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Rejecting the Invitation from Self-Pity

Rejecting the Invitation from Self-Pity

At this writing, the year is nearly gone. I don't remember it going so fast when I was younger. I thought I had all the time in the world. But I now realize...I don't. That if I want to get things done, I must do them now or else regret that I did not
"strike while the iron was hot".

Recently, a colleague and I were having a working lunch, which I always enjoy because it also gives us an opportunity to catch up on "life stuff". "Gabrielle, she says, "were you always this happy and positive?"

Huh? I thought, but before I could answer, she followed with another question, "Does anything ever get you down?" My friend (let's call her Joan) is a very intelligent woman, with a loving family and a successful career. She is my 'go to' person when I need an ear. We have known each other a little over seven years. 

We met in the gym locker room and with a casual hello began a conversation that has grown into a friendship. Therefore, I did not take these questions lightly. Something else was going on here, but what? She is not the only person who has inquired of this from me. In fact, it's quite often.

These were loaded questions that I am careful to answer. I gave Joan a smile and said, My answers are No and Yes, respectfully. No I have not always been this happy and positive and Yes, things do occasionally get me down. My dear, I do not live in a bubble nor do I have a "You are exempt from sadness and trouble" card." I suggested that we finish our work and meet up another day to continue this conversation as we both had other pressing matters to attend to. She agreed. 

Lately I am practicing a new technique of giving myself 24-48 hours to think about my reactions or responses. It gives me more time to gather my thoughts and offer my best to the other party. It has worked wonders and has helped me to avoid confusion and misunderstandings (and tears).

I sit here now with a plethora of thoughts rushing to make it to the pages of my notebook. They are mostly all relevant, but I have to narrow it down. Have I always been this happy and positive? Does anything ever get me down? Growing up I had a happy and positive home and community environment. I grew up in a house with hard-working, loving parents who wanted me to enjoy all the comforts in life. 

I was an only child for almost six years, but had a host of first cousins on the same block (and in the same house at one point) that kept me company. In fact, we grew up more like brothers and sisters. We had lots of fun on  our Liberty Street block. Hide and Go seek was my favorite child-hood game. My older cousins  had the best hiding places! (We should do an adult version at Downing Park). 

However, like most of America in the 60's and early 70's, we experienced racial tensions and riots. At our worst, the National Guard was called in and and we were under mandatory curfew and tear gas. My mom and I actually had to be escorted from my grandparent's house because she lost track of time and we were caught out after curfew. I wish I could remember the officer or soldier's name. 

He was very kind in that hostile situation. I mention this not to stir up any type of feelings or reactions, but to remind us of how life can be both the best of times and the worst of times, all at the same time! Having said that, Happiness is not obtained in one moment in time. There are plenty of experiences that make us both happy and sad. It is up to us to choose our state of being. 

For example, I was very sad at he passing of my Dad in 2015. to the point of not speaking for a few days. I hid in my room curled in a ball and did want to be bothered. He was ill for quite sometime so it was not a surprise, painful nonetheless. Whoever said Sickness prepares you for death is mistaken in my opinion. I took time off from work, my family and life. I began to rehearse over and over in my mind all the things that led to February 21, 2015. 

I had forgotten that on the day before, February 20th, I was given great news: out of 20,000 employees from 631 stores, I was  chosen the McDonald's crew Person of the Year! That was a huge honor, but I couldn't think about that. I could only think about spending every moment with my dad. 

After his death, memories of the hospital stays, the surgeries, the hope, the let downs, the arguments with my Mom, the guilt of not always being available and so on were my daily thoughts. I had accepted the invitation from Self-Pity. Why my dad? Why now when I need him most? Why did he have to suffer so horribly? WHY? WHY? WHY? I was on a slippery slope of despair. I would be alright in one moment, then crying uncontrollably the next. 

This went on for months. Then one day, I over heard a man on the street tell another resident that he has never known his Father. I stopped in my tracks to listen in and then it hit me like a ton of bricks because my dad also grew up fatherless, and yet was the most kind and supportive man I've ever encountered. At that moment, I knew what I needed to do: change what I was thinking about. 

Instead of focusing on what I had lost,  I began to think about all I had gained by having Anthony Burton in my life. From that day, I started a Book of Gratitude. I began daily jotting down 3-5 reasons I was grateful to have a father and how his presence in my life has inspired me to be the person I am today. Sadness is real and grief has its place. BUT, it is so easy to get caught up in Self-Pity if we are not careful. 

I made his passing about me, His first child, his only daughter, blah, blah, blah! The ego uses our emotions in a negative way that is not healthy and not beneficial to anyone, least of all ourselves. Please do not be hard on yourself if you find are in a place of Self-Pity, hat just leads to guilt and is not helpful either. Finding things to be grateful about has become a way of life for me and it keeps me happy! 

When something hurtful does occur, I put it in its proper perspective, let it marinate and look for how it can be used to help me grow. This is not always an easy practice and I do not always hit the mark, However, having an Attitude of Gratitude has revolutionized my life. Science proves that we attract what we consistently think about. So why not think happy positive thought that will net you a happy positive life? 

I am attentive to my thoughts and intentionally choose to be Happy. I choose not to accept the invitation to my Pity Party or  any one else's for that matter. Yes, misery does love company, but so does Happiness! I choose to surround myself with happy, positive people. I feed my inner man with positive affirmations and thoughts. I am constantly reading and re-reading words that uplift my spirit. 

Right now I am Re-reading the book The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. I recommend this book to everyone, especially to those who find themselves stuck in a R.U.T. (my acronym for Recurring Unhealthy Thoughts).

In the wise words of Maya Angelou, "Self-Pity in its early stag is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable."

I hope my answer is useful to my friend Joan and everyone reading this blog. Regret not the past. Fear not the future. Live in the now.

"Today I claim my Happiness and I accept it now. Today I speak only words that are loving, positive and constructive about my life. I bless with love all the  experiences of today, and look forward to the blessings that come tomorrow."

Other articles by Gabrielle Hill