Susie wanted to go out Friday night and relax. She’d been working overtime getting just a few hours of sleep per night. Between her job and trying to start her own business on the side, she was exhausted. She called several friends who she used to go out with on a regular basis. Everyone said they were busy. Nothing made Susie happy.
She made one last call to Alison, whom she hadn’t seen for years. In high school, they were best friends, but circumstances had taken them in different directions. Excitement filled Susie as she thought about reconnecting with her dear friend – dinner out, then live music – it would be a great evening.
Susie and Alison met outside Kitchen 919 Restaurant. This had the makings of a great evening. Both women chatted on and on catching up on the last ten years, where they’ve been, and what they’ve done.
As they ate, Susie continued to talk not realizing that Alison had become very quiet, with an occasional nod. Susie continued, “I just don’t know how this is going to work out. My boss is putting pressure on me to work extra hours. He knows I’m trying to start a business, but he just won’t let up. If I didn’t need the job I’d quit.”
“You know the last time I sent my label order into the printer they came back all messed up. I sent them back, but I’m not sure they’re going to redo them for free. They should. It was their mistake. And, Mike, the photographer I use, he just bailed on me the other day with no warning. He hasn’t even bothered to call me back and reschedule. I just don’t know what to do about all this. I can’t get anyone to do my website correctly and now everybody is screwing up on my product orders.”
A Self-Aware Moment
As Alison finished the last of her dessert, she said, “I need to cut this evening short. I’m very sorry.” She folded her napkin, reached into her purse taking out enough to cover the meal and tip.
Susie reached over placing her hand on Alison’s arm as she started to get up, “Did I say something wrong?” Susie asked.
Alison sat back down, pausing to think for a moment. “Well, I realize that you are having a tough time getting your business off the ground and still working your job. It’s got to be hard.”
She paused again. “When my husband was killed in the car accident a few years ago I became very bitter and unhappy. I drove everybody away with my negative, bitter words and critical attitude about everything and everyone. Actually, I wished I had been killed in the accident, too. I didn’t want to live.”
Susie reached out and touched her again, “I’m so sorry.”
“The point is that I learned to change my thoughts and what I say. If I indulge in negative, critical thoughts and talk I go right back there. I had to change my thoughts and how I talked. I’m really sorry, but listening to your negativity is bringing back that old feeling. I don’t want to go there, I really do need to go,” she said as she started to get up again.
Please don’t leave, yet. Tell me how you got through it all. Please, “Susie asked.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of others… but be transformed into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn… what is good and pleasing and perfect – how to be happy.” – Romans 12:2 NLT
Our thoughts affect our attitudes and moods. Emotional thinking is where you base your view of situations, yourself, or others on how you feel.
Because of Susie’s stress, lack of sleep, and overwork, she viewed everything in a negative way. She seemed to feel like everything was going wrong, everybody was out to get her on purpose. It’s like she’s saying, “I feel like, therefore it is” – instead of looking at the real evidence.
It may be that the evidence doesn’t support the problem. The photographer may have needed to change the appointment, but because of her attitude and words, he chose not to call back to reschedule.
Some people focus on the minor imperfections or what’s bad instead of what’s good. In Susie’s case, she has allowed her attention to narrow so that all she sees is the stress and inconvenience of things not being exactly the way she wants them.
Sara Reistad-Long quotes, “Rumination can make moods more negative, Moshe Bar, a psychologist at Harvard.” When we continually think about something, we often make our thoughts and feelings more negative instead of working out a solution.
Being Happy is a Choice
Susie sat for a long while. Thoughts ran through her mind of all the people she had called and all had said they were busy. Had she become so negative that she drove them all away?
“Happiness is a choice. Life is not about making sure things turn out exactly how we think or want them to,” Alison said. “I was very bitter and depressed after Ed was killed. I missed a lot of work, I just couldn’t go in and face everybody, I was sure they’d give me pity and I’d burst into tears.”
“One day my daughter came into my bedroom. She crawled up on the bed with me and said, “Mommy, we finished the last of the cereal. We’re hungry.”
“For some reason that snapped me out of it. I showered, dressed and went out to my two beautiful daughters. I began focusing on what was good in our lives and making our lives better. Sure, there are things I could complain about, but at that moment I chose not to focus on them.”
“Being miserable was just too easy! It has taken a lot more effort to be happy. My girls and I have a great life. Sure, we’d prefer to have Ed in our lives, but our happiness is not contingent on him being with us. It’s not about finding the perfect love or getting the promotions or anything else. Being happy is a choice.”
God Is Never Cruel
“Because God is never cruel, there is a reason for all things. We must know the pain of loss; because if we never knew it, we would have no compassion for others, and we would become monsters of self-regard, creatures of unalloyed self-interest. The terrible pain of loss teaches humility to our prideful kind, has the power to soften uncaring hearts, to make a better person of a good one.”
― Dean Koontz, The Darkest Evening of the Year