Overcoming Negativity

The other day I was seized by a bout of negativity so strong I nearly came undone. It was triggered by an acquaintance’s blog post. In it she expressed how exhausted she was from waking at 5:00 a.m. each morning to train for a triathlon, and then chasing her children around the rest of the day.

If there had been a dislike button after her post, I would have hit it.

It was not quite 7:00 a.m. when I read it. I’d already meditated and did some yoga, for all the good it did me, and was preparing for yet another grueling day at work. We’re in the middle of our busiest time of year, a six-week summer program for incoming undergraduate freshmen, and it’s intense. I’m talking 10 to 12 hour days, weekly one-on-one meetings with 30 students, countless workshops, programs, planning, meetings, putting out fires, and being on call for the residential staff 24/7.

As a result, I rarely see my kids, my house is a mess, and my husband and I are like strangers passing in the night. I’ve gotten into the habit of crying some days on my way to work. I had to give up wine, for God’s sake, for the six weeks because I need to be at the top of my game and it weakens my resolve.

But never mind all that. I mean, this poor woman was so exhausted from training and her children that she had to feign energy throughout the day while she took them on playdates, to the beach, and to the local pool. This poor woman whose husband, rumor has it, earns well over six figures. Who lives in a gorgeous McMansion. Who has a housekeeper and nanny. Who gets to spend a good portion of her time doing what she loves — working out, training, writing, being with her kids — because she, unlike me, doesn’t have to worry about making money or cleaning toilets.

To say that I felt angry, bitter, and jealous when I read her post would be a gross understatement. It is a side of myself that I’m not fond of, that I strive to overcome. But there it was, out in full force, and my day had hardly begun.

I thought of other stay-at-home moms I knew whose husbands’ incomes allowed for a similar lifestyle and I wanted to post on Facebook, If I hear one more well-to-do stay-at-home mother whine about how hard her life is I’m going to scream! How about doing everything you do, plus holding down a full-time job and doing all the house cleaning with little to no time to yourself? And BTW, if you can’t refrain from whining in your current circumstances, you’ll probably never be content.

Of course I didn’t post that. It’s only on my blog that I rant, because hardly any of my Facebook friends read it, thank God. Luckily, I was able to calm myself down by taking a few deep breaths and talking some sense into my negative mind.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who is jealous of other people’s lives. My life might not be exactly as I want it to be, but I have so much to be grateful for.

Yes, my job needs to change, and soon. Six years of summer programs is enough for anyone. I want and need more work/life balance. In the meantime, my students are really terrific and I know I make a positive difference in their lives.

I am healthy. I have healthy children. I have a pretty, albeit messy and somewhat outdated, home, but it’s mine and I love it.

I wouldn’t want any husband except my own, not for all the money in the world.

I don’t have a nanny, but my youngest son alternates weekdays in summer between my in-laws’ and my mother’s homes. They love to have him over.

Both of my parents are alive. The woman whose blog post triggered my downward spiral lost one of her parents at a young age. I can’t even imagine how much that must have hurt, and the impact it must still have on her life.

No one’s life is perfect, no matter how it might seem on the outside looking in. And if it is perfect, good for them! We should all be so fortunate. We should all wish each other and ourselves to be happy, healthy, safe, and prosper, and to know peace, joy, and love in our hearts and in our lives.

My negative reaction to this woman’s blog post had nothing to do with her life and everything to do with me and how I was feeling inside – exhausted, in desperate need of vigorous exercise, guilty for not being home more for my children. Thankfully, I was able to recognize this and make a conscious shift from being an angry, snarky bitch to moving one step closer to the woman I want to be.