Tell Me the Good Stuff First

I read something the other day that said “people who mock positivity don’t realize how hard it is”. I really felt that, because I know first-hand how impossible it can feel to try and rewire your brain. Negative thinking is a spiral. I’ve been there. I’ve reached rock bottom plenty of times, and the trudge back up always begins with the realization that my thinking patterns are largely to blame.

It’s not always our fault. Sometimes things really do suck. I don’t like having an anxiety disorder. I don’t like having piles of work to do for uni. I don’t like that there’s a war happening across the sea from where I live. I don’t like any of that. But I have to live with it. I have to cope. And I do that – or try to do that – by changing what’s within my reach, staring with my thoughts.

My little brother is prone to negative thinking, too. He comes home from school most days dragging his backpack behind him. Everyday is a bad day. The kids in his class are loud. They throw pencils. They’re aggressive. I feel with him. Kids can be awful, and I would never want my brother to bottle things up and not tell me if he was truly going through something. But the other day I decided to try something new.  When he came home from school, I asked him, “How was your day? Tell me the good stuff first.” He struggled a bit, but in the end he did actually manage to come up with something. It’s not much, but one good moment is better than no good moment (and sometimes one moment is really all you get). Anyways, the point of me asking him the question the way that I did, was to try and get him to acknowledge that good moments do actually happen sometimes – which is a start, if anything.

I’ll admit, though, I’m lazy with it. That was the first and last time I ever asked him to “tell me the good stuff first”, and that’s because positivty is hard. For me to even ask him something like that, I myself need to be in a positive state of mind. But I want to try harder. And I think you should, too. Honestly, I think we’ll all be better off that way.

So, here’s a good moment that happened today: my sister and I sat in the kitchen eating really sweet cereal and laughing at Buzzfeed Unsolved.

There. Your turn.

 

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Sick

Maybe it’s me
who drags my own sobbing body
who strings it up on that far-fetched branch
who watches from the foot of the tree
as I choke on that morning’s epiphany

Finger-paint the word across my own torso
red slur
‘Don’t talk to yourself that way,’ she says
‘It makes me so angry to hear you talk to yourself that way.’

But I still say it to myself in secret:
’You’re sick
and you’ll never make it out of your head alive.’

Hours

How many hours
does it take for you to miss me?
Do you have to slap your hand away, too?
Do you have to reprimand yourself like a child
suck on your knuckles to stop from reaching over and —
Do you have to gather your wits at night
to remember that I do
or almost do
that I could, pretty soon?
You’ll miss me, Pretty Soon
you’ll have to
you’ll have to.

Car Crash

I accept that everything happens for a reason. I only wish I knew what those reasons were. It’s the speculation that wears at me more than anything. When you’re as anxious as I am, it doesn’t take much to send you down a rabbit hole of your own thoughts. The slightest push and your foot slips, dirt crumbling beneath your heel. You fall and fall and your fears whisk by. You watch them go up and away as you go down and further down, until all at once you hit the bottom, the impact like a car crash.

But at the bottom there are no answers either. It’s silent. And dark. The only voice that comes to you is the echo of your own voice, bouncing off the walls. “God, let this be within your blessing,” your voice says. “God, let me have this thing, and let it be good.”

You look up at the hole from which you’ve fallen. You can see the sky, blue, and the grass at the edges of the hole, a green and marvelous crown, swaying in the sun. You wish you hadn’t been so foolish. You wish you had made better choices. But you know, in all honesty, that your decisions had felt good in the moment. They must have…

Still, there is nothing for it. You’re still down here, and the world up there. You make yourself small at the bottom of the hole, ashamed, and wait for the more clever version of yourself to wake up and pull you out.

Resolutions

There’s about five or six of us enrolled in Modern English Literature. It’s such an intimate class, we don’t even take it in a lecture hall. Instead, it’s held in our professor’s office, where we scatter ourselves among her couches and prop notebooks up on our laps. Modernist literature is known for focusing on the internal mind, on the consciousness of its characters, and so maybe that’s why it feels so much like a group therapy session whenever we come together. It’s as much a study of ourselves as it is of literature, and we’ve learned a lot about each other.

So, it was no surprise when, the other day, our professor interrupted class to ask us each what our resolutions were for the upcoming year. We sat in silence for a moment, thinking, not sure what was too personal to share. And then a friend of mine spoke up.

Her resolution, she said, was to give up overthinking.

Oh, I thought, that’s a good one. And I could see a similar realization wash over the other students, as well. Perhaps it’s just uni culture, but we really are just a group of anxiety-ridden young adults. Our collective fear is something we bond over – joke about even – but we all know it isn’t always so easy to laugh about.

Our professor, who has the perceptiveness of a loving mother, took note of the faces in the room. She could see that we related to my friend, and she began to tell us about how she, too, had been an anxious student. However, with time, she had trained herself to  take things more easily. She took a moment to remind us that nothing is worth a sleepless night, that we should learn to say ‘so what?’ more often, and that, most importantly, we should never allow other professors – who have forgotten what it’s like to be young and inexperienced – to bully us into feeling inadequate.

It’s funny how we think we already know these things, that we don’t need anyone to remind us, but when you hear them after being in your head for so long, it can be like having a fog you weren’t even aware of lift suddenly. All at once, you’re aware of all the nails you’ve bitten off, lying in a heap in your lap, aware of how vigorously you’re fidgeting in your seat, of how fractured your mind is, thinking days, weeks, even years ahead. It’s good to work, to excel, but it’s also okay to not constantly be doing something.

I’m writing about this because it’s Christmas break, and for the last two days I’ve done nothing but lie around in various positions and think about all the things I should be doing. Coursework, projects, writing – even leisure reading has become a chore. I attach urgency to everything in my life, and it’s exhausting. I do think being ‘productive’ is healthy, but only when one is able.

So, yes, I do want to work and create – of course I do – but not in a way that constantly makes me feel like I’m being chased. There are no teeth yapping at my heels. I have time. I’ll get things done. And even if I don’t do as well as I want to, well then – so what?

See you soon.