If my goals for the first three months of the year were challenging, my aim for April is lofty. This month, I’m attempting to utter nothing negative.
I know. It’s a tricky one.
On the one hand, I’m not an overly negative person anyway, so is this really where I should focus my energies? On the other hand, I’ve had this idea in my head for years now (since Shauna Niequist gave up negativity for Lent one year), and an itch usually means a scratch. Or something. What I mean is that if I keep thinking about something, it needs to be addressed.
But as this challenge has loomed in my brain, I keep trying to figure out how to measure. Is it negative to say “I’m freezing!” in a snowstorm? What about “I’m so tired” when it’s true? It’s all subjective. So I’m going with my gut. For the most part, uttering nothing negative is going to have to be based in my attitude. I know the difference between “I hate that guy” and “That guy is not my favorite,” even though it’s nuanced. The first statement rolls out of my mouth, the second one comes after a pause.
The two habits I’m trying to curb: complaining about my current mental and physical state, and speaking harshly about other people.
A few months ago, while the kids and I were cleaning up toys, I said “You guys, Mommy is so....” and then I drifted off distracted. My two-year-old piped up with “Tired!”
It was kind of funny but mostly horrifying. I must say some variation of “I am so tired” enough that my child expects it. Since we’ve been going through sleep struggles, I am often tired. But I don’t want my kids to see me as an exhausted, whiney mom. I don’t want to present myself that way, to them or anyone.
(Note that I am not advocating people “suck it up” when there is a valid, negative state. Emotionally, fake-it-til-you-make-it will only take you so far. But when a particular whine is parroted by your kids, clap your trap.)
Further, I can be catty. I’m among the first to fall for a piece of gossip. This is not my finest quality. If you’ve ever had a real-life conversation with me, you’ve probably heard me label someone as “crazy.” I call all kinds of people crazy. You tweet something I don’t like? I say “Oh, he has lost his mind.” You link to more than one article supporting your radical opinion? Someone might hear me say, “She is a total looney-bin.”
Let’s drop that habit, shall we?
While I believe in the honor system, I'm the type who needs some extra accountability. So there's this: Two jars. One filled with rubber duckies, one empty. For each negative thing I say (thoughts don't count), I'll drop a ducky into the empty jar. At the end of the month, I'll give $5/per duck to charity. At first I was worried the charity part was a dis-incentive, but no. It's just a solution to keep me on track.
I’d love it if you’d join me on this challenge for April. It’s easier than some of the past months because it doesn’t require sweating or disconnection. But it might turn out harder because self-awareness isn’t always your best friend.
And I’ll be documenting it like I did the social media fast.
Except with a positive spin.
*photo by Charles Henry via flickr