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I once had a garden filled with flowers that grew only on dark thoughts but they need constant attention & one day I decided I had better things to do.  (Brian Andreas)

At my “regular” job, my desk is directly next to a humongous picture window – and it is one of the few reasons that my day behind a desk is tolerable. I get a front seat to the doings and happenings out there, the comings and goings, the small dramas of mothers pushing toddlers or lovers hand-in-hand (or not as friendly, and therefore, more dramatic).

Most of these passersby don’t ever even notice I’m there. But every single morning, without fail, the elderly man who does outside maintenance for the company next door, walks by with his scoop bucket slung over his shoulder, and he waves. Every single morning. I wait for it – in my head he’s the scoop-shovel-man. I don’t even know his name. I know nothing other than that every morning, we share a wave and a smile – and that he’s an important part of my day because of it.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.  (Leo Buscaglia)

I marvel at these moments when virtual strangers are able to connect and share something important – a small moment, a small mutual experience of being human. I tend to be something of a Pollyanna (I hope you all know who she was – Disney made a movie about her a loooong time ago, based on a 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter). According to Dictionary.com, a Pollyanna is an excessively or blindly optimistic person – I wouldn’t say that I am quite that extreme, but I make a real effort to see the sun peeking through the clouds on more days that not.

I don’t know if any of you have felt the energy shifting lately, but I sure have. It was funny – I was on facebook the other night, and one of my friends posted something along the lines of, “Is it a full moon or something? What a really weird, intense day!” I posted back, telling her that it was, in fact, the new moon that day, and those energies could be just as – if not more intense – than that of the full moon. Not sure what she made of that, but I hope her day went more smoothly, anyhow.

This shift links to something that keeps coming up for me in the everyday – a newer unwillingness to put up with things and people in my life who bring bad juju. And this brings me to the phenomenon of the Negative Nellies. A Negative Nellie is the antithesis of a Pollyanna. I am sick unto death of people who, when asked how they are, heave a deep and mournful sigh, and proceed to tell you how everything in their life is utter crap. Aack. Tired of it. These people leave a legacy trailing off behind them like a comet’s tail, too – but, instead of kindness, they sow sorrow.

When confronted with a Negative Nellie, don’t even think of mentioning the weather – this is one of their favorite whipping boys. If it’s a clear sunny day, it’s too bright; if you have a warmer day after a lengthy stretch of bitter winter, they’ll tell you how horrible it is that all the snow is melting and everything is wet. If you are in a ten-year drought, and the long-awaited rains have come, they’ll tell you how there is not enough rain, or too much, or the water just isn’t quite wet enough.

The dismal outlook of the Negative Nellie extends to literally every event, emotion, occurrence, or happenstance that could be conceived of by man (and some that haven’t yet). If you see a silver lining, they’ll find a spot of tarnish. And, lately, I find myself less and less willing to give them even a moment of my time – which presents me with a bit of a moral conundrum: I believe that one of the most important things we can be is kind, and I believe that there is good in every person (somewhere) – but then, I find myself wanting to absent myself from these folks who propagate and spread negative-vibes (which also eliminates some opportunities to show kindness).

I find myself unwilling to be subjected to or held unwilling captive to the Eeyore-ish moanings of these nay-saying doom-and-gloomers. So, I absent myself from their presence, from the conversation, and from the bubble of negativity that they cultivate & surround themselves with – and it made me feel just a bit guilty. Aren’t I supposed to be spreading sunshine and daisies wherever I can?

And then, I came across the following quote from George Eliot: It is good to be helpful and kindly, but don’t give yourself to be melted into candle grease for the benefit of the tallow trade. I had to read that a few times before the depth of her (George Eliot was a woman) message sank like a pebble into the still pond of my heart and rippled outward. How can I go on spreading kindness and a helpful hand if I allow it to be devoured by all and sundry? And, especially if I squander that energy on those who don’t WANT to think or see anything positively? (Depending on how you look at it, I either do the Negative Nellies a disservice by attempting to inject positivity into their contented discontent & melancholy – or, I make them deliriously happy: whenever I make a positive statement, they get the chance to spread negativity seeds with each rebuttal).

So, I think I’ve devised a new modus operandi – I will continue to extend kindness, politeness, courtesy, generosity, and compassion to all I meet – but, when I note the presence of an ‘event horizon’ surrounding these black holes of energy, I will pull back, retain my energy (and my integrity), and move on to offer the gift of my being to others (I realize that “gift of my being” sounds unbelievably conceited – but, I swear I don’t mean it that way – I see everyone in my life as a gift, so it’s hypocritical not to think of my self that way, too).

This new determination is all well and good, but I know there will be times when I slip into the maelstrom with the Negative Nellies and that’s fine – I’d rather take a chance with someone than squander the possibility of a wonderful interaction out of fear of being burned. I’ll just have to continually tweak my Nellie-o-meter.

