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Positivity - What I do that I notice other people do not do...
Epiphany #1: I'm not perfect; oh well, move on.
How to write this hub without sounding as though I have an ego the size of Manchester and a ridiculous superiority complex? It can't be done, so I'll just crack on and add a disclaimer at the end.
I've wondered about my own ability to be positive almost all the time for a while now. Is it because my life is cushy? A little bit. Is it because I've achieved some kind of enlightenment that allows me to see beyond my own life? Probably. Is it because I've nothing to feel negative about? I think so. So, how is it that so many people who live a similar sort of lifestyle to me have so much trouble in getting through a day without wishing that that day would just end as quickly as possible? How is it that the little things simply wash over me, whereas for thousands, millions of other people, those same little things build up like a snowdrift at the front door preventing them from getting outside to go and enjoy a decent snowball fight?
Well, I can tell you that I am not so utterly positive by accident: I am a product of my upbringing, my environment, my excellent parents, and my own training. I have not always been so annoyingly cheery. I have had my share of depressing times, my share of loneliness and being lost and unable to find my place in the world. But somewhere along the way I did some thinking, very serious thinking* about what exactly I was feeling angry about. Why was I so depressed because I couldn't get a boyfriend when I was at university? Why was I sitting around the house every weekend, watching the telly and feeling bitter about having no friends? Why had I stopped doing all of the things that I was talented at in favour of becoming very dull indeed? I really have no idea why actually. Probably because I was a bit pathetic.
Outwardly I was not much different from how I am now: smiley, friendly, positive. But inside I was seething, with jealousy usually, envious of other people who seemed to have everything while I had nothing. When I was at university my family was pretty poor - my parents had separated, so now there were two mortgages to pay and two low wages. I rarely had money to join in with what my friends were doing, so would frequently sit in by myself just watching telly, too bitter and jealous to get on with work and earn myself a First Class degree. Idiot! Never once did it occur to me to get myself a part-time job, to earn a bit of cash to be able to do a few fun things. Moron!
Somewhere along the way to 34 I acquired a partner and some children, very many books, a house, a computer, a widescreen flatscreen television, a tumble dryer (gasp, for shame!) and lots of other Stuff. I had it all! And with the children came a tiredness the like of which I had never known before, and with the tiredness came a temper to rival that of Zeus himself (I am currently reading a book of Greek myths to my children, which is very good). I regularly caught myself trying to smite my family with thunderbolts. Sometimes this would lead to all kinds of spiralling emotions: guilt, more anger, resentment, regret. I did not know what to do with all of those feelings. Actually, I did know, but I imagined that I was too busy and too tired to do it. What I actually needed to do was accept responsibility instead of blaming my partner, my children, the world.
A friend once lent me a book about bringing children up in the Christian way (I do not think there was much that was Christian about the book, I'm not sure why it was given that label: possibly only because its author was a Christian). I read it out of politeness; actually, I read a little of it and then put it aside in disgust! As I said, there was nothing Christian about it, but there was a lot that was stupid! Almost the first sentence I read absolved parents of any blame when it came to their child's bad behaviour. I'll paraphrase: if you are the parent of a difficult child, you are not to blame; if you are the parent of a well-behaved child, you are just lucky, don't brag about it.
Excuse me while I just vehemently disagree! Sometimes, when my children behave badly it is my fault, for allowing them to indulge in behaviour that I know to be unacceptable. When they are cheeky, when they argue, answer me back and so on it is often my fault for setting a bad example, for shouting at them too much, for not teaching them how to resolve issues in a calmer way. I think it's a dangerous thing to tell parents that they are not to blame, ever, for their child's bad behaviour; that way lies false diagnoses for ADHD, Aspergers Syndrome and so on.** A new one I heard, just today, is Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which I can only take to mean this lack of respect for anyone, and particularly for authority, that many young people display today (I do actually love young people, many of them are simply lovely!). I cannot fathom why we, society I suppose, are so reluctant to lay the blame at the feet of bad parents. Bad parents exist, we should acknowledge that, so that those people can, if they choose, become better parents. I myself have been an appallingly bad parent at times - I am thinking of the two occasions when I have smacked my eldest son too hard. Disgusting behaviour, and I have no excuse for it whatsoever. But hiding from my blacker side, and pretending that it'll all be alright if I just ignore my faults is not the right thing to do; it's only by acknowledging my failings that I can learn from them. Blaming my child for being naughty and forcing me to smack him is just lying to myself, because no child deserves to be hit.
But how can I now be blissfully happy and constantly positive, when I have done such a thing? Well, because I have had Epiphany #1. I have realised that I am not perfect. And because I have realised it, I am now responsible for it, and now in control. In a word, I am 'mindful' of my imperfections, and now I can take steps to guard against them. It doesn't always work, but let me carry on. Now, people have this epiphany every day, so what makes me different from them? Well, the only difference that I can see, and why this and the other epiphanies have worked for me, is because I remind myself of them every day. Several times a day, in fact, and I don't just apply them to my parenting mistakes, I apply them to everything. And it did not take much practice to learn to remember them, to believe them, to forgive myself, and move on, leaving the bad stuff behind, in the past, which is the only place for it.
This is it in a nutshell: I'm not perfect; oh well, move on. And what's important about allowing myself to be happy, even when I've done something incredibly stupid (it happens often) is that I move on immediately. I never allow myself to write off a whole day just because something has gone wrong in the morning: that would be a waste of a day in which something good could be achieved in the afternoon or the evening. Starting again tomorrow is no longer good enough for me - starting again right now is the key to my happiness.
An example is to do with the way my bad temper works, the way I have forced it to work. I can blow up at the slightest thing sometimes, and if I argued with my partner I might burn away a whole evening in resentment and anger. But for a few years I have been moving on. The argument may not have been resolved, and we may come back to it another day, but for now, when I've had my shout, I allow myself to smile, relax and enjoy the next bit of the day. It's alright to shout - and I need to shout, otherwise I'll spontaneously combust because I'm a quarter Italian - but I move on afterwards, always. Like Rafiki says, in The Lion King, after he whacks Simba over the head with his staff, 'it doesn't matter, it's in the past...'
*That's patronising, I know, I'm not the only person who can think. But thinking is what I have done, so there isn't another way to put it.
** Note that I say false diagnoses, and make no judgement on anyone who actually does have any of these disorders/syndromes/special needs.
Disclaimer: I do not believe myself to be superior to anyone else, because we are all just people, born into different circumstances, responsible for our own choices. Some of us are luckier than others, and we should all learn not to judge without at first attempting to understand a little bit. No-one is wholly what they seem on the surface to be, and everyone is probably worth getting to know at least a little bit (except for paedophiles, serial killers, evil dictators, rapists and domestic abusers!) At least if you get to know someone first, and it turns out that you don't like them, then you can ditch them, happy in the smug knowledge that you gave them a chance.