I hate people that are happy all the time. It’s the curmudgeon in me. I also don’t like sad sacks who mope all the time and never have anything good happen to them, but people who smile that wide, toothy grin and seem to just radiate constant euphoria cause me to be suspicious. Extreme excitement also makes me uncomfortable. I remember going to an intern conference at Disney World with a large accounting firm about a decade ago. After landing in Orlando, they stuffed all of the interns onto buses and transported us to a Disney resort where, upon our arrival, several adult accountants in brightly colored shirts and mouse ears greeted us by jumping up and down cheering like lunatics. It was frightening. Why was everyone shouting and clapping? They seemed to be on some illegal substance. Let’s all calm down because this is scaring me and somehow this level of excitement makes me feel like I’m being lured into a cult where we are all going to gather to drink special Kool-Aid and take our spiritual trip to auditor heaven.
I’ve quit being involved with the PTA before because the other moms were way too smiley and had that phony high-pitched happy voice. Ma’am, you are way too pumped about this bake sale. Is this the most exciting thing to happen to you all month?! I high tailed it out of there and never returned. Happy people always sound like they’re talking to a kindergarten child.
I’ve been perfectly fine with my particular levels of cynicism and sarcasm throughout my life however, when I began to notice the same characteristics emerging in my child, I got concerned. At eight-years-old, she is much too young to be such a Negative Nancy. Life hasn’t slapped her around nearly enough yet. Her life is actually pretty friggin’ good. Seeing her come home from school day after day, and highlighting every negative moment of her existence bothered me. Was she not making friends? Is someone mistreating her? Is her status as a minority in an environment where she is usually the only person of her color in any given class or group screwing with her psyche and self-esteem? I went through several possibilities of why my child tended to dwell on the negative and was growing a perpetual dark cloud of her very own before I realized something profound.
She is my mirror.
Like it or not, our children pick up the behaviors that we exhibit on a daily basis and the less desirable qualities appear to be amplified. There is no doubt that my child has my personality, and now it’s like looking into one of those old mirrors where the ugly darkened marks have begun ghosting up on the surface.
Determined to break this cycle, I decided I would show her something different. I would be deliberately happy. I will show gratitude for the life that I have through my attitude. It shouldn’t be hard because like her, I have it pretty friggin’ good. Some people have REAL problems. I am honestly not one of those people, even when times get rough. Let’s be honest, I usually know the solutions to many of my own problems, but I just don’t wanna do them. Sydney and I made a deal to be intentionally happy, every day, together.
Through this process of de-negatifying my life (yeah, I made up a word), there have been times I wanted to even slap myself. That first week was rough. I was a phony. Every time a negative thought slipped into my brain, I countered it with something positive about myself and my life, usually speaking the positivity out loud to make it sink in more. Thank God I work from home with only the dog to witness me randomly blurting out I have never had to struggle to feed my family and My children are healthy. It was like having some weird Pollyanna turrets syndrome. Sometimes I really had to stretch and didn’t truly believe the words coming out of my own mouth. This mess in this house doesn’t make me hate you all because I love my beautiful filthy family. Clearly, my husband wanted to test my resolve when I told him about my new purposeful happy demeanor.
“I am creating a new outlook and will be intentionally happy and positive!”
“I’m starving. Why isn’t dinner ready?”
“I’m POSITIVE I will punch you in the throat if you ask me that again.”
Somehow in week two of this nonsense, something started to take hold. I started to catch myself feeling happy and optimistic for absolutely NO REASON. It was shocking. It felt good. Were all of those happy people onto something beautiful all this time? Was that true bliss behind those Colgate smiles? This defies all that I held to be true. Perhaps a constantly pleasant disposition is not the mark of a serial killer, as I have always believed.
Three weeks into this initiative, not only was I feeling like a million bucks, but I saw a direct impact on Sydney and her attitude. Of course there are moments of frustrations and negativity when I hear about the horrible things that happen in this world such as more black men being killed by over-zealous law enforcement, and I could not get Sydney to see the silver lining of the day she got stuck in the bathroom for the entirety of her gymnastics lesson due to a faulty door handle, but I am feeling and seeing the benefits of exercising positive thinking in my own day-to-day life. We laugh more. We smile more. We obsess over the small inconveniences less. Its less often that I feel the stomach-twisting anxiety of imagining everything that can go wrong.
I will have many more challenges in life and so will she. Positive thinking may not be a silver bullet for all of the things we will encounter, but I have a new tool to deal with the negative spiral that sometimes overshadows all of the beautiful things that I am blessed with. There are already less splotches of doom on the mirror. I doubt I will ever be one of those people that can see the sunrise in a fart cloud, but I’ve certainly learned how to battle it with a little bit of happy.