I stepped onto an elevator the other day and recognized a woman who works in my building. We don’t work together, but I see her often enough that it was the polite gesture to say, “Good morning, how are you?”
For the next minute and a half, as well as a few moments while I hovered outside the elevator so she could complete her ramble of sentences, I was silent as she delivered the litany of just foul her morning had been. The doors shut, and her negativity hung in the air, thick, black, and oozing.
I realized that every time I encounter her, she’s complaining. I suppose I could have simply said, “Good morning!” However, like many people, her reply probably would have been, “What’s so good about it?”
When I entered the elevator that morning, I was in a pretty good mood. I slept well and awakened to birdsong. I read a laugh-out-loud funny note from my husband, completed a brief but effective yoga routine, and enjoyed a tasty breakfast. Traffic into work was an easy flow, and I sang the whole trip. Ordinary things, all of which had an extraordinary impact on my attitude that day.
If I wasn’t determined to maintain that vibe, I’m sure that woman’s black hole mood would have sucked me in with it, along with a desk chair and a nearby philodendron.
Everyone wants happiness, but our society doesn’t cultivate that attitude. Few news agencies list the good news first. People debate and yell about a topic instead of presenting real solutions. Reality shows reveal a primitive pack mentality. In a group, we gossip, complain, and uphold John Ray’s theory that “Misery loves company”. Instead, we should embrace the Dalai Lama’s perspective: “When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.”
The last time someone expressed happiness over something, especially something you also desire, you might have said, “I’m happy for you!”
But did you really feel it? Or was there, you know, a twinge of something else?
While I’m generally cheerful, I’m not always the happiest person. I can be sarcastic. I get angry. I vent. I might be judgmental. I get depressed. Like my incredibly insightful colleague Alex B., I have to start the day sometimes with a defined, spoken intention to be positive.
Babies don’t have this problem. The world is such a wonder to them, joy is everywhere. Bubbles in the bath, running barefoot through the grass, a cuddle and a book, watching a worm, bits and pieces of a chocolate chip cookie--all little points in time that create the happy. Just when you think you’ve forgotten how this works, a stranger’s baby smiles at you from the front of a grocery cart. You’re surprised at how delighted you are by this, and smile back. You both transcend in a moment of bliss.
Only as we get older to we start coveting, keeping score, and stepping on the worms.
As adults, we have to think about loans, work, and traffic. We’re busy. We worry about what people think of us and if they’re taking advantage of us and what other expectations aren’t being met. We might even lower our expectations so we won’t be disappointed. Instead, what if we change our expectations to experience a moment simply for what it is, and how positive we can make it?
What if the next time I get on the elevator with the woman with the crappy morning, and her response to my, “Good morning, how are you?” is simply, “Better than before”? My response might be, “That’s terrific!” She feels supported, my pretty good mood remains intact, and we go on with our day. We’ve both made a deliberate effort to be positive in that moment.
When she gets to her desk, she realizes that she is, indeed, better than before. She has more focus, and finishes a project sooner than she expected. Later that day, she might take her lunch outside instead of in the noisy cafeteria. She might relax in the warm sun.
She might even watch a worm.
Celebrate what adds joy to your life, no matter how small it might be. Accept that there will be days that are “less than”, but find a moment in every day that is exactly how you want it. This doesn’t make you false or out of character, and it doesn’t mean that if you have a problem, it can be ignored. But, you can choose to create a reality that is brighter, more positive, and yes, better than before.
Be the baby in the grocery cart. Your smile might be exactly what someone else needs today.
Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou
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8.31.09 @ 9:11a
Truth in worm: Had to take BQ to his first soccer practice week before last, and DA had to hang out with me, as Mom wasn't home. So we went to the park, tried nobly to work on catching with a real baseball glove, then just plopped down in the grass to watch. The grass was itchy so we decided to walk a bit and find a bench still in view of the practice field, unaware that Duncan had acquired a stowaway. When we sat on the bench, I glanced at him and exclaimed, "There's an inchworm on you!"
We spent the next 10 minutes delighted as we flipped and flopped Duncan's hand so the inchworm could do scrunchy laps all 'round it, then gently helped it disappear into the grass.
"Extraordinary" is defined simply as that which is outside of the ordinary. It's probably been decades since I played with an inchworm, so I'd say that qualified as an extraordinary moment. Amazing that a little critter that weighs micrograms could be so strong as to lift my spirits so effortlessly.
8.31.09 @ 9:36a
In all fairness, I've known some pretty dour babies.
8.31.09 @ 5:49p
I have an acquaintance who is uniformly unhappy about... well, I think everything. It's like talking to Eeyore. So once while she was in the middle of one of her "bad things happen to me all the time because I just have BAD LUCK" rants, I said, "You know, I think people make their own minds up to be lucky or unlucky, happy or sad." She looked at me silently for a moment, then literally snorted with laughter. "You REALLY believe that crap, don't you?"
Hello, lady, *I* am happy, *you* are sad, and our life circumstances aren't all that different. So, um, yes, I DO believe that.
9.2.09 @ 6:57p
It's taken a long time, but one of my colleagues and I have figured out that it does not matter what the circumstances are or what the issue, one of our department members will always take the opposite side of an issue. She even argues when she is agreeing with us. Somehow, she can't seem to believe that the world isn't operating contrary to her desires and wishes. She's so ready for bad news, disagreements, and obstacles, that even when things go her way, she doesn't recognize the circumstances for what they are--positive or, at the very least, not negative!
joe redden tigan
9.7.09 @ 1:34p
"People debate and yell about a topic instead of presenting real solutions." Almost to a point where I can't take it anymore.
What I do is sometimes have a Schlitz before lunch on a holiday. But the real key is to have some English Beat playing.
9.9.09 @ 8:51a
Right. I will remember that. :D