When you are expecting nothing
Right now, it's Saturday afternoon. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with my friend and her family, who are also my friends, and then G and I went out with my brother-in-law and his partner for dinner and games. We finally trudged home at around one in the morning, an hour well beyond our usual bedtime, with me in what some have only semi-affectionaately termed "Night Anna mode," where I'm tired and cranky and uncomfortable and unable to keep my feelings to myself. Generally unpleasant.
Today, I slept until nearly noon, which is, in related fashion, an hour well beyond my usual wake-time. I woke up with the recurring sinus headache that's been plaguing me all week and sore feet from yesterday's poor choice of shoes, but on the bright side, the sleep made me a little more enjoyable to be around.
The other day, G showed me an article about, essentially, avoiding dwelling in bad feelings. My response, as is usually my response to such things, is "sure, but when you're in the bad feelings, it's hard to remember there's another way to feel." The next day, I pulled out some sticky notes and stuck them strategically around the house: one in the kitchen reads "30 seconds gratitude;" the one on my office window says "30 seconds connection, 30 seconds silence." It's easy to feel gratitude in the kitchen, which is well-stocked and warm, and easy to feel still and connected while looking out the office window at my neighborhood passing by, but I don't always remember.
This kind of positivity nonsense sometimes grates at me, and as a rule the times I find it most annoying are also the times I most need it. I don't want to feel gratitude and connection when I'm feeling alone and frustrated. Usually, I just want permission to feel alone and frustrated. What's been most helpful to me is realizing that the permission, too, can be positive. It's when I dwell in it that it becomes a problem. It's fine to sit on a rock and catch your breath even if the rock isn't really comfortable, but the rock can't be your home.
For me, positivity is a constant conflict between feeling like I'm ignoring the bad things in the world and feeling like I'm spending so much time being upset by them that I don't actually do anything about anything--for the world, or for myself. For a lot of people, that conflict is a tremendous barrier--positivity has been used as a weapon to silence people whose complaints are very real, and shouldn't be covered up by positive thinking and looking on the bright side. There are proponents of positivity who believe any negative thoughts should be banished. I'm not one of those. What I am is a person prone to despair, who finds the reminder to think of my connections to my community and the fact that I am not doing my work alone, and that I have what I need to build a foundation from which I can work, important to being able to find space for action.
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