Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Positivity and Negativity

This past week, a former coworker and current friend gave me the 5 Days of Positivity Challenge. In this, I had to post 3 positive things every day for 5 days. I don't have a hard time posting happy stuff, but to be dedicated to it took some effort. I kept note on the phone whenever something particularly good happened, or made me smile. I flipped back through others' Facebook posts to see what I may have missed, or what these posts triggered. It was not always easy, with the tragic death of Robin Williams, the turmoil in Ferguson MO, and staring my ended relationship in the face. Still, I persevered.

I am SO GLAD that I did! When I wrote my last post today, I really could feel how much better I see the world now. Especially now with so much trouble at every turn. It makes my day a little brighter to think of the things that are good in my little corner of the world. I've long thought that positive thinking has power, and this exercise has helped me recognize it yet again. While I am an upbeat person, I'm not always looking on the bright side of things, or for the simple joys all around me.

In the last few months I have made a whole bunch of new friends, most of whom are also very positive and upbeat. These guys have helped me look harder at the good and to hell with the rest of it. I'm sounding a lot like a self help book right now, so I'll leave that part of it there.

In this time, though, I've also seen just how negative a LOT of people I know are. We all have hardship, I get that. We all have insecurities, I get that too. But sometimes it just seems like people go out of their way to gripe about things that otherwise wouldn't affect them. These people have a hard time empathizing with others' good fortunes because it didn't involve them.

Many of my friends are in career transitions, and some got exactly what they were looking for and others didn't. Those who didn't have griped very publicly the whole time. Some, to the point that those who did get what they want feel like they can't say anything because it'll be a lightning rod for the negativity to these people. It's really a shame that the negativity taints everything around it so much.

I've also seen people being super bitchy about: various events, gay subcultures, different brands of technology, and TV shows that they hate. Not a single one of these topics are a mandatory part of life. Don't like Market Days? Don't go! Some people do have fun there, and it's not affecting you at all if you stay away. Think the bear culture is ridiculous? Then steer clear of the bear websites and bars. Hate Apple products? Fine, enjoy your Samsung stuff! Hate reality TV? Then don't watch it just so you can bitch about it.

I really don't understand how people can devote so much of their time and energy to things they hate. I don't have the time for all the things I enjoy! It seems so silly and such a waste to devote so much mindspace to things that piss you off. Maybe it makes these individuals feel superior to dump on things others love? I'm not sure. There are certainly things out there that I dislike, but if someone tells me how much they love them, I usually just accept that it's not for me, and move on.

People also cannot fathom why someone doesn't like things they themselves love. For example, an acquaintance of mine didn't like Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, I LOVED this movie, but I can accept that it's not for everybody. When he announced it on Facebook, people piled on trying to convince him that he didn't get it, didn't see it with the right audience, or in the right theater. I fell for some of it too, extolling what I loved so much, before remembering that it's perfectly fine if he didn't like it.  Doesn't detract from my love of it at all.

I guess where all this rambling is going is to say that we should all try a little bit to look for the good things that are all around us. Allow yourself to enjoy things without shame, and don't shame others for liking or disliking things differently than you do. Being happy is often a choice, and I suggest we all do our damnedest to choose wisely.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On Remembering My Father

For my father's funeral service this Friday, my sisters and I all wrote about our memories and relationship with Dad. Here's my piece, and though it doesn't fully capture how much he meant to me, it's a pretty good glimpse into our relationship.

I have so many thoughts and memories of my dad that it feels impossible to pick just a few.
The main thing my father was to me was supportive. Throughout my life I have been able to go to him for advice, listen, and then make my own decisions.  His advice has generally been true, and even if I didn’t follow it, he supported me and made sure I knew that he was on my side no matter what.  I know it must be difficult for a parent to let their kids make mistakes, and deal with the consequences of those mistakes, but dad did that for me countless times, and never judged me for it.

Even when growing up, he supported me in following my passions. Most fathers dream of their sons becoming athletes – stars of football, baseball, basketball. Athletic prowess has never been my strong suit, but I have always been passionate about artistic pursuits: music, theatre, and writing. He came to see me in the marching band several times a year in high school and college, saw every play I performed in, and read my short stories as quickly as I could give them to him. He always supported me and let me know how proud he was of me, not because I was the best, but because I loved doing it. And because I loved it, he loved it too.

His love of music is something that all of his children carry to this day. As a kid, I hated being forced to listen to his favorite: Willie Nelson.  Then, sometime in my early 20’s I heard “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” playing at a record store and was singing along before I even noticed.  As time passed I realized that my dad had pretty great taste in music. He fostered me to develop my own tastes as well. I don’t think any of my friends have parents who not only listened to, but enjoyed Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the rest of the music that was so important to me as I grew up.

Finally, he was a very giving man. Even in times when he didn’t have much to give by way of money or gifts, he always made sure to give me as much time as he could. My earliest childhood memories of my dad are fishing with him at the lakes at NorthRiver Yacht Club in Tuscaloosa, on a quiet Sunday morning, just me and him. We never caught much, mainly because I wanted to talk about everything going on in my world, and scared away the fish. Good thing, then, that catching fish was not the point of these days together. The time spent was.

I can think of no better tribute to my dad than the final words of the song that will always represent what he has meant to my life.

Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind