The Crossing Guard I wrote about a few months ago is back on the corner waving his sign. You may recall that this guy made my day every single time I saw him. It’s having the same effect on me now as it did then. If you’d like to know why, please go read that post. You’ll smile.
Contrast this with some advice I received recently.
“Never turn your back on anyone. People will take any chance they can to screw you.”
I protested that I do not want to think that way. I can’t. It’s too draining and being on guard constantly is exhausting.
“Well, you’re just naive and you’re doomed for a life of misery and stress.” I watched this person walk away and wondered how many ulcers he was carrying around in his bitter guts. I didn’t resent him for trying to help me. That was the really sad part of it: he was really trying to help.
Across Great Distances
That crossing guard makes me smile for an hour if I even drive within 50 feet of him. On the other hand, even the memory of that encounter with Mr. Doomsday threatens to bring me down. The mere reminder of the encounter provokes very real feelings and a potential shift in mood.
It’s over. It’s done with. And yet, if I let myself remember, I’m right back there and I feel the same twist in my stomach and the heavy feeling in my heart as I did in those moments.
My math is poor and my advice is often poorer still. But I know this much:
If you surround yourself with positive people, you will become more positive. If you voluntarily surround yourself with negative people (or even memories of them), you will become more negative.
Even when circumstances force you towards people who weigh on you, you can still choose how to react. You must choose to resist the tendency to play into the negativity or else the cumulative exposure will sneak up on you and the choice will be taken out of your hands.
During more serious posts like this, my goal is never to give advice but rather to start conversations and prompt some real reflection on each of our parts.
Whatever you choose, be aware of other people and their effects on you so that your choice will be informed. We are uniquely situated in the animal kingdom in that we have the ability to watch ourselves and study our own minds.
I’ll be doing the same.
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PS: If you’re looking for a fun read about some hilariously negative people, check out Kinsley Amis’ Lucky Jim book.