In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to give myself a week off from writing. So, you ask, what am I doing here? I thought it might be good to share one of my most well received columns – one that reminds all of us that, attitude is everything. Experienced mother’s might already be well versed in this; spilled milk is, after all, just spilled milk. But to those of you who are new to this whole motherhood thing, take heart and please, whenever possible, take the lighter approach.
From November 13, 2007:
Recently, I’ve heard from a few nay sayers. Someone wrote: “Why in the world would you call your column “The Second Half”? Isn’t that just a bit optimistic?” Another reader chided my enthusiasm for mid-life, telling me “I have worked my finger to the bone for the last 35 years and all I have to show for it is ungrateful kids and demanding parents. Where’s the joy in that?” Still another offered, “It must be easy for you to be so happy since your life has gone so well. What about the rest of us?”
I wasn’t surprised by these reactions. (Chalk one up to the value of age!) No, my optimism has always irritated a few people, typically those who view the world through a negative filter. What drives their negativity? It’s often fear and/or sadness. Somewhere along the way, these individuals were hurt, perhaps repeatedly. To survive in the world, they developed a protective coating, a thick layer of negativity. Their logic seems to be: “why be happy when something will inevitably come along and knock you down?” On that one point, they are absolutely correct. Something always does come along to knock us off our feet. But without a healthy attitude and a full set of coping skills, it doesn’t take long to develop a negative attitude than can permeate every part of life.
The reality is, we all have choices that will improve our lives. Stuck in a bad marriage? You have choices. Feel your children are ungrateful? More choices. Are these choices easy? No. Are they risky? Perhaps. And that’s where people stall. It is often easier – safer – to simply keep plodding along rather than risk change.
Now, don’t get me wrong. When your heart is breaking because someone you love has died, you will feel a great sadness and loss. Or, when you are passed up for that coveted promotion, you may understandably feel anger. These are natural, healthy reactions to life . Only by experiencing and hopefully, expressing these emotions, will you ever get to the other side of them.
What concerns me is the impact a generalized negative attitude has on the mind, body, and spirit. You can learn to be more positive. Consider these ideas:
1) Listen to how you speak to yourself, your “internal dialog” and turn the negatives into positives. For example, you might hear yourself say “I’ll never get this finished in time.” Rephrase that to “I’ll probably get most of it finished by the end of the day.” I know, it sounds too simple to be of value. But with practice, and that’s the hardest part, this shift in thinking will make your outlook a whole lot brighter, especially once you really tune in and recognize how many times during the day you are thinking something negative.
2) Learn how to communicate. Thoughts and feelings, unspoken or conversely, delivered in a barrage of negativity, only lead to continued frustration, hurt, anger, and isolation. There are plenty of books, workshops, and counselors who can help you with these vital skills.
3) Engage in the simple pleasures of life – walk the dog, take a long hot bath, putter in your garden. There’s no mystery here. These are the things that nourish us.
4) Seek out and associate with positive people. An optimistic attitude is contagious … just as a negative attitude is toxic.
5) Help someone out. Volunteer for your favorite charity. Tutor a child. Drive your neighbor to her doctor’s appointment. It will make both of you feel better.
And if you are unable to try even one of these simple suggestions, please go see your physician or a counselor to discuss how you are feeling. You may benefit from other approaches.
Finally, regarding that last comment, the one that implies my life has been without difficulties? Not so. Show me someone who has reached middle age and I’ll show you someone who has had his/her share of challenges, disappointment, and loss. It’s the law of nature – each and every one of us has faced the dark side at some time or another! It’s how we navigate through these times that matters. And nothing will help you more during difficult times than a positive attitude. It’s not too late!
Yikes, there it is again but I suppose you’ve figured it out by now. Of course I’d end on a positive note!