Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Putting Negative Nelly In Her Place

I think there is a lesson in everything. I will admit that sometimes, it isn’t a lesson I feel like learning (or even one I feel I need to learn) but, still, the lesson is there for the learning. Lately, a couple of people in my life have been complaining… a LOT. I usually try not to join in. Instead, I try to break everything down and get to the real source of the complaint.

When I do that, I find that generally, there is something just below the surface that is making tiny annoyances GIGANTIC. You know the deal. The house is a mess and on Monday, you could care less (unless you are one of those enviable people who keep a clean house at all times). On Tuesday, you flip out on your partner because his dishes have been sitting in the sink for 2 days and go on a tirade because you shouldn’t be expected to work long hours, clean the house and cook dinner. Then, the issue snowballs and the house is so cluttered that you’re professing that the house is two stray socks away from being on Hoarders. You’re waxing poetic about how a cluttered house leads to a cluttered mind and the dishes/pile of mail consuming the dining room table/socks on the floor are the source of all of your stress. Before you know it, you’re ready to hire a cleaning service because you’re totally overwhelmed.*

If you peel back the layers, under all of that madness is just a bad day at work where someone was insulting or rude. You had to take it because of hierarchy or social acceptability. Or, perhaps the emotional spiral over dirty dishes was prompted by feeling out of control in your personal life—whether over health, friendships, finances, etc.

Over the past week or so, I haven’t been peeling back any layers. I’ve been hanging out on the surface, complaining and swimming in negativity. I haven’t been focusing on the positive or looking for the happy moments in each day. I got sad news about a sick family member, got reprimanded at work, got smacked with world events that hit too close to home and spiked a fever all in one day. From that moment on, it was negativity central. It ultimately resulted in a grudging introduction: Hello shoulder, meet chip…then, hello world, meet my chip and let me tell you all the reasons why he’s there. Insert gripes here.

The result? My attitude has taken a toll on my outlook as a whole. I wake up thinking about what may go wrong at work and what confrontations I may face. With my health, instead of focusing on how I’ve improved, I complain about how long I’ve been sick…and on and on, AND ON.

Just when I was getting tired of my own mess, a friend spun me in the opposite direction. She sent me a text asking me to proofread a document. After I did it, she thanked me and said “Enjoy the rest of your day. I hope you find at least 2 reasons to giggle.”

The sentiment itself made me giggle, and that alone is a plus. I find the word “giggle” isn’t used very much in my adult life. People say, “Find a reason to smile.” or “Look for reasons to be grateful.” But no one encourages giggling. There is something delicious about the thought of giggling. It implies a level of silliness that we don’t experience much as adults. I feel like it’s something I need more of.

I ultimately did giggle twice that day and it broke my rut. It made me realize that I’d been a negative Nelly but all I had to do was step out of it. The lesson is that a little positivity goes a long way but you've got to seek it out--you've got to find the reasons to giggle. If you’d told me that last week, I’d have responded with “Ummm, you don’t have to tell me that. I know that. I live that.” Yet, I clearly needed a refresher course.

To get back on track, I’ve started each day with a little music and prayer/meditation. I also started getting up a little earlier. I get to work earlier and can tackle a couple of things before the meeting/ e-mail storm starts. The pace is easier and if negativity comes (everyday can’t be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows), it’s a little easier to take it in stride. I’ve made a concerted effort to get back on my gratitude game. Finally, I’ve started doing something to treat myself at the end of each day. Now, I just have to find something other than an edible treat to accomplish that. I’ve got to be in a bathing suit in a month and the Reese’s cups are becoming a problem.

So, who's in the picture? Nelly Olsen from Little House on the Prairie. Her character is the reason for the term "Negative Nelly." (I feel like I should say "Be grateful and avoid negativity" and the theme from NBC's "The More You Know" PSAs should play here.) Happy Wednesday!

*This example is based on true events but maybe, just maybe some of those dishes in the sink were mine. On positive days, those things don't matter. I gladly trade a messy kitchen and socks that can't seem to make it to the hamper for a partner who will try his damnedest to help me do laundry and bring in packages despite being sick and on crutches...but picking your battles is a different post for a different day.  

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