Here’s a fact: I am, by nature, a negative person.
I know this, and I have always known this. Given a situation, I am most inclined to look towards the worst possible outcome. I can find out a hundred ways in which something can go wrong. Given enough time, I will discover more. Is it any wonder that I am someone who is inclined towards depression?
I have to fight that negative bent pretty much every day of my life. When I was younger, I often didn’t fight it very hard. I spent a lot of time mired in depression, mired in the negative. I wasted a lot of time there. Sometimes it makes my heart hurt to think of how much time I wasted. And there’s another moment lost to the negative.
I’m a mother now (a thing which, at times, still startles me), and while I still naturally lean towards the negative, I try harder to fight it. I want my son to grow up in a world where he gets to keep his cheeky grins, his laughter. I want his natural bent to be towards the positive.
The trick is how to do this. I believe, as a parent, that one of my roles is to provide boundaries to my son. It’s very, very easy, to get lost in this, to become the kind of parent who exists almost as a boundary themselves. It’s easy to focus on the fact that your child didn’t listen to you, isn’t doing this, isn’t doing that. And in doing so, you miss all the things that your child is doing.
I look around me for examples of people who focus on the positives. And, sadly, on some days, it’s hard to find them. Especially online, where, on some days, everything seems to be drama and passive aggression and plain old aggression.
And then it occurs to me that I have one of the best examples in the world. My mother. Over the last decade or so, life has given her more than enough stumbling blocks. She’s dealt with family issues that aren’t mine to go into in public, she’s lost her husband. And yet every day, she wakes up and makes the world a better place. She is one of the few people I know who genuinely listens when she asks someone how they are. She smiles at everyone, and goes out of her way to talk to people. She does small things for people, like bringing in their bins after they’ve been emptied. Few people thank her for this, but she does it anyway.
And I think about the ways that I can bring this into my own life. Even the small things make a difference – like thanking people when they do something for you, like asking the name of the person who’s serving you in a store, like giving formal, positive feedback when that same person is doing a damn good job.
Most days I live a very quiet life. I’m a writer, so I’m holed up at home, in front of my computer. And in case anyone wonders how on earth this fits in with having a small child, look to the example of my mother – she watches my son for a few hours every day so I can work. But there are things I can do, even here. One of my favourite things to do is send friends books in the mail – books that I think will bring something into their world. I try to comment on blogs, especially when posts touch me. It’s all too easy to feel like we’re just tossing words into a void, and what’s the point in being connected by the internet if we’re not actually connecting? I buy books published and written by friends and I read them. I review books, I give feedback to podcasts that make a difference in my thinking and writing. I try to give back, as much as I can.
I am acutely aware of the privilege of my life. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. These days, I am in relative good health, and the healthcare I need is available and affordable to me. I have a roof over my head. I am warm. I am loved.
I want to be someone who reflects that back into the world. And I think that is a large reason why I write. The darkness and the negative always creeps in there, but I always want to reflect hope as well. I don’t know if I always succeed in that, but it’s my aim.
And so I write. I hug my son and tell him that I love him. I send people random presents in the mail. I tell people how much they mean to me. I buy their artwork, their jewellery, spread awareness of their work. And one day, I’ll probably be the person bringing in their neighbours bins, even though they never get thanked. And hopefully I’ll be smiling while I’ll do it, no matter what.