Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday Quotable

What is it that makes us remember the bad things in life in such detail while the good things become fuzzy? I don’t mean the epically good things like starting the job of your dreams, buying your first place, your wedding day or the birth of your child. I just mean the everyday good. A friend who comes over to binge on Netflix and pizza when you had a bad week at work. A husband who tries to make the perfect quinoa so you can vege out after work. A sister who calls just to say hi. Belly laughing with friends over cocktails. They’re all beautiful things in the moment but they tend to go out of focus soon after the moment is over. You remember the warm fuzzies but you don’t remember particular details.   

The bad things, however, seem to reside in your mind in great detail. You can probably remember the time, temperature, what you were wearing and everything everyone said in a bad situation.

When you’re facing drama, chances are you can look back on a previous time and say “this is just like ______________.” Yet, in good times, you don’t sit around remembering the warm fuzzies of the past. You doubt or fear the good feelings because the bad feelings are there, poking their way into your thoughts—reminding you that you’re never truly rid of them.

Well, after spending the last few years trying to focus on the good in my life, I’ve found some tricks for keeping my eyes on it. And in my opinion, silence is the golden rule. Silence the fears, doubts and persistent bad memories of the past by reminding yourself of the good. All. The. Time.

Here are some examples I can pull from my own life:

New boyfriend (and I use that as a general term because it applies to everyone I dated before Ash) is awesome but old boyfriend was too. So I question every move and just wait for the other shoe to drop. In the process, I either found something or pushed new boyfriend away. The result in my mind was the same: “I knew it! He was just like the others.”

I was in that cycle for years until I took a year to date myself and started figuring out why I was dating the same type of guy over and over again. By the time I met my husband, I’d dumped most of my negative garbage and learned to face the doubts head on by raising them and then silencing them by focusing on all the good things—the things that set him apart—from the men in the earlier chapters of my life.

Then, the negative thoughts crept into my career. I worked for a task master who questioned every decision I made and criticized me constantly. I began doubting myself and it effected my performance. Eventually, I moved on (you can read more about that here) and had a clean slate. Despite the fresh start, the self doubt lingered. Ultimately, I had to get past that and remind myself I got a new job because I’m qualified and smart. When the doubt creeps in (usually with new challenges), I remind myself of my accomplishments and focus on times when I was proud of my work. If necessary, I go all AibileenClark on myself…”You are smart. You are important.” Whatever it takes.

I’ve also experienced this penchant for remembering the bad when it comes to my health and vitality. I’ve felt like a waste because of my illnesses and my issues with being able to carry a child. When I first got diagnosed with lupus, I told Ash to leave me. I felt like a burden. Some people in my life at the time even encouraged that feeling by asking why he hadn’t run for the hills. I internalized those thoughts and even on my good days, the “waste” voices would creep in. Slowly, I learned to shut them up by focusing on all the ways I was just fine…that my value isn’t based on perfection. I had to remind myself of all the ways I was awesome and whole. Eventually, that list turned into what I was thankful for and it drowned out what I was scared of or unhappy about. That’s how my spiritual practice came to include focusing on gratitude.

Now, I try to spend most of my time focusing on the good in my life. Because of that, I’ve come to expect the best for my life. When I forget, I remind myself to reflect on the good. I actively make the bad thoughts/memories fuzzy by leaving no room for them in my life. That’s not to say nothing bad happens or that I never get sad/frustrated/mad. I just try to spend as little time in darkness as I can and when the moment passes, I take whatever lesson came with it and leave the residual bad feelings behind. In doing so, I find something else to be grateful for.

How do you focus on the good? What do you do to mentally break out of a bad spot? Do you have a gratitude practice? 

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