I’ve become increasingly fed-up with people who never have anything positive to say. And so, I’m slowly phasing these people out, where possible. I need to work with one of them (she’s a supervisor), so that’s just one I have to live with, but there are others that I have voluntarily entertained for far too long; and now, they just drag me down, bore me or have even been known to ruin a nice moment.
It goes back to my Oma, really: the first negative person in my life. Good lord, that woman had nothing nice to say, ever. She only talked about the problems of the world; the dangers; the downside to every situation… and even as little kids, my sister and I were able to recognize and kind-of laugh at her weird negative attitude all the time. And it did become laughable. For example: Say I was having a very good semester in college, and I was telling the family about it at dinner. It would go like this:
Me: “So, I got into all of my first-choice classes this semester, and I like most of my professors… I got two As on midterms, so far; and I was just cast in a role I really wanted for that community theater show!”
Oma: (Sighs) “It almost makes you wonder when the other shoe’s gonna drop.”
When we moved into our 100+ year old home when I was 10, everyone who visited our house would comment on the unique aspects, or how it was so much bigger than our old home, the neighborhood was great, etc… not Oma. Oma took a look around and said:
Oma: “You had better put a lock on that attic door.”
My Mom: “Why? It’s inside the house.” (The door to the attic steps was in the hallway right outside my bedroom door.)
Oma: “Well, during the day while you’re all busy or out in the pool, it could be really easy for someone to sneak into the house and hide up there in the attic until everyone is asleep, and then come out and–”
My parents cut her off somewhere around that point. I mean, WOW, that is just the kind of thing a 10 year old needs her grandmother to say about the location of her bedroom. Thanks for THAT, Oma. No one in the world would have thought of that except for her.
Anyway, flash forward to 2011.
As someone with depression, I have to be kind of vigilant about relapses into the bad, dark places. For my entire life, I’ve accepted people around me who might not be the greatest influences or the happiest of people…probably because of low self-esteem and thinking something like, “Hey, I’ll take any friend who wants me as a friend, because losers can’t be picky.”
But a funny thing has happened this year. I’ve discovered the bright side of life. For real.
Sure, I’m still on the same meds I’ve been on for 6+ years now; but I’ve been doing things I’m very proud of, and that have exposed me to a lot of people who are good influences– people who see the positive in every crappy situation, people who are genuinely grateful and humble when it comes to their blessings (especially health and family), people who are working to not just sit on their duff and complain about something that sucks but are off the couch DOING SOMETHING about it. I admire this so much, and I realize that I want to be one of these people, too.
Life isn’t easy, that’s for damn sure. We get so much crap to deal with in an average lifetime. Bad things happen… but so do good things. I’m not saying people can’t vent about a problem or something; not at all. You have to vent to be healthy. However, I can’t stand when people turn venting into long-term complaining. I can recognize it, because I have been guilty of doing it myself, in the past. It’s easier to whine and blame others, for sure. But in the end, I’m finding out it’s much more satisfying to put up your dukes and go into the ring and fight the problem the best way you can. No cheap shots/cheating, no dirty moves– just hard work and belief that you can and will win.
At the last TNT practice on Saturday, the topic of “the power of positive thinking” came up in our Mission Minute before we headed out to the canal. One woman said that she was getting some resistance to her participation in this marathon/fundraising event from people in her family. It sounded like it was maybe her parents, or a sibling. Anyway, she said she loves coming to practice because “everyone here is all “Go Team!” and it can seem like I can be surrounded by “Go Back!” people more than I want to be.” I know what she means. I’ve had that “Go Back!” voice in my own head, on my own. I don’t even need an outside person saying it: I wonder sometimes if I can really do this. If I can run the half-marathon at all, or if I will just walk it. Mostly, I doubt my ability to be successful in the fundraising aspect. It’s a daunting task to try to raise this kind of money in a set period of time. I’ve got to get better at asking, and being creative in how I do it. And I am working on it.
I thought about that woman’s words while doing the workout that morning, and it made me very happy and grateful that my immediate family is, for the most part, very supportive of me doing this…and pretty much everything else I decide to tackle. They support my writing, my efforts to improve my house and yard, and working to be more light-hearted than dark-hearted. Thank God.
Now, regarding my acquaintences… it’s another story.
I almost hate to say it, but some of them have to be phased out again. I’ve gotten better at doing this over the years, and not just being agreeable to every damn thing presented to me… if I don’t want to do something, I can now say no, honestly. I don’t need to drag myself to something I don’t want to do, just because I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or something. The hell with that. My time is valuable, and I am a busy person every day (especially now with the training and physical therapy/chiro appointments). I’m not gonna be guilted into doing something for you, or with you, just because you ask.
