I like to think of myself as a cynic in recovery.
I used to be really miserable.
I was down on the world and sure that everyone was out to get me. I had pessimism, negativity, and blame for everyone and everything on the planet, except myself. I did a whole lot of “Woe is me” every day. When I could not get myself ahead, it was never my fault. It was always a bad moon. Bad karma. A bad job. A bad boyfriend.
Mind you, this is not entirely self-caused. I have battled depression, postpartum depression, and anxiety in some form for as long as I can remember. It’s given my hill to climb a few more rocks and bears to be concerned with, as I work to push myself up and over.
However, it took me a long time to realize that I needed to take some responsibility for how I feel—and when I did, I discovered something: how we feel and the energy we put out affects everything.
What I have learned is that if you put negative energy out, you are sure to get negative energy back. But, if you put positive energy out, you will get positive energy back! This has been a truly amazing concept for me and has helped me to change my life. What’s better is that anyone can do this. It’s simply a matter of taking back your mind.
I say “simply” in that statement, but I think we all know how hard it is to rope in our wandering minds, sometimes. Maybe you suffer like I do from mental illness. Or maybe you’ve just had a really rough go of things and have found yourself without focus. Maybe you have lost your ability to trust yourself and the world around you as you continue to be battered by life, like a ship in a stormy sea. But you can do it. And I can tell you how I did it.
The first thing I had to learn was how to see my place in the world. It’s full of people and places and colors and weather and all these things that can severely impact your day. The first thing I had to realize was that I am a tiny part of this earth. I am a mere speck. I am here swirling around, bumping into other little specks on this big blue ball in this infinite universe.
I am one of many billions of life forms that make up this planet so really, whether or not I spilled that coffee on myself this morning isn’t going to have much of an impact on anything but my pants. And I can wash those when I get home.
I also had to realize that I am one of many people on this earth. This means two things. The first is that I can either blend in and be like everyone else, or I can stand out and be noticed. As a child, I always marched to the beat of my own drum and found liberation and freedom in that state of mind. As an adult, I have really tried to recapture that aspect of being. I hula hoop with my kids in the store before we buy one to take home. I dance in the car when I am sitting in traffic. I laugh loudly, not unlike a hyena at times!
The second thing is that being one of many people on one planet means we have to learn to live together. Reading the news today, it’s easy to see that other humans have no desire to do this. It feels dark to see the things they think and say. I, however, find kindness to be the light that guides the way. Let someone pull out in front of you in traffic. Smile and be friendly to the store clerks you see when you go out. Saying please and thank you with a smile go a long way in today’s world, and they are appreciated.
The best thing is that kindness is contagious! The person behind you might be inspired to act the same if you are full of smiles when you get to the register. And it feels so good.
I stopped littering. Simple, right? Such a small thing, but such a huge impact. Can you imagine if everyone did? Well, I can’t make everyone do it, so instead, I started picking up other people’s litter. How can we all call this wonderful planet home and then not take care of it? I know we all think that we are small and insignificant and nothing we do really matters, but I think that’s lazy. I think the best we can do is anything we can do.
Some of us lack the time to really get out there and fight for our planet, and that’s okay. We all have lives to live, bills to pay, things to get done, but we can all clean up after ourselves. It takes more effort to throw garbage than to drop it in a waste basket as we pass one. I hate seeing garbage on the road. I would rather throw it on the floor of my car and drive around with it than see it in the grass or on the street. And I quite often do! (Don’t judge me if I drive you somewhere! I am just on my way to a trash can!)
The biggest thing that I have done to change myself is to drop the tendency to think negatively and adopt the determination to think positively. Now, this has taken time. I had to recognize the simple truth that anger is an easy emotion and one we fall back on too often. Then there is fear. It’s easy to be swallowed up by fear, and combined with anger, it’s a powder keg just waiting for ignition.
It’s much harder to forgive. It is much harder to try and understand why someone else is acting the way they are instead of just lashing out at them. It’s a challenge to find someone’s motivation and understand it, and even further, to try and help them get through.
When I look at the world and the state of it, I am nervous, but I know things can be okay. I know there are good people. I know there are good actions. Sometimes I find myself in a debate with someone who holds a real doomsday view of the world. They tell me I am blind if I don’t see how bad things are getting. I have to explain no, I am just not scared and angry.
I stopped wanting to feel mired down by anger. By sadness. By negative emotions.
I made the choice one day to change that, and while I know I am far from being perfect and far from my goals, I do know I am headed in the right direction.
Positive in, positive out!
Author: Amanda Hornick
Editor: Catherine Monkman