Coworker: Did you ride into work on Friday?
Me: Yeah! On a tandem!
Coworker: That’s right! How was it?
Me: So much fun!
Coworker: How’d you like staring at someone’s back the whole time? Didn’t that suck?
Me: No, I was finally able to look around. Plus I got to wave at everyone as we rode by them.
Coworker: Yeah, but how close were you his back?
Me: Here I have a pic.
Coworker: Wow, your seat looks really low. Wasn’t that really uncomfortable?
Me: I WAS ON A F–KING TANDEM! IT WAS AWESOME! FIND THE JOY IN LIFE!!!!!
– Tania Pierce
This is exactly what I notice now. All. The. Time.
A year ago, I probably sounded like the most negative person on earth every single day. I am NOT that anymore, but it’s a struggle. Habits are hard to break, or they wouldn’t be habits, right?
Nick will sometimes tell me that I am talking about something that I am genuinely excited about or interested in, and yet, I still sound negative. I know. I catch myself more often but not all the time.
I walked into school last week and stumbled across two separate groups of teachers who seemed to be having a contest involving who could complain the most. I knew that wasn’t their intent, but it hurt my ears.
I notice it with my children because I am around them so often. Some days, I feel like there isn’t a single positive sentence that comes out of their mouths. Even after the best experience, they will automatically find something to complain about.
We went for frozen yogurt today, and they finally had a flavor I liked! Key lime pie. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, I’d just finished coaching soccer, the kids had picked out 4 or 5 different frozen yogurt flavors with multiple toppings, and we were sitting in front of a huge window. I was finished, Hannah was finished, and we were simply talking. Hannah blurted out, “Hurry up, Ari! I want to GO!”
I took a deep breath.
“Where do you need to go right now?”
“Home,” she said. “To relax.”
“Listen,” I said in my voice that means I am about to start lecturing. “It’s a beautiful day. We’re eating frozen yogurt and talking. You are only allowed to say positive things, and you may not use that voice.”
“It’s my normal voice,” she replied.
And, the sad thing is, I GET IT. I couldn’t hear myself when I sounded like that all of the time. It was my NORMAL voice. It took me months and months to recognize that my kids sound like that most of the time. How can I expect a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old to hear it?
So, in the car, we practiced. I said, “You can only say positive things. If you can’t think of anything positive to say, then don’t talk. At a minimum, you can say, ‘I’m alive’ because that is positive.” They said some positive things.
Life was good.
We got home and it all went to hell, but hey…
This week, I will say positive things, or I won’t say anything at all. You see, it really does take practice. Too many of us are in the habit of only saying negative things. We like to complain. We want our feelings validated.
Well, screw that! I’m validating happiness.