Friday, September 5, 2014

People are Annoying.

Me: How was school, Yasya?
Yasya: People are annoying and they are killing my brain. 

I know I should discourage the negativity, but, good grief it is so true. And so hard to deny. And probably my biggest challenge as a mom. Deep down inside, I am Wednesday Addams. As a kid, I identified with her more than anyone else. I didn't like socializing or people. I made sure there was at least some bit of black in my clothes everyday even if it was just Mickey Mouse’s ears. My inner monologue is still all in her voice. Or if you want to get more modern, you can put in April Ludgate. Either way, it is not a bubbly voice. And I have been accused of being too sarcastic. As an adult who moves around in society and used to work with teens, that wasn’t always so good. I mean, to a certain extent, it worked (teens and kids in general usually prefer honest people who are a little dark to overly bubbly people who are clearly trying too hard), but at some point it is good to stop and try to be cheerful. *sigh*

So I have tried to grow and adapt. Here comes the debate. Does trying to act nice and cheerful even though I am Wednesday Ludgate inside make me a phony? Or does it mean I am trying to evolve as a person and adapt to different situations as needed? When I was a retreat leader, this topic would come up periodically. Not that we were talking about me, but we would talk about how we acted in different situations. Do people act differently at school than at home or work, for example. If we think about all the environments we pass through in a week – home with kids, home with spouse, playdates, school, work, church, grocery shopping, library, etc – it is pretty clear that identical behavior in each of those environments would not be appropriate. If I talked to my husband the same way I talked to my daughters, he’d get pretty annoyed (I know this from experience). Similarly, if I acted the same now in my thirties as a mom as I did as a dark teen hating everyone, that would be . . . sad. Ideally, people grow as they age. And I don't mean fatter.

Also, as a parent, I need to think about the long term affect of my actions. How I talk to my children and how they see me interacting with others will to some extent shape how they interact with others. I want my children to be slightly less dark and gloomy, so I do try to focus on the positive with them. Normally, I avoid asking, “how was school?” It leaves the door open for negative answers. Normally I ask for best things of the day or who the girls played with or what was the most interesting thing they learned. At dinner, all of us have to say what the best thing of the day was. On my super grumpy days, that is really hard for me. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue to avoid saying, “I didn’t stab anyone today.” For my older daughter, the sunshiney stuff seems much more natural. For my younger daughter and myself, it is a skill we have to practice daily and really work on consciously. That's part of why I named my Etsy shop HAPPY Walrus instead of Morose Walrus. There is joy around me as long as I keep looking for it (and sometimes the joy comes in the shape of The Addams Family or Tim Burton movies or super dark humor shared with my younger daughter). On bad days, like the day my daughter said the annoying people were killing her brain, we did talk about all that negative stuff. I want to be clear about that. Focusing on the positive does NOT mean ignoring the negative or shoving it in a closet. She vented and ate Oreos, and we talked about actions to take in the future.

I am still true to myself and have my pretty little skulls and bats decorating our apartment, my sarcasm does show up sporadically (though not to the point of making people cry), and I still have a mostly black wardrobe including skeleton boots I wear all year, however it isn’t overwhelming. My hope is that by focusing on the positive, I can gradually shift my own inner monologue a bit, too. People are annoying, but I do have to live around them and interact with them. I can choose to be constantly annoyed by them, or I can – reluctantly – try to change my attitude. When I go out, I have some friends who are my Wednesday Ludgate friends, but my other friends are needed to balance that out and remind me that sometimes talking to people about things isn’t so bad. The world needs Leslie Knopes, too. Hopefully my kids will be able to grow into Leslie Ludgates. The annoying people won’t stop asking, “are you a boy? Are you sure?” or “Where did you get her from?” (referring to my daughter who I got from my uterus and what kind of normal person asks that question, seriously?) or refusing to use turn signals, but we can learn to smile despite – or in spite of -  them. Then paint our nails black and eat some waffles.

What can I say? We look good in black.

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