Remaining optimistic when confronted with negativity can be daunting. It’s a challenge to keep a positive outlook when one has a pessimist in their midst. Sometimes, one has brief encounters with a pessimistic person. These brief encounters can leave one feeling prickly, but it’s a moment, not a constant. What does one do if one has a pessimistic person in their life? Not allowing that person’s negative outlook to seep into our state of being can be challenging. It has taken me years of contemplation and some self-discipline to change my reaction to negative people.
My bib overall wearing wonder buns is a pretty positive individual, but he is also what I call “a stewer.” When he is upset or angry, he doesn’t react right away. Instead, he will stew about it for hours, days, and even years. Eric doesn’t do well with dealing with pessimistic people. It challenges him not to allow negative thoughts and actions to seep into his head. These people and their asshattery often dominate his thoughts, and he pays the price. The person who upsets him has no clue he is upset. Instead, he feels stressed out, irritated, or offended. The person who committed the offense hasn’t given what was said a second thought. The Bibbed Wonder has a difficult time letting things go.
When we have our rare but epic arguments, he will bring up things that happened or were said when we were first married. I used to rise to the bait, and we would battle our way down a long, dark rabbit hole of insults, wrong-doings, and transgressions that spanned our entire marriage. It is only in the last few years that I have been able to master not reacting. Rather than digging up every slight or insult, I will say, “That has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Let’s discuss the real issue, or I’m not doing this.” It takes every fiber of my being to walk away, but sometimes walking away from a battle is the only way to win it.
Controlling my reaction has been a hard and lifelong lesson. Not long ago, I would allow my emotions to take over and lead the way. One day, it dawned on me that I couldn’t control everything around me. I couldn’t control how people felt about me. I couldn’t control how people treated me. I couldn’t control what others did, felt, said, or thought. The only thing I can control is my reaction. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. My overreacting, fuming, arguing, worrying, and lamenting did nothing to improve the situation. It was the opposite; it only made things worse.
With a lot of practice, forethought, and awareness of my reaction, I was able to train myself to think before responding. I always ask myself, what will be the outcome if I speak my mind or react? Will it improve the situation or make it worse? Most of the time, I remain silent and walk away. Most of the time, no reaction is a strong reaction. However, it’s more than that. It’s also about preserving my peace. It’s about improving the quality of my life. It’s understanding that sometimes it is not my battle to fight. It’s accepting that not everything is about me.
Don’t get me wrong; my feelings still get hurt. I still feel angry. I still have conversations in my head about what I could’ve/should’ve/would’ve said—the old instinct to fume and stew or hold a grudge is still present. I’m far from perfect, but I’m doing better. I’ve gotten pretty good at letting things go, forgiveness, if you will. I realize that not letting things go doesn’t do anyone harm but me. However, a few individuals in this world push my buttons, and I have difficulty with how their choices have affected my life and the people I love. I’m a work in progress.
I also realize it’s okay to forgive someone but not allow them to access my world. Sometimes, it’s best to let people go and love them from afar. It’s not holding a grudge. It’s protecting my heart and those I love. I choose not to be negative. I choose how I react. I decide to choose peace over chaos. I try to get my little stewing bib overall buddy on board with this thought process. I listen for a while when he fumes, laments, and stresses over people who push his buttons because everyone needs to vent. Sometimes, putting feelings into words can be a release, and sometimes it can take over. When I feel he has had an appropriate time to vent, I try to redirect the conversation. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Again, I can’t control what anyone feels, thinks, or says. Most of the time, this works for him for a bit. Most of the time, we process things together and move on.
Working at being a positive person can take effort. Not allowing what others say or do to affect us takes work, self-awareness, and discipline—understanding that when someone lashes out at you, it isn’t always personal, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Ultimately, the only thing that can be controlled is how we allow that person to affect us. Understanding we are in control of our emotions and reactions is a powerful thing. I encourage my bib overall-wearing buddy to keep perspective. I also understand that sometimes nothing feels better than to call an ass hat an ass hat. The important part is to vent and move on, don’t allow asshattery to affect your perception of the world. If you do, you are in danger of behaving like that asshat who set you off. It’s a vicious circle, but it can be broken.
On this unusually warm day in February, stay safe, be smart, don’t allow negative people to steal your joy, and keep washing your hands.