I like to think of myself as being a positive person. Who doesn’t? But even when I’m being positive, it’s the negative part of that spectrum that I live in. As in, I tend to live by the motto, “make the best of it” or “hope for the best, but expect the worst.” You see, even when I’m trying that power of positive thinking, I need a little negative. The word, “need” is the key; I need negativity to make me feel comfortable. It’s my security blanket.
Let me give you an example. I had to drive my wife to the airport yesterday. We were late, which is not really a surprise for us. But this time we were really late. We were also radically underslept thanks to our 22 month-old and the chompers that are chomping through his gums these days. So, we’re driving. We’re late. I’m feeling stressed, which means I need a hit of negativity to get me through, to hep me cope. relieve the stress. For me, this is a 2-phase process. I go inwards, get quiet, and wait for my wife to ask something so I can snap.
The thing with letting myself do this is that it’s a bit like a drug. I think that I’ll get some relief if I’m a jerk and lash out. It does relieve the stress, but only for a moment. Like a drug, you feel worse after the initial high wears off.
I don’t know when this happened to me. Years of not being in a relationship didn’t help. I have a tendency to want to beat myself up. That’s where the snapping comes in. Before I got married, it was a private affair. I’d snap at myself. But now my wife is my life all the time, and there’s no place to go off and beat myself up, so I feel cornered.
And anyway, doesn’t misery love company? Don’t they say that? For me, when I’m most miserable, I want to flee. But you can’t do that when you are married and raising a family. So what do I do? I hear a voice pointing me towards an answer. Positive thinking is the answer. I have to will myself away from the negative. That’s what the voice in my head says. The voice is not my own. It’s a woman’s voice; it’s my mother.
To this day, she says things that make my sister and I roll our eyes:
“Positive thinking keeps you young,” my mom says.
She can be corny. She’s also not the most positive person herself, if you get to know her. But what is honest is her attempt to keep it positive even when you know she doesn’t really feel that way. Her worldview, I know, comes out of the fact that she is an immigrant and a woman; I know she suffered a lot of racism and sexism in her life. She’s learned the hard way that if you don’t keep it positive for yourself, the world won’t do it for you.
So, back to yesterday: I’m driving my wife, and I want to go inwards, and not talk. I don’t want anything to do with positive thinking; I want to sulk and then snap. The one-two routine of the moody jerk I can be. Because, I ask you, if I’m not going to use my mouth to spew some venom, then what’s the point? But I force myself to move my jawbones and make a comment about something–something general, not negative in the least. It wasn’t easy. It was like trying to run when your legs are stiff, but it gets easier the more you work through the stiffness. The same was true yesterday. I can’t even remember what I said, but I remember hearing my wife’s voice; she sounded happy and stress-free, and that made my need for darkness subside a bit more until after a while, my jaw was fully functional and I was talking. I came out of my head, happy and not stressed in the least. WTF?
We made it on time, by the way. My wife caught her flight. All was good.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still addicted to the negativity. Forcing myself not to be an ass when I’m tense, it felt good, but there was a part of me that wanted the adrenaline of assholeness. I’m going to try to starve that need. I’m going try to keep to that whole positive thinking approach my mom’s always pushing. But no recovery can start without first admitting the problem, so here it goes,
My name is Gabe, and I have a problem.
Wish me luck.