Life

Keeping Negativity Out of Our Lives

One of the topics I had written down to write about was:

“Put in mind comes out heart – watch negativity on blogs.”

I have learned, over the years that I’m easily influenced. I’m NOT happy about this realization. Here I thought I was strong and had perfect control over my mind and my thoughts – apparently, this is not the case.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about:

In September of 1995, I went crazy. Not in a ‘I need a strait jacket’ sort of crazy, but just stir crazy in general. GD was a little over two and going through that terrible two stage. MK was six months old and his screams literally vibrated my nerve endings so badly that I had to close myself off in the garage on more than one occasion just to screw my head back on straight, catch my breath and prepare for the next battle.

I was a stay-at-home mom and wasn’t too terribly happy about, if we’re being honest here. (And I’m [mostly] honest here). There are some women who bloom and glow in the early stages of motherhood – I was not one of them. In fact, it’s safe to say I dissolved into a black and white carbon ghost of my previous self and just sort of … existed.

I loved my children; I couldn’t cope with their neediness. I’ve always been IMPOSSIBLY independent and when the boys were babies, well, I felt suffocated. I had suddenly lost the KAREN part of me and had somehow morphed into someone’s wife and mother overnight.

I no longer recognized myself.

I didn’t sink into a depression or anything but rather channeled all of that negative energy toward my husband. I was snarky, I was difficult to get along with and I was impossible to please. He was in the throes of beginning his accounting career and he was under tremendous stress – I was NOT helping matters and to say things began to fall apart at home would be severely understating it.

To save my sanity, and my marriage, I got a job. I had threatened to get a job on numerous occasions and the husband’s negative reaction to this proposal propelled me to do it anyway. In hindsight, it was a selfish thing to do, and it also added another level of stress to the husband’s already elevated stress level, which only added more stress on an already thin marital relationship.

But I had to do something – I no longer trusted myself with my children. My patience, which has never been anything to brag about, was already stretched so thin that it was fraying dangerously close to snapping altogether.

So, I applied at Wal-Mart, unbeknownst to the husband, and got the job. The thought of leaving my babies with a stranger made me physically ill. I knew I could never handle it, so I worked nights – that way, I watched the boys during the day and the husband picked up the parental duty at night.

Considering I had banking experience, Wal-Mart placed me in the cash office – the money was channeled and processed through us and we bundled it up and made deposits.

I loved my job. I have always loved working with money and I was quite good at it. I felt an instantaneous flood of personal accomplishment and gratitude – it felt SO GOOD to use my brain once again!

BUT … the ladies I worked with were a different matter. Actually, there was one lady in particular who was gruff, sarcastic, cynical and a downright witch to be around, if you want the truth. She FED on weakness and then had no qualms using it against you to either humiliate you or belittle you. She was a master of mental manipulation and in order to survive being around her, I turned into this … monster. I was truly terrible to be around. I routinely hurt people and though it bothered me on a fundamental level, I shoved those regrets to the back of my consciousness. In addition, I was surrounded by women who were VERY UNHAPPY with their marriages. They never had a good thing to say about their husbands, or men in general.

I’m embarrassed to tell you this, but this attitude bled into my already shaky marriage. For some reason, I got it into my head that my husband was now responsible for my happiness. And everything that went wrong with my life? Was my husband’s fault.

Honestly, I don’t know how that man put up with me for the SEVEN years I worked at Wal-Mart. I was such a bitch.

And the thing is? I had no reason to be – none. Any perceived unhappiness on my part was MY fault. I had no one to blame but myself. My husband was not perfect, but he wasn’t nearly the creep I made him out to be to my “friends.”

But I didn’t see it like that back then because I was getting all of this negative reinforcement from the people around me. Their negative attitudes had rubbed off on me.

Things came to an ugly, UGLY standoff in my marriage in 1998. We nearly parted ways. But we persevered because we sat down and was honest with one another. We aired our grievances, we came to an understanding and we worked through our problems. I think it was at that point in my life that I really, truly grew up and took a good hard look at myself.

I wasn’t impressed with what I saw.

From that point on, I became two people – I assumed one persona at work (to simply survive working with one, lone woman) and another person when I clocked off and came home. I maintained this dual personality until 2002 when I simply had had enough. I was sick of the drama. I was tired of putting up with stupid, needy, negative people. Life was simply too short to have to deal with all of the crap that was surrounding me – so I quit Wal-Mart.