Last year I did some pet sitting for someone, for three nights. The person didn’t want me to bring her dogs to my house, because they were accustomed to their routine at their own house, and because I had a cat. I can understand the cat concern, for sure. But I could have figured something out with crating, etc. Anyway, this person didn’t even live nearby to me, so I basically was driving over to her house twice a day to take care of the dogs. And since it was the 4th of July weekend, I had to go THREE times that day, because she insisted that I check to make sure they were OK following the fireworks.
This was a pretty big inconvenience for me, but I did it because I didn’t know how to say no. And, one time in the past, this person had done me a favor and I thought this could help repay that favor.
But this person had a weird attitude about it when she returned. She thanked me verbally, of course. She said she was going to take me out to lunch as a thank you. (When she did the favor for me–which was much easier for her, since I brought my dog to HER house, so she didn’t need to drive about 9 miles each way to take care of him), I’d brought back a couple of gifts for her and wrote a thank-you card out, because it seemed like common courtesy.) However, the lunch never happened and she never said anything else about me helping her out. I didn’t do it for the “thank you,” of course, but it sucks when someone offers something they say they are going to do for you and then they forget about it.
This person has asked me for two more favors over the past year, and one by one, I have declined to help her out. There was nothing “in it” for me, psychologically speaking. If I did what she asked me to do, I’d only feel like her doormat once again, and the one sucker she probably could find who was willing to put up with the crappy thing she wanted done.
And you know what? It’s been GREAT.
I haven’t regretted saying no to her, at all. In fact, I love to do it… it makes me feel more confident and a little healthier as a person. I am standing up for myself when I say no. I’m honoring my own time and mental health, not someone else’s.
This is just one of the more clear-cut examples of how I am learning to shy away from negative situations…and people.
When I say no, I don’t think I am being a mean person; although, at first, it kinda felt mean to say no. Then, I thought of the people who have said no to me for various reasons over the years, and it’s not like I harbored nasty thoughts about them because they said no. I’d just moved on… which is what I guarantee 99% of the people who ask me to do stuff also do when I decline something, without giving it a second thought.
We all want to be liked. I know that. I want to be liked.
But I think that purging the situations that bring me down helps me to be a better person for people to like. I think I have grown so much in this past year. I have dealt with impossible people and very difficult situations, and I have managed to fight my way up and out of all the muck to emerge a stronger and happier person, overall. My attitude this time last year was dismal. I was feeling so low about my situation, especially at work, and so much like people were “out to get me” and I had that very negative thing going on, myself. If something good happened, I found myself being Oma and wondering when that other shoe really was going to drop. Piling up the list of injustices, accidents, injuries, dramas, etc. became almost a fun activity. People were calling me a walking disaster zone, joking that I should live in a ball of bubble wrap, etc… and I believed it, for awhile.
I wrote about this mental transformation last year sometime already, so I won’t get into the whole “one day I woke up and decided to change my viewpoint” thing again. But I’m telling you… the transformation STUCK.
It turns out it feels really, really, really satisfying to look for the silver lining. Other things that feel so much better than believing I’m surrounded by a fog of negativity:
* Being able to cheer up a family member or friend, just by helping them see a plus side to a crappy situation
* Not letting a sports injury stop me from exercising… it has been rewarding to adapt and deal with it, rather than just give up!
* Gathering my courage to talk to people I admire and tell them how I feel and why; you should totally try this. It feels incredible to give someone such a heartfelt and genuine compliment because you can tell how the other person receives it… it’s just great to say good stuff to people! Everyone’s so used to hearing criticism these days. Compliments go a long way.
* Spending time learning about actions I can take to improve something that’s crappy in the world, and then taking the action I believe to be the best course for me and the specific skills or abilities I bring to the table.
* Cracking myself up, and making other people laugh.
* Choosing to spend time with people who make me laugh, in turn. I’m not “a clown, here to amuse your ass.” No. We’re ALL clowns amusing each other, in my ideal world.
* Literally slowing down to see the world around me, and take it all in. Sometimes, I play this mental game where I pretend I am an alien who just landed on this planet, and I’m seeing things like sunsets, baby horses, rain, etc. for the first time. I think about people who are locked in prison and can’t see this stuff, or the people too sick to even be lucid enough to take it in. I’m lucky, damn it. I’m here, and life’s happening all around me, every single second of every day. It’s awesome. You don’t really need to understand everything, or have a concrete reason why you should spend any of your time looking or hearing these things. You’re NOT too busy. You can split your attention. You can love on your kids, but love on something else, too…just because you can, and it will make you, ultimately, a more rounded person. You don’t need to put aside your dream to be a singer because you’re entrenched in cubicle life– sing at karaoke! Maybe, instead of being pissed off at the traffic at rush hour, think about the time to yourself you get to have, or be appreciative that you have a nice car to drive, a car that works. Thinking the words: “I appreciate this” takes just a couple of seconds.
So don’t be a sourpuss. That’s what it all comes down to.
…Or I swear to God I will kick you in the balls.