By Cristina Fiorenza
A few months ago I hung up on a friend and have since lost that friendship.
He had been a very close friend at one point; we would spend hours on the phone talking about who we hated, what we hated, what made us angry, how stupid so-and-so was, how crappy our lives were, what was wrong with everyone around us, and how often that week either of us had sunk into a depressive state, hating ourselves and avoiding human contact, and how glorious it felt to be in “our dark place.” We were both very proud of that “dark place” of depression and self-loathing. I can only speak for myself, but that darkness made me feel more human.
I am so relieved to say that I finally realize how sad this all sounds.
I have been, for all of my adult life—whether by nature or circumstances, it does not matter to me at this point—a very negative, cynical person. Plus, I love wearing black, so the inner package went along with the outer package.
This is not about me giving up wearing black. (That will never happen.) This is about my attempts to brainwash myself. At least that is what it felt like I was doing in the beginning.
Back to the friend I hung up on.
The day of our last conversation, he was enraged about something—what he was going on and on about was not even anything important—but I stopped him mid-rant and said, “Why are you being so hostile right now?”
He responded with, “What do you think you sound like all the time?”
I told him I had to hang up, which I did, then proceeded to cry for much of that afternoon.
What he did not know (since we no longer lived in the same city) were the changes I had made, all of the hard work I had been doing. I had been attempting to reinvent myself and had not been telling anyone for fear of backsliding. I had been trying desperately for months, to change my attitude.
For some people, this may not be such a big deal; but, I was a person who found something wrong with everything. I reveled in wallowing in self-pity and having people accuse me of enjoying being miserable. I did not like my life and had gotten comfortable with not liking it.
But several years ago, I began some heavy-duty soul searching. It began with daily exercises to strengthen and trust my intuition, which then led to questioning my spiritual beliefs, which led to me wondering why I was always in situations I was not happy with and how could I change that.
I ignored the whole idea of “changing my attitude” for a really long time. I liked my attitude—at least I thought I did. I felt that, if I changed my attitude, then I just would not be myself anymore.
Well, after I fell on my skinny derrière for the 50th time and picked myself back up for the 51st time, I finally thought that, possibly, there were some things about myself that could be worked on, besides gaining weight.
I have to say that changing my attitude has been the hardest work I have ever done, and I am not finished. I may never be finished, but I have gotten much better at finding something in every situation that I think is a good thing.
I am stuck on the freeway in Houston traffic for two hours? At least I was not the person in the wreck that caused my 30-minute drive home to turn into 2.5 hours.
I have no money to buy groceries until the end of the week and it is only Tuesday? That is an excellent culinary challenge! Let’s see how creative I can get with what’s left in my pantry.
I have to stand in line at the post office for 20 minutes with a bunch of miserable people around me complaining, while my back hurts, my head hurts, and I am hungry? That was a hard one. Let me take this time to stare out the window and do a little much-needed meditating and come up with places where I would be even less happy.
I think that it was one of those waiting-in-line moments when I finally realized how much energy it took to glare at everyone irritating me or to work myself into a nervous fit over all the time I was wasting or to exhaust myself with worry over this or that. Suddenly, I realized that changing my attitude took far less effort than being miserable!
I had turned a corner. I finally understood that stupid song that I hate so much….Don’t Worry, Be Happy.
I still hate that song, but I get it now.