I noticed a difference in my attitude IMMEDIATELY. I felt … free. The kids were older, they didn’t need me as much and I felt my old silly self returning – I had missed her. My marriage was getting stronger, and better, every day. I was happy and content. I concentrated on finishing college (another thing I took upon myself during this time period in an effort to “find” myself once again) and life leveled off.

Today, I look back on that time period and realize that it’s incredibly easy to get sucked into “an attitude.” Negativity is like a magnet, it’s so easy to be attracted to grief and misery. It’s much, much, MUCH harder to maintain a positive attitude.

But it’s also much, much, MUCH healthier to maintain a positive attitude.

Being aware of this experience and how easily I’m influenced from others has been at the forefront of my conscious mind ever since. When I met a girl in college and we really hit it off I was ecstatic! I had a friend, someone I could truly be myself around but who was a good influence on me … UNTIL she and her husband started experimenting with extra-marital, uh, situations and suddenly I could see the brink of madness on my horizon. Though I wanted to be her friend and tried to talk her away from the edge of that bad decision, I failed. She pummeled into darkness, succumbed to temptation and I simply couldn’t be around her, or that situation.

Our friendship failed because I made the conscious decision to remain healthy and happy. I had walked down that dark road before, I wasn’t about to allow myself to walk down it again. I couldn’t do that to my husband again. Never again.

So, I have a confession to make, I’m easily influenced and it sickens and saddens me. I’m not as strong as I thought.

And that leads me to today. Another form of negativity is immerging in my world – blogs. I don’t know if it’s a trend to continuously talk about body parts, drugs, depression, discontent or what, but I’m finding that after reading so much about the same stuff, over and over again, it’s affecting my attitude – it’s depressing. And where there’s depression, there is unhappiness.

I realize that it’s nice to get some things off your chest and that it’s comforting when people can relate, offer advice and tell their own similar tales, but when nearly every post is nothing but the same old depressing stuff, it wears a reader down. I tend to think people focus too much on the negative and not enough on the positive – the whole (annoying) glass half full, not empty, analogy.

I’m not saying that we should stop reading these blogs or not try and help these people, I’m simply saying that one should be careful when reading too much of this. It really does have a sneaky way of penetrating our own lives and speaking from experience? It sucks when it plays a part in your own reality.

When I notice a downward spiral in a blog that I regularly read, I reluctantly discontinue reading it. I simply can’t handle continuously being bombarded with negativity. I’m weak, what can I say. And if you take anything away from this post, then please realize that it CAN affect your own attitude and how you live your life – not just from blogs, but from the people around you – your friends, your co-workers and yes, even your family.

Be careful. What you put in your mind ultimately comes out your heart. If you put a lot of ugliness in your mind, then you’re more apt to lose your temper and “snap.” Believe me, I know this from first-hand experience.

The same could be said about the violent video games my boys play. The death matches where the only objective is to run around and kill one another – it absolutely affects them. They are much more impatient and snappy after playing games like that. So, we have to make them walk away from those games from time-to-time and get back in touch with reality.

We used to tease them about playing “baby” games. Not anymore. We have found that playing baby, or innocent games (like Mario racing for example) is MUCH MORE preferable than playing games like Halo 3. It affects their overall attitudes. We’ve talked, AT LENGTH, about this effect and I think the boys understand, as much as their young brains can comprehend at this point, about the dangers of angry, violent games (or anything like that).

Bad things can’t be avoided, I realize this. But the question is, do we really UNDERSTAND what it does to us if we wallow in discontent or surround ourselves with so much negativity on a consistent basis? We can all live better lives if we’re aware of outside influences and make a conscious effort not to allow it to affect our lives, overall.

2 thoughts on “Keeping Negativity Out of Our Lives”

  1. What a great post – I know staying at home with the kids can be a good thing and sometimes a bad thing for me, but generally I think (hope) the good is outweighing the bad, and that’s one of the reasons I started blogging – I needed an outlet where I could just be me, and have something that was just mine.

    So thank you for this post, it’s something I’ll definitely plan to keep in mind while reading and writing blogs. And now I’m off to look at my own blog and see how negative it is (if at all, I honestly am not sure…)

  2. Hi Karen! Cheers to you for this post! I stay at home, so sometimes I feel like I live in a bubble, but I continue, when I am out, to surround myself with positive things. That includes people, situations, events, everything! That’s probably why I only have a handful of friends around here. I choose them carefully, and I do that with everything in my life. Luckily, my husband has good people around him at work, so he doesn’t bring anything negative home. We are so blessed, and even as I look for a part time job, I walk in and take it all in! I agree so much with your post, but you do a much better job saying it all than I ever would! 🙂 God bless you and have a great week!

    Jen

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