Writer’s Block: Positivity and Perspective

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

There’s an old joke you may be familiar with. More of a weary punchline, really.

Anytime someone is acting like a curmudgeon — full of pessimistic, half-glass-full, nihilistic thoughts about the futility of life — someone inevitably tells that person that they need to lighten up, to be more positive.

And that’s precisely the moment the punchline comes into play. Mr. or Ms. Sour Grapes deadpans how they’re positive that life stinks.

It’s a joke I’ve made myself, once or twice when I’m having a bad day.

…Okay, maybe more than twice. I’m only human. And I’m fond of corny humor.

It’s easy to get trapped in a self-fulfilling cycle of negativity. I know, because I’ve become so ensnared before. However, over the last couple of years I have made a concerted effort to reframe how I act and react to things. It’s what self-help gurus would call practicing mindfulness.

It’s not easy breaking old habits, especially when they involve breaking old patterns of thought. But, something must be working.

Earlier this week, I took a call at the office and was happy to hear a familiar voice on the other end of the line. As people tend to do when they know each other, we exchanged comfortable pleasantries. The caller asked how I was doing, and I jokingly responded that I couldn’t complain, to which the caller replied, “You never complain.”

That made me laugh. “Hang out with me for a while, and you’ll hear me complain,” I said, smiling.

Afterwards, I reflected on that brief exchange of conversation. I’m glad I’ve come far enough along on this mindfulness experiment that this person’s interactions with me have always been positive ones. I know there are moments when I still let my inner Oscar the Grouch show, but who doesn’t?

What I have learned, however, is something that at first seems contradictory. It’s the little things that matter. And they matter in more ways than one.

Getting bogged down by the little things — by the extraneous details and minutiae — can make you miserable. Like, agonizing over the tiniest of factors when you’re working on a big project. Ultimately, all that does is become an ineffective use of your time, your resources and your bandwidth. You begin to miss the forest for the trees.

Paradoxically, not noticing the little things can also make you miserable. Maybe something goes wrong and you’re having a bad day. That bad day can make it so easy to overlook the positives that inevitably also occur on those days, like an unexpected compliment from a stranger.

So, I try to remind myself to not stress over the little things, while also reminding myself to stop and notice the little things, too.

This week’s little thing wrapped in another little thing? The smell of spring.

As I headed to the grocery store, I braced myself against the strong winds that have been buffeting the entire area for days. My hair was flying in my face. My eyes were squinted against the dust that was swirling about like tiny missiles.

As I continued towards the entrance, I noticed something else borne on the breeze: the rich, sweet smell of green grass, moist earth and flowers. It was the fragrance of an environment alive with springtime promise.

I paused to inhale deeply, happy to have noticed such a little, but important, thing.

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