What it comes down to, really, is this (said by those who’ve said it best):

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.  (Author Unknown)

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. (Dalai Lama)

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. (Plato)

The other night as I was trudging up the colossal flight of stairs stretching up to our apartment, lost deep in thought, and laden with bags & belongings, an elderly gentleman who I’d seen around the building was making his way down. He has extreme difficulty walking – it takes him minutes to traverse what I can in a few seconds. He said something to me, which broke me out of my myopic fog, and I said, “Pardon?” And he says, “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” And I look about for a moment, uncomprehending – until I realize he means the fake grass thingie I’m carrying under my arm (it looks like the wrong end of a hula skirt all tied up). And I just started laughing!

My laugh is a booming, chest expanding one – I hold nothing back. And I said to him, “Have a good night, sir.” And he said, “Thank you. You, too.” And I got the feeling that he was thanking me for more than my well-wishes. I hope he knows that my laughter was a thank you, too – for a moment shared on the stairs with a stranger, who saw an opportunity to reach across the silence, and make a connection.

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At some point in the past year, one of my friends mentioned that there was this site out there on the world-wide-web called “fmylife.com,” where people could go to post about their ridiculous and outrageous misadventures, the twists and turns of fate, and the crappity things that happen to them.

Being an intrepid web-traveler, I figured I’d give it a shot. Posts ranged from the truly horrific and tragic to the whiney, superficial, and dramatic. I came, I read, and initially, I sat there in sympathy and commiseration with these anonymous unfortunates.

I felt encouraged to focus on all of the small annoyances in my own life, and to mull over the larger tragedies – and then, to just sit there…in that. Not terribly healthy. And then, I realized that wading through this effluvia had an undesirable and marked effect on me – it dragged me down into the slushy muck of self-pity with them. I’m fully aware of how easy it is to slide off the path and into this mire on my own, and I don’t want that kind of encouragement, thanks. I haven’t gone back to their site.

Some weeks later, I stumbled across a site started in response (and perhaps rebuttal?) to FML, called Givesmehope.com (GMH). Instead of posting all of the ways their lives have been fouled up, people write about all of the wonderful, touching experiences they’ve had, heard about, or witnessed – all of the times, ways, and shapes in which they’ve encountered the love of the Divine here on earth.

As I read through the many posts, a lump grew in my throat, and I found myself tilting my head back in order to blink my tears away. Generally, I am not one of those gals who cries at refrigerator commercials and stuff, so I was a little surprised at how affected I was. And, then, insidious, a small voice in the back of my mind murmured, “It’s probably all made up…people don’t do that for one another…what tripe…can’t believe you’re swallowing this ridiculous twaddle…don’t believe it…” and so on and so forth. This “loop” brought me up short and gave me a lot to ponder.

Why did I have such an easy, effortless time believing the negativity posted on one site, and such a hard time believing the optimism on another? And…why did I care if it were true or not? Each post on the GMH site reflected someone’s willingness to believe in compassion, love and unconditional kindness – and that, I decided, was the true thing; Their willingness to believe in goodness.

I started to think about all of the hopeful moments on my own journey, all the times I chose love over fear, all the strangers who’ve extended me love or kindness without expecting anything in return. And then I felt it – that glow, that feeling of utter connectedness to everyone and everything – that sense of knowing that what you foster within yourself, you offer to the world, whether you know it or not.

And, I could see how these two websites symbolized one of the most eternal choices we are given; to choose to live in love and foster love, or to live in fear and spread fear. Every moment of every day of our lives, we are presented with choice.

On Sunday, my only day “off,” I was rushing around, hurried and harried, and growing increasingly crabby, as I tried to get a whole mess of chores and stuff done, so I could get to my folks’ to do our laundry. In my myopic state, I could only see all that I had left TO DO. I was getting into my car in the parking lot of the last store, when an old man parked next to me and said, “It looks like you’re leaving home!” I burst out laughing – I carry loads of stuff with me all of the time and my fiancé, my dad, and my grandpa have said that to me pretty much every time they see me. The old man’s interest and concern snapped me out of my funk, kept me laughing all the way to my folks’ house, and GMH.

It’s so easy to lapse into fear and the negativity that fear breeds – “I have so much to do…how will I ever get all of this done…why is this all on me….” etc., etc., etc. I’m grateful to the Universe for all those “wake-up” moments that remind me that I have a choice here – love or fear.

For your daily dose of optimism, visit:

http://www.givesmehope.com/

(Founders of givesmehope.com, Gaby Montero and Emerson Spartz, say “We’re tired of hearing about what’s wrong with this world…who couldn’t use a few more reasons to hope each day?”)

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)