We all know them; those people who are always whining about something. Or talking about how unlucky they are. Or extolling the virtues of having nothing good happen to them. I have a friend or two like that. They wear me down if I listen to them too long. And, I’ll admit it, there are times I want to slap the whine right out of them. I want to rant and jump up and down on their heads and tell them how good they have it compared to some other people I know. I don’t know what makes some people so negative while others are always positive no matter what happens.
I have to think about my own life and how negative I used to be. When I hear my friends whining about inconsequential things, I think back to when I was younger – was a a whiner like that? And the answer is, yes, I probably was. I felt so beaten down by my life that I couldn’t see anything positive. I did manage to change how I thought, and I try to help others to become more positive. But I forgot that in order for someone to change, s/he has to first realize there is a reason to change, and then has to want to change. There are people who are perfectly happy being miserable – my mother was one of those. So they are not going to change.
I have one friend, I’ll call her Karen, who is going through a difficult time right now. She has cancer, no job, and no health insurance. She could so easily fall into the pity pot and whine and cry; but she didn’t. She set out to find how she could get her life saving surgery and gathered up an impressive support network. I know she will be fine.
I have another friend, I’ll call her Kathy, who has a wonderful life. She has a good job, a strong family connection, and friends all over the world. But she is constantly whining about how she can’t find a good man; about how the only luck she ever has is bad luck; and how some of these bad things ‘could only happen’ to her. She doesn’t really believe she has any worth, and she will continue to attract negative events and people to her.
I truly believe we teach people who to treat us by how we treat ourselves. Karen has friends who would do anything for her; Kathy has friends who will continue to use and abuse her. The only difference between these two people is their attitude about life and their expectations about how life will treat them.
“Day after day we throw ourselves into the path of what we think we deserve”.-Joyce Sequichie Hifler
I read this little gem yesterday in “A Cherokee Feast of Days” by Joyce Sequichie Hifler. It’s a book of daily meditations that I found in a used book store several years ago. The daily readings are always thought-provoking, but this one really hit home yesterday, even though I have read it every June 30th for a number of years.
The point is, that many of us believe our inner (or outer) critics that daily tell us we are unworthy, that we will always be victims of bad relationships, sickness, poverty, etc. and that there is no way out. Much of this ‘chatter’ is not conscious most of the time. But we catch ourselves sometimes thinking we don’t deserve a good life, or we will never be successful. In my case, my mother constantly barraged me with how stupid I was, and I believed her for a long time. It was only later in life that I understood I was not like her, and I was not stupid. It took me a long time to understand that.
This negative mindset is hard to overcome, especially when it is reinforced by parents, spouses, or society in general. We tend to internalize society’s view of us. But we can change our patterns of negative thinking. If we think we are not worthy, we will seek out people and experiences to reinforce that. It’s what my friend Bonnie calls Monkey Mind (http://www.savoringyoursixties.com/blog/) and it can be destructive to our own peace. If we think we deserve the good things in life, that is what we will find.
I know it took me a long time to change my thinking, and there are still times I catch myself thinking I will never get what I want. Half the battle is knowing what we want; if we don’t know what we want, we can’t take steps to achieve it. It’s too easy to live in the past and moan all the what-ifs. Or to focus too much on the future with dread because we are afraid of what might happen. Worry is exhausting and saps our energy so we can’t focus on where we are now. No matter what is going on in my life, I can find good in myself and in my situation. I tell myself I deserve good things; I tell myself I am a good person; and I focus on what I love and on positive ideas, people, situations. I have survived bone-crushing poverty; divorce; grad school; homelessness; unemployment. None of these things broke me; I’m still here. I have a good life, and that is the best revenge.