There was a time in the not-so-distant past that I groused through my daily existence as a glass-half-empty cynic who wore sarcasm as a suit of armor.
If you casually asked me how I was doing, I assumed you really wanted to know and launched into a long list of grievances about how life was kicking me in the pants. I bitched and complained on an endless litany of topics. From bad hair days to the sorry state of world events, I had it all covered.
I didn’t notice the grimace on your face, nor did I question why you made a beeline for the door as soon as I paused to take a breath. I was too self-absorbed to concern myself with how spreading my ire might affect other people.
I also loved to commiserate with fellow pessimists. I used to live by the classic line from “Steel Magnolias,” as spoken by Clairee Belcher: “If you can’t say anything nice, come sit by me.” Yep, I was a real joy to be around. NOT.
Thank God that’s not who I am anymore.
If I met that version of myself on the street today, I would hightail it in the other direction. In fact, I’m such the polar opposite of a Negative Nancy these days that I am actively weeding out any and all negative influences in my life. What I’m saying is, I am no longer willing to tolerate people who do nothing but grumble and whine. I don’t have the time or energy to waste.
See, a few years ago, I was introduced to some tools for living that have made an enormous difference in my attitude and, by proxy, my life. Two of these tools are: compiling a daily gratitude list to start my day, and a daily inventory to end it.
Just the simple act of writing down the many simple blessings in my life sets the tone for a positive attitude all day. Then, writing out all the good things I did, along with things I could have done better, gives me a realistic perspective on all my actions, and it cleans my mental slate so I can sleep that night.
As a result, I am pretty darn thankful and content these days.
Anyhoo, I’m online a lot for both business and pleasure, and I have begun to notice a startling amount of negativity among a few of my Facebook friends. Political issues aside (even happy, positive people can turn into assholes when it comes to discussing issues in that arena), there’s a growing contingent of my friends who can’t seem to say anything nice, like, AT ALL. Every post is “screw this, screw that, I’m screwed,” or “he’s a jerk, she’s a jackass”… In fact, there is one person who literally posts status updates that say only: “John Doe is pissed off.”
I know these people in real life, and they are definitely more electron than proton on a good day, but they don’t suck the life out of me in person the same way they do online. And here’s the real kicker, as well as a true testament to what a much kinder person I am these days: Instead of being irritated by these Debbie Downers, I feel sorry for them. I hate that they can’t see blessings instead of blemishes.
Yep, most of the time, I’m sorry for all the things that are going wrong in their lives, but sometimes I wish I could jump through the computer screen to point out all the things that are going right. Most of their complaints are about what a friend of mine calls “white people problems,” in other words, not life-threatening issues like poverty or famine.
But hey, I know better than anyone that when you’re mired in the under toe, it’s hard to see the shore. It’s easy to get caught up in petty problems and not realize how self-destructive and selfish that kind of thinking is. It permeates all areas of your life, and it makes you less-than-pleasant to be around.
Well, I am here to tell you that I’ve seen the other side, and I can’t help but share my joy. What I would like to say to these malcontent friends of mine is that, no matter how bad your day might seem, there is always something in it for which you can be grateful. Always. If they would stop complaining long enough to think about it, I know they could come up with some gratitudes of their own. (I know, I know… it’s not my job to fix them, though I may have to start blocking their updates for the sake of my own sanity.)
Here’s an example from my own life: When I was going through some acute emotional trauma during the final days of my marriage last year, I chose not to dwell on the pain I was experiencing, but to be grateful instead for the outpouring of compassion I received from family and friends.
People literally came out of the woodwork to show their love and support. I will be paying that grace forward for the rest of my life. Sure, one significant relationship ended, but many, many others were strengthened enormously as a result. To me, the good far outweighed the bad. And for that I am… you guessed it… VERY grateful.
Even the worst situation contains blessings and lessons. For real and for true. I don’t care how hokey and new age-y that sounds…hokey equals happy in my world. So there.
Don’t get me wrong, I can still be a sarcastic smart ass from time to time, but it comes from a much more lighthearted place today. If I ever find myself sinking into truly negative thinking, I get really uncomfortable. It just doesn’t work for me anymore. Thank God.
Yeah, it looks like I’ve outgrown that old suit of armor. Unlike my skinny jeans from 1988, that’s one outfit I’m glad no longer fits me.
It wasn’t very attractive anyway.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.