There is a board in my office that is labeled “Count Your Blessings.” Pieces of twine criss-cross the board and tiny clothespins holding pictures are clipped to the twine. I see it almost every day, but rarely do I ever actually look at it.
There’s my favorite picture from my wedding day and images of me with my family. There’s a shot of a gathering of about 30 friends in our back yard and another of Annie sitting on her daddy and squishing him. (Oh, how she’s grown since then!) And there are more clips and spaces just waiting for me to add on new blessings.
But sometimes it’s hard for me to recognize my blessings, much less count them. Because, you see, inside I usually feel anything but blessed. Most days my self-talk is negative at best and downright cruel at worst. On a daily basis I find myself making comparisons to others and, inevitably, judging them just to feel better about who I am. As a perfectionist, I mentally nitpick everything that is not perfect in my world, especially me, and it wears down the optimist who just wants to dance around like a Disney princess, singing songs and attracting small forest creatures.
I mean, who among us hasn’t wished to be so sweet that birds would do our chores?
If you’re reading this and you know me personally, you’d probably try to argue the opposite. You’d remind me of all the times I encouraged you or pointed out the bright side of things. You’d bring up that time I was placed on a wanted poster for “Ridiculous Positivity,” or the daily posts I used to make on Facebook about Small Things that Make Life Beautiful. And you’d be right in all of those things, but the reason I do them is to save others from living with the constant barrage of inner negativity that plagues me (and, I’m betting, a bunch of you as well).
Sometimes I’d like to blame my lack of positivity (and thus, helpful woodland critters) on other people. There are the bullies who tormented me as a child and teenager, they’d be easy enough to fault. There are stressful environments and relationships with negative people who could easily shoulder their fair share of the blame. But the truth is, none of these people are responsible for my thoughts. I am.
There are days when I can turn from Ariel into Ursula faster than Cinderella loses her shoe. It always starts with a thought. Just one thought that quickly snowballs into two, then three, then thirty and usually I don’t even know what causes it.
For example, I recently had a really good day. Up until dinner time I’d been upbeat, happy, and even a bit frisky. I spent most of the day smiling and finding ways to make other people smile, and it was good. It was very good. But then something happened – that elusive something that left me feeling tired and grumpy. I didn’t want to make dinner. I didn’t want to go to the gym. I just wanted to curl up under a cozy blanket and sleep for a while.
For all of us familiar with adulting, we don’t always get what we want. So I begrudgingly made dinner. And I grumpily cleaned up after dinner. And I was frustrated with Hubby for making me do these things, even though he hadn’t done a single thing wrong. So once I’d finished doing most of the dinner dishes, I snapped at him that I was going upstairs and he could stay downstairs. Bewildered, he told me that was fine if that was what would make me happy. He just wanted me to be happy.
I stopped in my tracks, recognizing that moment for what it was. It was a moment to make a choice. I could choose to pack up my things, walk upstairs and sulk for the rest of the night about how horrible things were… or I could choose to push aside these unwarranted negative thoughts, lean into my husband, and find a way to turn a bad attitude into a good evening.
One option would allow me to wallow in my own sense of self pity and possibly cry throughout the night while the other would see me laughing and enjoying time with a husband who didn’t think I’d lost my mind.
It was mine to choose. And in that moment, I chose to be happy.
Life is in our choices. Our happiness is, in great part, affected by what we choose. The saying may be “It’s a good day for a good day,” but to me that suggests that a good day happens to us. I prefer, “It’s a good day to choose to have a good day,” because, chances are, a good day isn’t going to just happen to you. A day is going to be good or bad based on a lot of little choices you make.
Do I choose to get frustrated when little annoyances come my way, or do I choose to overlook the annoyances and not let them bring me down? Do I choose to judge the person ahead of me in line at the grocery store, or do I look at them with the grace I want people to show me and find compassion for someone who may make me uncomfortable or irritated?
Every day I have to ask myself if I am choosing misery or joy for my life. I have to choose between the negative and the positive. I may have little power over some of life’s circumstances, but I have the power to choose how I react to those circumstances. And so do you.
In a few days I’m going to share some ideas I’ve found helpful in my journey to embrace the positive. Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments below. And together, we can come to the place where we can say, “It’s a good day,” because we chose to make it one.