A relative once told me that I was born old and depressed. I’m not sure how true this is, though I do know that my moods tend to shade towards the cynical. I also happen to be living proof of the fact that we are our own harshest critics. In fact, when asked for a word to describe my personality, one of my instructors chose “Eeyore-like.” While a certain amount of self-criticism is healthy, dip too deep into it and terrible stuff starts to happen. For me, criticism turns into loathing and then I turn into this vile, hatred-spewing troll of a person. It’s an ugly thing, but when it happened most recently, the spark was realizing that most of my friends are happily coupled and that I’m still not, something’s wrong, I must be a horrible person, you get the idea. I decided to nip it in the bud with positive thinking.
Well, I first gave the self-loathing to the main character in the novel that I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. Then I started searching for a more uplifting mindset and I came upon this one elemental truth: My life is not that bad. So why not go back over this year and identify one good thing that has happened in each month? It doesn’t have to be a life-changing event. It could even be something as small as a compliment or something that made me laugh. My goal is not to keep score. It’s simply about remembering good things so that when I start thinking that my life is awful, I have evidence to prove myself wrong.
I’m well aware that bad things happen. My brother killed himself eight years ago because of harassment at work. Almost three years ago my dad lost his job because one of his coworkers decided to fund their gambling problem by stealing from the company. Last year on Labor Day weekend my mom, who is in her fifties, was hospitalized for a stroke a week after having an emergency appendectomy and I almost lost someone who I love more than anything. I’m not asking for pity though, because there’s a good side to all of this. I’ve learned strength and compassion from my brother, two traits that serve me well as an enlisted leader in the military. My dad has his job back and my mom has made a complete recovery. Life for my family isn’t perfect but it has gotten better.
So, back to the list. Here’s a snapshot of my year of positive thinking…
January: Started a blog about one of my favorite topics (baseball). Not that many people read it, but it makes me happy.
April: Visited my cousin in St. Louis for the first time and found a totally awesome nerd-sister.
June: Watched U2 perform live in Baltimore. They were one of my brother’s favorite bands and their music always reminds me of him.
August: My choir sang the national anthem for the Orioles, right next to home plate at Camden Yards!
September: Took my dad to his first major league ballgame in Washington, DC. We watched the Nationals play the Dodgers and we got rained out, but I got to share one of my loves with my family.
November: Went to New Mexico and spent the week of Thanksgiving with my best friend. We went to the top of Sandia Peak and the beauty of what I saw still floors me.
I plan to end this year on a high note by treating three of my friends to a local comedy show. They make me smile when I need it most, so the best I can do is return some of that happiness. Can you think of something that made you smile in each month of this year? Try it. I’ll bet that you can come up with some great memories. Even better, why not keep it going into January and beyond? If a chronic mope like me can benefit from it, I know that you can too.
You can read more from Shelby Miksch on her blog.