In the interest of things I've learned, you first need some perspective. It appears... *coughs* well, I'm told... *clears throat*
I'M A PESSIMIST.
I said it.
I'm the person who sees the negative, the cloud in every silver lining. The things my inner voice says are utterly cruel. I would NEVER speak that way to anyone – friend or enemy – so why is it okay to talk to myself like this?
Spoiler alert: It’s not.
A year or so ago, some friends told me directly that my negativity is the source of all that's wrong in my life.
As you can imagine, that wasn't exactly music to my ears. But I heard it. One of those friends told me I'm too smart not to see that. And another handed me a gratitude journal. Each page has 3 blank lines for you to jot down what you're grateful for.
I am ashamed to tell you how long it took me to find 3 things. So after I got over the shame, I decided to change and spent most of 2019 learning how to become my own best friend. I started therapy (highly recommend!), I began taking a more pro-active stance regarding the management of my chronic disease, and I used that journal.
At first, my entries were trite and pithy like, “I’m grateful for my husband and sons and my life.” But you know what? Those were the low-hanging fruit. The expected responses. The easy ones. I could easily have simply run that page off a copier and filled the entire journal with the same entries each day.
That would have been cheating, though. That would have been the journaling equivalent of developing a cardboard character.
So I dove deeper. I began to look for things I wish I could tell my mom, if she were still alive. Instead of listing weak blessings like “I’m grateful for my family,” I found the things that make my family –well, mine. Chris folded laundry. Or Fred read a chapter. Why am I grateful for these seemingly minor things? Because the auto-immune disease I battle makes it painful to pick up a heavy basket or climb stairs. Chris did that for me. Fred is dyslexic. Reading is painful to him. He did that for me.
These are things important to me; your mileage may vary. Over the last year, I’ve gotten so much better at seeing the good, finding the positivity, and an unexpected bonus to this has been a sort of calm, almost Zen-like attitude I never had before. I am finding it easier to cope with things like a spike in my pain or a flare-up of my disease, a crisis at work, or a scene that refuses to be written.
A year ago, when I struggled with a scene, my default response was to give up, to write something else, to just skip it because it was beyond my capabilities. Now, I'm more likely to double down and try harder simply because I've become my own cheerleader. I've learned what to say to myself that inspires and energizes and encourages rather than erodes and deflates.
I've learned to look deeper into whatever's challenging me, be it a difficult scene or a crisis at work, and see it from a different lens. I never expected my mission to learn to love myself would also help me improve as a writer, but the truth is, it's improved ALL aspects of my life.