We all face the challenge of being around negativity. Some of us face this in our work place, some in our own homes. Although we strive to remain unaffected, the discomfort we experience can seem overpowering. While we might imagine we cannot do much other than remove ourselves from the person or situation, there are other options.
As a young girl, I thought if everyone in the house was in a bad mood, I had to be too. My family expected as much. I didn’t realize another choice existed. I now know better. Not allowing the disposition of others, their actions and/or moods to penetrate my personal space became well worth my effort.
In recovery I learned a valuable lesson. I realized nothing can affect my mindset but me. I can decide how to respond instead of reacting. I can be observant and neutral, even in the face of challenges. I am not a victim of other people’s actions or moods.
At the end of the day, everything occurs between my ears. My experiences prove this time and time again. From the ‘murphy’s law’ kind of day when everything goes from bad to worse, to the feel-good-down-to-my-bones mindset which refuses to be pulled down by any external negativity, I have had them both.
I once worked at an alternative/ discipline school. For the most part I did not want to entertain the option of quitting. Plenty of opportunities to stay centered and remain positive came my way. I found if I allowed myself some quiet time in the morning, I handled the stress and navigated through the day with a greater measure of dignity and grace.
Of course, we all ‘lose it’ on occasion, but my morning ritual proved to be well worth my time. Some people refer to this as being ‘prayed up’. Some call this their meditation time, or putting up a protective shield. Some call this ‘God consciousness’ or practicing ‘Presence’. Whatever you call it, it works.
In addition to my morning ritual, I created some helpful go-to statements to use during the day.Words like, “I am only responsible for me. I am not in charge of others. I can’t make anyone behave the way I want. I am free to choose how I act. I can decide what to think.I create the kind of life I want. I take the high road.” All helpful reminders to direct my thinking.
Last, but not least, I learned over time most of what irritated or irked me could be cast aside in favor of some more grounded feelings. Peacefulness, equanimity, composure which looked attractive in others were well in line with ‘The Promises’ so often mentioned in meetings. Possible for me as well, and probable if I put in the work required. My goal is to create the best relations with those within the sphere of my life.
This reminds me of an interview Nelson Mandela gave in which he was asked why he was kind to his jailers. His response: “They can’t take my kindness away from me.” I find his answer impressive. Here is a man who mastered his Self with a capital S.
I am also reminded of a story about a woman. Every morning she greeted her bus driver with a cheery ’good morning’. He never responded. One day a fellow commuter asked her why she continued when he never answered. Her reply sounded similar to Nelson Mandela. She said ‘good morning’ because doing so made her feel gracious and pleasant. Whether the bus driver answered or not did not matter to her. She claimed she felt better about herself and more in line with her values.These are examples I consider admirable.
Meaningful life lessons come in many guises. I may call them positive or negative, but I learn something from everyone. Be it something about them or something about myself, “Earth School” is fulfilling. And I have learned to relax and say, “Bring it on”.
My growth can only occur when I become willing to be ‘in relationship’. Yes, if I lived on an island by myself, I would not encounter any struggles with others, but I would not enjoy connection or comfort with those who enrich my life either. I would know nothing of love. This makes the challenge more than worth it.