For years I was a really negative person. People who know me now might find that hard to believe. Well, I hope they do. 😉 I was raised by someone who found the bad in everyone, the kinks in anybody’s armour, would criticize anything and everything about every person that crossed our paths. Not to their faces of course but so soon as they turned their backs, the guns came out. I never wanted to be negative but when that is all you see? It is all you know.
I know a lot of people who have unintentionally fallen in to this negativity trap and it is so easy to do. Changing it takes time and effort.
When I began trying to change my very negative ways, I really had no idea how to do it. I tried to just change overnight and that failed horribly. I guess that is like hoping to drop 50 pounds while you sleep? I tried being cheerful all the time but it came across as fake (because it was). I tried to only say good things to people and about people. I tried to never complain or admit to a bad day. That failed too. It is like asking yourself to lose your humanity. No one can be perfectly positive day in and day out.
Enter Oprah. The Queen of daytime TV. She had this show about gratitude and her guest had some really great ideas about how to become for grateful. This wasn’t really my goal. I was trying to be positive, not grateful. At the time I saw them as VERY different emotions. Then at the end of the show Oprah said the magic words. How she kept a gratitude journal and how it has made her a much more positive person. BINGO! So that is how you do it?
At first my attempts at gratitude were filled with “yeah but”. I had a very hard time thinking of 3 good things that happened in a day that didn’t have any sort of negative side. I had a nice walk to the store BUT I got a mosquito bite on the back of my leg. A good friend came over with her kids and we all had a great time BUT it took me an hour to clean the place back up. I found a cute little outfit for one of my daughters BUT couldn’t get a matching one for her sister.
My happy thoughts were all marred down with these qualifiers. I couldn’t just be happy right? Life sucks and everyone knows it.
I finally decided that even if there was a but, I would write the good thing anyways and just leave the negative thought off the end. I thought this might be cheating but I had nothing good in my life to write about so I’d have to get creative. Right?
So I began writing the good things that happened each day and ignored the “but” that was just sitting there waiting for me. After a few weeks I found that it began to get easier. I realized that I could have a good experience worthy of remembering even if it wasn’t absolutely perfect. I could enjoy a nice walk, allow my children and I a nice play-date, and buy an outfit for one daughter without even looking at the negative side.
It wasn’t very long after this that I found myself looking for good things so I would have more to write down at the end of the day. I could have never imagined what a turning point this would be for me. It had never occurred to me that I actually ignored a whole slew of good things every day and actually went out of my way to only really see the bad ones.
I’d never really noticed how cheerful the cashier at the grocery store was. My walk to the park with the kids was actually filled with very beautifully kept homes and their gardens were constantly growing and changing with each new week that passed. My doctor was exceptionally patient with my high needs son but I’d never noticed because i was too busy feeling pissy about the fact that she was a few minutes late. My community was filled with all sorts of activities and opportunities for mothers and their children. I was just so much better than them that I knew I wouldn’t fit in. Oh that makes me cringe now to even think that. As it turns out? I wasn’t better than any of them and there were some amazing people to chat to and actually enjoy a little conversation that had NOTHING to do with Thomas the Tank Engine or the Little Mermaid.
Something very odd began to happen. I began seeing myself as a part of this world and not in a separated black hole.
My PTSD is severe and it is complex. Feeling “safe” is a feeling I have only had for a few minutes here and there throughout the past few years. It never happened in my youth or early adulthood. I will always be a person that knows the harsh realities of humanity and what some people are willing to do to others. I’ve seen the very bottom of the barrel. I am not walking around with my head in a cute pink cloud all day just pretending that the world is filled with nothing but kittens and unicorns.
Yes here is the “but” I use now…
There are bad people out there BUT there are far more good ones.
There are terrible news stories about horrific events BUT if I turn those off and go to The Good News Network instead? I get to read about amazing efforts of positive that are just as shocking but far more beautiful.
There are going to be mosquitoes, hornets, sharp rocks, roots to trip you, or sand in your shoes BUT there are trees and flowers and tiny vines that reach around towards the sun. There is quiet and things are still enough to hear a bird sing to another.
People can live in cities and be surrounded by concrete BUT they can also have a patio garden or use the roof.
My real lesson was more of a realization.
My world was negative because I was negative.
When I chose to start becoming more positive and grateful, the world became a nicer place to live.
This world is what you make of it. If you want it to be a horrible place? Look at it that way. If you want it to show some signs of lightness and joy? Look at it that way.
It took me years to actually get to a place where I can see more positive than negative, I had to work at it. I am not pretending it is easy or telling you that you can solve this all in one day BUT you can fix it. I want you to work on it because you are worthy of good days, wonderful friendships, sunshine, and a positive mindset.
Below is a picture of some of the things I have done over the past 2 years to look at the positives. Maybe you might like an idea or two and try it yourself if you aren’t already doing something like it.
- The jar is where I print out nice comments left to me on this blog or in emails/letters from friends. I fold them up, put them in the jar and then pull a few out on my bad days to remind me of the good.
- The stamps are from my friends all over the world. Keeping the stamps is an easy way to remind me of the friendship we have shared through the years.
- The book on the far left is my gratitude journal. At first thinking of 3 things was difficult but now I average 7-10 and have trouble sticking to a page a day.
- The book in the middle is a “Hope Book” that began while I was in the hospital but continues now. My friends have left personal messages of encouragement that I have appreciate so greatly. I will never hear from many of these people again but they will always hold a place in my heart.
- The paper on the far right is a note I wrote on a day when everything was just going amazingly well. I’ve written what blessings I have and the goodness in my world. When things are at their very worst? This letter reminds me that there ARE truly better days.
- The box also holds little gifts, special cards, little items with special meanings, a key to my late grandmothers car, a leather stationary binder from a dear friend who lived to be 108…