Can I share something really personal with you? I am recovering from being an extremely negative person. Up until very recently, I felt most comfortable when I was complaining about something, most confident when I had some other force working against me that I could blame my failures or shortcomings on. I saw the bad in everything and I thought that made me a realist. The worst part was, I didn’t even see how bad it was. It’s hard because you don’t get to look at yourself through someone else’s eyes, you only get to look at yourself from your eyes and sometimes your perceptions are distorted. Like standing with your nose right up against a painting. You can’t get the full picture without backing up a bit.
Today is day 22 in 100 days of photography. I wrote the first 15 or so days for this series several months ago. Then, a few days before it launched on October 1st, I went back to proof read and see if there were any tweaks I should make before posting. What I read shocked me. Negativity and pessimism was dripping in every sentence. I almost took off my sweater to drape it around the monitor as if there was something obscene and embarrassing on my screen. “Oh, no, girl, no no no no no” I thought. “IS THIS WHAT I WAS LIKE?!” A flood of panic washed through me as I thought, “Dear God why are my friends friends with me?!”
You see, through the month of September, something happened. Jen Sincero happened. Her book happened.
When I was maybe 13 or 14, my dad went through a very new age’y phase. Suddenly he was talking about chakras and taking trips to Sedona to go visit a vortex. So when it comes to anything having to do with meditation and cosmic consciousness, I cringe like a 14 year old being dragged to a seminar about ethereal bodies.
BUT like any thirty something year old woman in America, it only took a recommendation from my bestie for me to order it on my Kindle and skip off to the coffee shop for an afternoon with Jen Sincero, and let me tell you, she hooked me. She hooked me fast. I was devouring everything she had to say and even made an exception when she would use new age’y words that would otherwise be forbidden in my mental space.
The part soon came where Jen would try teach me to be a positive person. My eyes rolled “… okay… I get it. You want me to be positive, not negative. But the world isn’t butterflies and glitter, hunnie, and I’m not gonna live in some fairy land.” I’d been through this before. Self help books that urge you to “just imagine” you’re going to be something and it’ll come to you, and I was over it. But then Jen asked me to do something different. She said to find something to be grateful for in every situation. Car breaks down? “This is a good thing because it’s October and I’m not going to die from the heat while waiting for AAA. I’m grateful I HAVE AAA. I’m grateful Raffi can definitely fix this because he’s so handy with cars.”
It took Jen’s specific voice to get me to agree to do this and the first time I did, I wasn’t excited about it. We were at Wal-Mart and they were out of the exact single item I had gone to get. “Uhhhh…” I looked at Raffi. “This is a good thing…… because…….. I save six dollars….. and….. I didn’t need those calories anyway?” We looked at each other, uncertain for a minute, and then burst out laughing. Okay, that felt incredibly silly, but all in all, I DID avoid getting all mad over them not having pistachio ice cream. It saved me from the classic “Oh, are you KIDDING ME? UGH.” Beginners luck maybe but it wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be.
Over the next few days, a miraculous thing happened. I found myself constantly saying what I was grateful for. “I’m so grateful we have a beautiful home. I’m grateful I’ve found my passion in life. I’m grateful for my health, for my son’s health, and for this guacamole I’m about to eat.” Then I started doing it with my son. When he’d complain about homework I’d say “Aren’t we so lucky you get to go to one of the best schools in the entire Phoenix Valley?” or “I’m so grateful you have teachers who are there for you and your education.” It flipped the narrative from what’s wrong to what’s right. It established a new network in my brain that was positive and was both exciting and NOTHING like the Denise that had existed for decades. It was so powerful, that six weeks later when I read those first 15 blog posts, it was like looking at a different person.
“But I’m SO stubborn! I’m SO stuck in my ways!” I thought to myself. How did my mindset manage to change this drastically in a matter of weeks?? I live my life waking up each morning with a slap in the face of cold hard reality. How am I suddenly waking filled with gratitude and not feeling like a total phony about it?
I called my bestie, “This book is changing my life.”
“I should probably read it too then,” she said.
“Wait, WHAT? You recommended a book to me that you haven’t even read???”
Our friendship is nothing if not awesomely ridiculous.
Jen Sincero, you’re my day 22. I’m so grateful.
Hey. Do you mind if I tell you a story? One you might not have heard. All the elements in your body were forged many many millions of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space. After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets. And on and on it went. The elements came together and burst apart, forming shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings. Until, eventually, they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe. There is only one of you. And there will never be another.