I've been working, over the last few months, on being more positive.
Although this bout of domestic illness is testing me, I have found that trying to be more positive is really a good thing. My life really does contain many good things, and many good people. It is helpful to concentrate on these, and leave off thinking too long about the negative. This new phase came about because of a new colleague of mine. Actually, she's not terribly new anymore, since this is actually her third year (as part of her tenure committee, we've just recommended her for tenure, which is a three year process at my college). But she is consistently upbeat and positive. She highlights the good in her life, rather than the bad --in everything from personal conversations to facebook posts.
By this change, I'm not implying that the hard or bad things in life shouldn't be thought about and discussed --there are things that we need to deal with, and sometimes it's very helpful to talk these difficult things over with a friend, or just write about them in a journal or blog. But it seems easy to allow those negative things in our life to dominate, when they really don't need to. After awhile you begin to view every new event with a cynical eye --how is this bad for me? To assume that every decision that is made above you is intended to annoy you, whether it's made by a boss, colleague, or the government.
The outside world has had a few bad years --more than a few, really. Between eight years of Bush, and six years of Chip, both the country's government and my college's government took a really bad slide into the ugly. These things started to frame the way I see my world, and they shouldn't be dominating the picture.
I think, for me, it takes a conscious decision to push the negative to the background and allow the positive to dominate my thoughts. I want to look at my colleagues and supervisor in a positive light --I want to start with the assumption that their decisions are actually intended to make things better, even if their decision is flawed. Just changing how I view their intent changes how I view them --giving them the benefit of the doubt, as people who are trying to do their job well. Approaching people in this way makes both of us feel better.
I have found that this approach has spilled over into my life at home, as well. I'm not sure exactly how this works, but I find that I'm much more willing to engage with Emma in an activity because I feel a bit more energy at the end of a day; that I try to put myself in Rob's head when I get a message from him that hits me in the wrong way, because I know that his intentions are always good, even if he's frustrated with something I've done.
Normally, just the thought of getting whatever flu and cold he and Emma have would make me depressed. The thought of being sick in the future ruins my present. So I've been doing some self-talk --to talk myself into being more positive about the future, which after all could still go either way, and to try to enjoy the things happening in the present. When I write it down it seems so silly --how can a cold or flu play such a large part in your life? And yet, it can. But it's a choice. I want to choose the positive outlook.