Being positive is challenging, especially when things are hard in your life, marriage, career, family, friendships. And when I say, "positive," I don't mean the "positive" many of us will initially think of: being cheerful, holding up a facade, acting like everything is going well when it's not. I mean something much closer to our vulnerable realities: validating our difficult times, as well as our difficult feelings, and choosing focus on the good in the midst of those. I want to say that again: not choosing to ignore the difficult; choosing to recognize the difficult, to tell people about the difficult, to seek comfort for getting through the difficult, and still choosing to see the good and focus, meditate on it. This type of positivity can lead us to perseverance in the midst of really challenging times. And perseverance is really, really powerful.
So how do we do that? Today I hope to give my readers just one way to practice the art of positivity, and to do so, I'll let you in on a little anecdote from my life.
I had my first child in October, and this has been a completely overwhelming experience, in the most awe-inspiring way. I have experienced overwhelming love, overwhelming anxiety, overwhelming support, overwhelming emotions, and overwhelming exhaustion. I am exhausted. My precious, giggly, loving, fun, not very fussy son has never slept through the night and only a handful of times has he woken up just once. In the midst of this, I worked three days a week at a job I loved, chose to leave that job for various reasons (which was emotionally very difficult for me), and started a private counseling practice (which has been exhilarating, and which you likely know if you're reading this blog). These past eight and a half months have been full of struggle. I've navigated that struggle in many ways, but one of the most powerful (and simplest) ways has been through mantras. I love simple things that make a big impact.
A mantra is simply a saying that you repeat to yourself to help you re-focus on the positivity. I have a few friends who are pregnant currently and they can each likely tell you one of my mantras throughout this whole process, as I've told them to keep it in mind during pregnancy and the first year of having a little one: It's all temporary. I repeat this to myself daily. Actually, I repeat this to myself day in and day out.
I go to bed at about 8pm these days so I can be sane the next morning. It's all temporary. I nurse my son twice a night still. It's all temporary. I rarely go out to dinner because my son has an affinity for having a 6pm bedtime. It's all temporary. Somehow, repeating this mantra shifts my focus from the difficult things to the lovely things in this process. Getting in bed with a good book while the summer sun is setting and not feeling guilty about it one bit. It's all temporary. Nursing my son in quiet moments in the silent night, moments that soon we will never share again. It's all temporary. Having the time to have a glass of wine and dinner with my husband alone at home every night while our son sleeps, with no distractions. It's all temporary.
A mantra can be anything. In fact, I have another. It's an entire (short) children's book that I have memorized from reading it to my son so much. In the middle of the night when I want to cry out of frustration that I am up again, that my son hasn't mastered sleeping through the night, that this may continue for weeks or months, I repeat it as I rock him back to sleep, over and over again: I love you quicker than a minute. I love you longer than an hour. I love you like the honeybee loves buzzing 'round a flower. I love you stronger than the wind. I love you softer than a cloud. I love when you are quiet. I love when you are loud. I love you closer than your shadow. I love you farther than the sun. I love you, too, when raindrops fall, one by one by one. I love you 'round and 'round the world. I love you through and through. And when it seems impossible to love you more, I do. Because, in the end, my love for my son is deeper and more powerful than any frustration, any sleepless night, or any difficult time that I may have. And if repeating a children's book reminds me to refocus on that love instead of my frustrations, I will repeat it every time I hold him in the middle of the night.
Mantras are simple. They are powerful. They are easy to incorporate into our lives. They refocus us on the positivity during really difficult times. They help us to feel empowered. They remind us that we will get through it, whatever "it" is. They can be long or short, silly or serious; the only rule is that they are immensely meaningful to you in that moment, at that time.
Validate your difficult feelings, recognize your difficult times. Seek support from friends, family, co-workers, a counselor. Then, find a mantra that reminds you of your strength, your ability to persevere, your goodness, your light. There are really beautiful things out there that we can miss if we don't choose to see them.