positive thinking

I Aspire To:

Be at peace with my life as it is.
Feel connected to those around me.
Open up to others and not feel shame.
Find the confidence to let my voice be heard.
Reclaim my sense of identity.
Believe in myself.

Getting Started

I unlock my classroom door, and as always, the papers I didn’t finish grading the day before greet me. And as usual, I jog down the hall to make photo copies and my daily battle with my arch nemesis the copy machine ensues, as it devours and single handedly destroys my main copy, and then screams and beeps at me to fix the damage it has done. I’m annoyed; I’m tired. I get fed up with the never ending pile of papers. I want a copy machine that doesn’t break down every time I look at it, in a copy room where there isn’t a lineup of people waiting to use it. Needles to say, I’m not a morning person.

I have my coffee in hand as I greet my students at the door, and I sigh with annoyance when I hear, “Ms. C., I forgot my homework and my book, and also, can I borrow paper and a pencil?”

But then there is always that student who goes out of her way to ask how my morning is going and that student who has something that he wrote the evening before that he just can’t wait for me to read. Their genuine sincerity begins to rejuvenate my sleep deprived mind.

The majority of my students are eager to please and truly want to do well. They are emotional and passionate, and many of them are just finding their voices. They are kids in big bodies, often misunderstood by people who don’t have the privilege of working with them.

Class begins, and without fail, they have me laughing over some antic they’ve tried to get away with or some silly remark someone has made. There is so much humor to be found in each day when I allow myself to forget about the trivial things, like the pile of paperwork and the evil copy machine, and appreciate what a truly lucky position I’m in to work with middle school students. My students are used to hearing me say, “I could work with adults all day, but this is much better.”

Reframing My Perspective On Failure

Is there hope for those of us who have to work against our natural dispositions in order to see the beauty in every day? My natural disposition is to gravitate toward the negative. A naturally negative attitude coupled with an all or nothing personality is a bad combination, and that is exactly what I have. I cringe at the way that sounds, and it’s not easy to admit that’s who I am. The people in my professional life would likely be surprised by my self assessment, and that’s because I put up a pretty good front and shield who I am with a smile and positive words. I internalize the negativity. The people who are closest to me are the ones who bear the brunt of its impact. It’s difficult to admit that what is going wrong in my life weighs more heavily on me than the good and the beautiful that is all around me, but it’s something I have to be honest about in order to take steps toward reframing my thinking.

Most of January and for a large part of February, I was doing a pretty good job focusing my energy on the positive aspects of life. I was trying to live in the present and spend time doing little things with the people I love. My son wanted to go running on the beach, and instead of telling him maybe later, I decided to forget the dirty laundry and the sink full of dishes. It felt incredible to be alive, breathing in the open air, spending time with my kiddo—time which feels like an hourglass of precious minutes sifting by as he gets ready to transition into high school.

My daughter loves chess and she wanted to play night after night, a request which I obliged. She encouraged me with words like, “Mom, you’re actually really good at this!” She and I both know that games of strategy which require thinking several steps ahead are not my strongpoint. But what she was really trying to communicate to me was that she appreciated spending time with me, having my undivided attention, and it didn’t matter that I was no competition for her. She could see my effort. I was spending some of the precious, limited time that we have in this universe doing things that really matter—the only things that will have any significance once my time runs short and I am left to assess whether or not I accomplished what I really wanted to in this life.

After a long, gratifying run of balancing my time well and finding the positive attitude and energy to spend my time on efforts that really matter, I fell into a funk. The messy house demanded too much of my attention. More planning and preparation than I anticipated went into getting ready for upcoming lessons that I had to teach. I spent too much time trying to manage personal writing goals that I had set for myself. I fell into a squabbling disharmony with my husband that left us alienated and distant. Suddenly, I found myself sitting behind an empty computer screen, uninspired and lacking clarity of vision. My daughter wanted me to bake something with her in the kitchen, and my son wanted me to take him to the library. I was too busy, however, staring at my empty computer, alienated from those I love, trapped in my own hazy-headed mind. That’s when I realized that within a handful of days, I had fallen completely off course. My energies and efforts were once again lacking focus and my priorities were skewed. I was ruled by negativity and doubt.

I think one of the hardest things for me is working to get myself out of a funk. It takes so much mental energy in the first place to psyche myself up to start working toward the goals I have set for myself: being happy, nurturing good relationships, balancing my time well, and being mentally and physically healthy. And it’s so easy to fall out of the habits that I have spent so much time working to foster. I can spend weeks and months looking for the beauty and the positive aspects of each day but inevitably I will slip, and there will be times when life feels like a total dumping ground. Each time this happens, I feel a tremendous sense of frustration and failure; it makes me hesitate to jump back into the saddle again because I’m afraid that I will fail like I have so many times before.

This is where I think a reframed perspective on failure for me, and those like me, needs to step in. Instead of spending energy agonizing over times when my priorities get tangled up and I slip into negative thinking or I get lost in my own head and alienate my loved ones, I need to expect that sometimes I will slip. Instead of harshly reprimanding myself and spending an unreasonable amount of time devoted to regret, I need to come up with a plan for what I will do when I fail so that I can jump back into making an effort to see the beauty in each day as immediately as possible.

I am still working on what this plan will consist of. Any suggestions, ideas, and opinions on this topic are greatly welcomed.