During our March Communal dinner, we did a tiny art/reflection project around the things that we felt called to let die in our lives during the Lenten season. Collective Member Caitlin Parsons shared that she was working to let go of negativity in her life, and shared this article about releasing “junk emotions” with the other members of the Collective via Slack. In a time of such negative rhetoric, and as members of a project centered on a generation faced with overwhelming social, political, and environmental issues, it can be hard to look on the bright side. Curious to learn more about Caitlin’s experience, we asked her to contribute some thoughts to our blog and here is what she shared with us:
Reclaiming My Positivity
By Caitlin Parsons
Much like the courageous Maxine Waters reclaimed her time, I have been working on a reclamation of my own for the past few months: I am reclaiming my positivity. It started with Lent, when I decided to give up one physical thing and one mental thing. For the physical I chose to abstain from soda, and for the mental I chose to stop complaining; the former was by far the easier of the two. It took this negativity “fast” to see how much of it I and those around me consume on a daily basis, and I began to notice how draining it felt. I reflected on the people who I enjoyed talking with most, and realized that while we habitually speak negatively, it is the positive people we are drawn to. My husband is one of the most positive and optimistic people I have ever met, and it used to annoy me when he gave people who were clearly awful (it was clear to me, at least) people the benefit of the doubt. However, when I began practicing the same grace, it was amazing how much brighter the world felt. I love being around my husband because his presence is energizing and warm, and after finally seeing how negativity is, I realized that my fast needed to extend past Easter; I needed to change for good.
It has not been an easy project. I have immersed myself in articles and podcasts about happiness and joy, and I am practicing a lot of self-correction. Something I have learned that has made it easier is that when others are complaining, I don’t have to join in, I just have to listen. They say misery loves company, but I think misery really just loves a listening ear. I will sometimes offer a positive perspective if it seems like it would be helpful, but most of the time all that is needed is an indication of support. And if you feel comfortable and it is appropriate, you might introduce some humor to lighten the conversation. Laughter really can cure a multitude of ills, and can help us remember not to take ourselves too seriously.
Some people are blessed with sunny, optimistic outlooks, but many of us have to work at it. So give yourself permission to pursue positivity! Seek beauty, pleasure, and grace, and forgive yourself when you slip back into your negative speech and thought habits. If you find that it feels impossible to escape the negativity loops and it is pervading your life, please know that it is okay to ask for help from a medical professional, a faith leader, or a trusted friend.
Positivity won’t necessarily fix the problems we face, but it is a source of strength that we can refuse to give up. And even if it seems as though it was stolen long ago, we can help each other reclaim it and be revived.