The other day on Facebook, a friend was actually sharing. Like saying how they really felt, sharing their experience and frustrations about personal things. It wasn’t a picture of what they ate for lunch or a picture of how badly someone had parked or anything remotely political. It was like, actual sharing. I could feel myself connecting to what they were saying because many of us have felt that way. And then, like clockwork, someone piped up with something akin to, “Atta boy! You got this! You’re amazing! You’ll get back to it! Stay positive!” and my heart kind of fell. The person commenting didn’t mean anything by it. In fact they probably felt like they were being helpful and after all, it is Facebook, and not everyone feels comfortable connecting their emotions to words.
When I was a kid, my mom was famous for saying all sorts of things and now that she’s long dead, I’m repeating some of them. “No one ever said life was fair.” If there had been a mic drop back then, it would’ve dropped because although it was sort of her way of saying “move on”, it was also her way of prepping the disappointment muscle. The muscle that we all have that gets stronger when we lose, don’t make the cut, don’t get what we want, aren’t chosen or feel wronged. Or when life just doesn’t turn out the way we had hoped. And now I see. But you have to be careful. Telling people “Well, you win some you lose some” may not get you any invites to the three day weekend bar-b-q.
It’s not that positivity is a horrible thing but think of it like an antibiotic; if you use it too much, it will stop working. When someone is actually sharing how they feel whether it’s disappointment or fear or grief or sadness or frustration, resist finding the sunny side of the street before they’ve had a chance to feel a few of the raindrops. When we don’t feel the feels and it seems like everyone is too busy saying “stay positive!”, we can feel isolated. And I’m pretty sure everyone knows what I mean. Like when your child or your spouse or your aging parent comes to you with a fear or sadness and your heart aches for them or it scares you or it reminds you of your own pain and it’s like sandpaper on a scab. It’s so hard so we try to move them along as quick as we can.
I do it too. All the time. It’s hard not to but I try to find opportunities to practice NOT being so positive. Like when someone has died, we don’t need to say, “Well, they’re in a better place.” You can just sit with someone in their grief. Even though I know its terribly painful. And when someone is sharing about a struggle, try listening and if there’s nothing else you can say, maybe say, “If you need me, I’m here” or “That sounds like it must be really hard.”
Don’t worry. The positivity movement and isn’t going anywhere. If you practice being present, conscious and curious a few times a day, you can still cross back to the sunny side of the street anytime you want. Just notice, as you’re crossing the street, why you’re doing it. Why it’s so hard to stay. And maybe start carrying an umbrella.