If I could change any of my habits, it would be the tendency to focus on the negative. My mother was the same way, and it drove me crazy. I’m not sure my echoing behavior is due to nature or nurture, but after years of watching her start off a conversation with an implied criticism – often of me or something I’d done – I can be pretty sure that’s where I picked up the trait.
While I like to think that I kvetch with a sense of humor, it’s kvetching nonetheless. That negative energy feeds on itself, and I suspect draws similar energy from my immediate environment. When I or someone else catches me in the act, the self-criticism escalates, creating a painful spiral with no easy escape.
Over the last couple of months, as I’ve found a greater equilibrium in my life, some of that negativity has lifted.
No rose-colored glasses for me – I’m too much of a realist – but I find that I’ve been judging myself, and thus others, less harshly. There are certainly exceptions – the week now in progress being a prime example – but an old friend commented recently that he’s noticed a change in my attitude.
I may have restored much of my faith in myself, but that doesn’t keep me from turning my imperfections over and over in my head – usually from about 1-3 am. My first instinct is still to blame myself for any misunderstanding, or hurt feelings, and despite my growing sense of quiet confidence, I’ve been tossing and turning more than ever in the middle of the night. This week, fighting a cold, I’ve been forced to take drastic action (Nyquil), which has helped me sleep (and breathe!), but has left me feeling slightly hung over for much of the next day, casting a greater pall over an already challenging work week.
Earlier this evening, in my eternal quest for the holy grail of a solid eight unconscious hours, I watched a video online – “Five unexpected sleep stealers” – that had a relevant piece of advice: Before you turn out the light, think happy thoughts. I suspect that a seemingly impossible full day of these might be even more effective in sending me, like Peter Pan, flying off to Never-Never Land each evening. But I need to start somewhere – every journey begins with a single step. So before I settle into bed tonight, I’ll try to spend a few moments on the pillow in praise of the positive. And then I’ll hope for the best.