Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Plan for Positivity

I'm a complainer. I am. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. It stems from a need for validation, I'm pretty sure, and it's one of the things I'd most like to change about myself, which is one of the reasons I've chosen "positive" as one of the new year's resolution guiding adjectives for the year.

It's hard for me not to complain. Sometimes it feels like everything is going wrong and the world is not stacked in my favor. Sometimes it's hard to comprehend how infuriating and incompetent others can be. Or how thoughtless. Sometimes I want to feel a sense of accomplishment in the sense that I want others to think, "Holy crap. How can she even DO all of that?!" And that's hard if I don't constantly tell them how much I've gotten done--and in the face of such hard conditions! It's also just such an easy, fail-safe conversation starter. It's so easy to connect with someone over a shared frustration, isn't it?

I don't think I can quit cold turkey, but here's what I'm trying to do...when I find myself in that overwhelmed/complaining/negativity cycle of thought, I'm going to try to stop and list some things that I'm grateful for...something positive to focus on. And I'm going to ask Michael to help me with this. To his credit, he has tried to help me see and break the cycle in the past, but it's not usually effective. He'll point out that I totally can handle it all or that it's not as bad as I think or that I need to look at one step at a time. But once I'm in that place, I can't really hear any of that and I don't want to. I want sympathy. And I want him to offer to take something off of my plate! A detailed account of all of the things that I'm doing really well wouldn't hurt either. In any case, the last time Michael tried to talk sense into me during one of my complaining and distressed monologues, I told him he didn't understand and walked away with tears in my eyes, frustrated because he had asked what was wrong and then when I told him, he acted like I was overreacting.

Which I probably was. But that's not the point.

So I'm thinking that it might help if he just listened, and then changed the subject by asking me what the best part of my day was. Supposedly this kind of conscious thought-changing is supposed to be very effective. I've been trying it on my own, and when I remember to do it, it works pretty well.

Today, I was frustrated about a situation with a colleague, and worried that the upcoming snowstorm would spoil our travel plans to Florida Friday morning, and overwhelmed with work, and sooo tired from two days of only getting 4-5  hours of sleep.

But I was also grateful for a super hot shower this morning, and the opportunity for a mid-day nap, and the fact that the girls are still really excited about the dorm scavenger hunt and have even gotten one of the less connected students to feel engaged with it. And I'm also grateful that my husband ends every single one of his emails to me with a heart. Like this: <3. Grocery list, bill reminder, a response to me nagging him about matter what it is, there's a heart at the end. It's so reliable that I've sometimes wondered if it's in his signature. But I imagine he's not sending those little hearts out to all of his email recipients. But he takes the time to add it. Every time.

And I'm grateful for that two-second gesture among the more mundane daily communication of our marriage. Beyond that, I'm especially grateful that he sometimes takes the time to write a witty reply to an email. My husband is wicked funny like that. Check out this email exchange from before Christmas:

me: (apropos of nothing) I am totally getting you a viking hat for Christmas
him: I already have a Viking hat. If you're talking about the Minnesota Vikings, then I'd prefer a Patriots one. =)  <3
me: This one is a KNIT hat to keep you warm tho. One you could actually wear out of the house. Hahahaha. Almost as good as the moose hat I found. You clearly need a new hat.
him: Coolness. Got a pic? <3
him:  You must not want me to have any confidence left. <3
me: lol. Doesn’t it say a lot that I think you can pull it off? C’mon, which one do you want? I told kate she’s getting the moose mittens for xmas.
Dear Abby,

My wife thinks my head would look better with a knit moose and/or knit horns attached. Should I be worried?

Worried In Weston
See, that's what I'm talking about right there. Tell me that doesn't make you smile. In fact, I had to share with Kate, who responded in kind:

Dear Worried in Weston,

As long as she is not attempting to knit them herself using hair collected from her gaggle of house cats, you should be okay.

I think I'd like to write a whole book of collected emails in this format. That's how inspired I am by the people in my life.

Next time I'm feeling like complaining, maybe I'll just write a little one of those. 

Followed, of course, by a note of thanks to something I'm grateful for.

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