, what you do and how you feel. And I’ve found the poster child for reclaiming your choices: Diana Campanella, aka Artemisbell. I discovered her by pure serendipity one night while bopping around YouTube, the place where free time goes to die.
While searching for a T-Rex “Bang a Gong” video with karaoke lyrics (whole ‘nother column, guys), I found “Bang a Gong Dance.” Wow. It has a dance too? Must click.
So, here’s this middle-aged gal in skimpy clothes, dancing like a disco dervish, hamming it up for the camera, beaming from ear to ear, having a blast, all by herself in her living room.
Three letters spring to mind: WTF?
What is this chick doing, I’m thinking, while simultaneously posting her video with the same query to my Facebook wall. I click some more, and discover an apparently endless library of Artemisbell videos. And I’m fascinated. This is ridiculous! Why is she doing this! I was mid-“Love Shack Dance” when I “got it.” There is no point. She’s just having fun. Period.
Diana takes the saying, “Dance like nobody’s watching” to the next level: “Dance like everybody’s watching, and you don’t really care.”
Oh, I am so down with that.
I had to find out more about her, friended her on Facebook, and asked her how these videos came to be. Diana (also known as Artemisbell online) explained that she was at a party one evening, and had a miserable time because others were being “inept and rude.” Disappointed because she’d been looking forward to having a fun evening, she decided to go home. She could have just gone to bed, but no, she made a choice.
“I was determined to have fun regardless of the circumstances. So as soon as I walked in the door at home, I took off my shoes, as I always do, and set up my camera and danced!”
You can see this actual video by searching “First Video Revealed Artemisbell” on YouTube. You’ll also find a treasure trove of Artemisbell videos. Be warned: they’re like potato chips. You can’t watch just one.
Diana admits, however, that not everyone loves her videos.
“I got some very negative comments at first, but felt that they weren’t going to stop my fun. My videos were getting all kinds of comments and I replied to just about every single one, even after gaining over 2,500 subscribers. I’d spend my whole weekends answering letters and comments to thank them for their compliments.
“I got criticism, too. You’d be surprised what people can find to criticize on YouTube. And speaking of criticism, I’ve been accused (and still am) of all sorts of things, from being a tranny, a man, a drunk and a drug-user to a lazy blank-ity-blank who spends all day dancing and should get a life.”
But Diana just flicked the criticism away, and stayed focused on her own goals.
“The most rewarding part of this whole project were the messages I received telling me I had uplifted moods, inspired, and made people feel good. I can’t tell you how many people asked me about how I could be so happy and that they wanted to feel the same.
“The only long-term goal I have is to see people happy and help them reflect on their lives, and hopefully my crazy fun can give them permission to do the same. Life is too short for fears and suppressing the creative spirit. Madonna said it well: ‘Poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another.’”
Diana (who is 57) refused to fall into the “I’m too old” trap. Forget the numbers, dancing feels good! She says, “I believe we’ve all been brainwashed to think age is real and we should behave a certain way because of our age.”
You know who brainwashes you? You. So just stop it. Get up with Diana and dance. C’mon, no one’s watching. Just let go and have fun. It all begins with a choice. And it’s all yours.
— Follow Debra DeAngelo on Twitter. Links are posted at http://www.edebra.com and http://www.wintersexpress.com. Find Debra’s columns online at http://www.wintersexpress.com, http://www.edebra.com and http://www.ipinion.us