Monday, January 6, 2014

Positive Attitudes

Every month or two, I end up having the same conversation with my hubby. I lament my most recent observations about what I hope isn't becoming the predominant attitude of society: the driver who was livid to have to wait for a mother and her toddler to cross the street in a parking lot, the customer who blamed the cashier for a return policy she has no control over, the moms at the park who sat around doing nothing but complaining.

I’m grateful to see a lot of good around me as well, but there’s just something about a negative attitude that really bothers me. It’s not just the way attitude is contagious, or how it influences everyone within your radius. I think what bothers me is the idea that so many people choose to notice, discuss and focus on the bad instead of the good in their lives. It’s the way suffering has become some kind of badge of courage. It’s almost a contest. Someone talks about getting stuck at the office until 10 at night, and their conversational buddy has to counter with his or her astronomical number of hours worked that week. Someone mentions being tired; their friend bounces back with how tired and sick and stressed they are. It almost feels like there’s a stigma to someone who answers the question “how are you?” with an enthusiastic “great” – surely,  they must have it easy or just not be doing it right.

It’s a truly bizarre phenomenon to me. I mean, why wouldn't you choose to be happy about all the good in your life instead of angry about the inevitable imperfections?

Although it’s not a regular habit of mine, I’m certainly not guiltless of this crime myself. Occasionally, Lauren will come home and talk about his long day – and I’ll do the same in response. Or he’ll mention a sore throat and I’ll throw in that my back is hurting from toting Brayden around all day. The funny thing is; I’m not sure what provokes me to do that. Why does a complaint have to be answered with another complaint? Why even complain at all?

Hubby and I have talked about this a bit (like I said, this is a repeated topic of conversation for me). The best we could come up with is that people have this overwhelming desire to let everyone know that they’re working SO HARD that they’re suffering. That if you don’t complain about things, or if you don’t tell people exactly what you've accomplished, they won’t notice or appreciate it. And if I’d like to refrain from thinking that people are just becoming more negative, I suppose that’s as good of a reason as any for this trend. But it still bothers me.

It’s no secret that one of my choice avenues for self-expression is writing. I keep a journal, I write poetry; I do all those inky-type things. I always end my journal entries with things I’m grateful for. And it’s amazing how long the list can stretch. Even on bad days -- even when things are difficult -- there’s always something to be grateful for or happy about. I've been through a lot over the last few years and I can honestly say there wasn't a single day that was 100 percent bad. Sure – maybe on one of those terrible days, the best I could come up with was sleeping in or a tasty bowl of ice cream, but right about now I’d be pretty happy with either of those. ;)

If I had a societal wish list, it would definitely include a shift in attitude. I would love to see people focusing more on the good than on the bad. I would love to see people talking about their joys instead of their sorrows. I would love to hear more people answer the question “how’s it going” with something other than “eh, I’m fine” (or a laundry list of complaints).

In addition to being a writer, I’m also a goal-setter. I love making goals for myself. I never have just one New Year’s resolution or ambition. I always have about 20 of them. For 2014, I decided to focus on one specific area of my life each month - and make changes in those areas that will add more joy and peace into my world. For January – my focus is on positive attitude.

I might not be that bad about complaints or negativity (my husband has always praised me for my positivity), but there’s always room to improve. And you know what they say - you have the be the change you want to see in the world. With that in mind, I've vowed to stop needlessly complaining (or answering complaints with complaints out of that weird habit), to expand my gratitude practice beyond my morning journal pages, and to just let myself be happy. To continue seeing all the good in my life and let it fill me with so much joy that when someone asks me how I’m doing, my smile just says it all.

Cheesy? Sure. But really, I’d rather be cheesy and happy than miserable and negative.

1 comment:

  1. Well said! I never realized I did the complaint-with-a-complaint thing before, but you're totally right! I wonder why...