Friday, May 29, 2015

Gratitude Adjustment

My husband came home from a trip a few days ago, and when we had our first fight he said "Being away for all these weeks I really forgot how negative you are." We said a bunch of other stuff, too, but that statement really stuck with me.  Am I too negative?  Do I criticize too much?  I had been in a pretty spectacular mood.  "You are not a miserable person," he reassured me.   "I just think you spent too much time with your mother while I was gone."
As annoyed as I was with him, when I tuned in to my own frequency I realized he might have a point.  Yes, I was having a streak of particularly bad work days, but I also caught myself in what seemed like a metronome of negativity: the steady, rhythmic beat of annoyed this and muttering that.   "This person is an idiot," I thought while driving.  "Move your ass, lady, you're standing in line wrong." It wasn't just my negativity but my Germanic sense that there was an exact right way for the world to do everything, and the world just wasn't up to the task.
stand back
Ok, we're laying down the marker.  Knock it off. 

"What if I stop complaining for 24 hours?"  I thought to myself.  "How about making like Oprah and practicing gratitude?"  Except the more I thought about strapping myself into a monastic system of habit change, the more I started to worry that cultivating perfection was in fact the last thing I needed.  What does it mean to practice self-help when you are an unhinged control freak?  Is the paleo diet really about eating like my ancestors, or my need to control everything on my plate?  Does not complaining for 24 hour silence the negative tape in my head, or is it just another more socially acceptable way of suppressing myself?  Do I need to restrict, or obsess anymore than I already do? Isn't the obsessing what is causing all this in the first place?

So I decided to keep it simple. I gave up complaining for 24 hours. It was one minute after my decision when I sent my first snarky tweet questioning the whole project, and 10 hours before I came up with a coping mechanism borrowed from my Southern relatives that involved saying something that sounded nice, but was really a passive aggressive dig.
I don't think I was very successful at not complaining, and realized I really don't want to add "bless your heart" to every other sentence out of my mouth, but at least I've slowed the negativity somewhat.  In fact, instead of avoiding the negative, I decided to focus on the positive and start a gratitude journal.  Every day I will write down things I am thankful for.  It may not seem like much at first, but each positive thought can build on the last.

Tonight, I'm thankful for this blog. I am thankful I am writing again, even though no one sees it.  Most of all, I'm thankful for my voice--which has been too silent, too hidden, and ignored for too long.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Stress of Being a Breadwinner

I know it may seem hard to believe when you are living in poverty as a graduate student, but one day you will leave the University and you will have a job.  You will be getting paid. And you may or may not find yourself getting paid more than your partner.  Notice I say getting paid 'more than your partner," and not "getting paid a lot." You may or may not get paid a lot. But if you find yourself in the breadwinner position, you better hope you are getting paid a lot.

Just Another Day at the Office