Saturday, June 9, 2012


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Many times either in passing conversation or on the social networks, I often come across people complaining. People complain about the weather, other people, and poor Monday gets the shaft every single week.  Now, I'm not going to lie, I can be one of the biggest perpetrators.  Aches and pains are my complaints of choice, closely followed by other people's (lack of) work ethic.  I understand that complaining, or expressing negative emotions, is sometimes necessary and even cleansing, but constant complaining only feeds negativity into our spirits that can lead to a bitter outlook on life.

I haven't had the easiest life; sometimes I feel like I never win.  But I've learned that complaining makes me look and feel ugly.  I still do it because I'm human.  However, I've decided to pay more attention to the good things in my life, no matter how small they might seem, because they are what brings me joy.  For a year, I sat down to breakfast with my Bible and a little notebook.  I would read a passage and then write down five things I was grateful for, and I would attempt to find different things to be grateful for within a particular week, so that I would stretch my perception of what was good in my life.  I would be grateful for my mother's improving health, or that I got a full night's sleep, or that I got a compliment on my looks or job performance.  Then I would read over the week's lists and feel happy.  It was a practice I needed at the time, as I had been struggling with depression and anxiety, and I realized that the only way to change my feelings was to change my thoughts.

The past academic year was very tough for me.  I felt as if I was working harder than ever and not seeing positive results.  I became angry, sad, and disillusioned with the work I was doing.  There were several times when I would even mention to students that I didn't want to be a counselor any more.  It was that bad.  However, after a little vacation time and some space from an overwhelming amount of work, I was able to breathe and get perspective on some things.  Just over the past week, I began to consistently play the good interactions I've had with others over in my mind, rather than focusing on the negative.  Here are some examples:
  • During  my vacation last week, I spent time with some former students at Disney World. Embracing our "inner child" with each other was not only personally joyful, it was something that would bond us together.  The following day, one of them received terrible news, and we were there to comfort and support her.  Being able to have fun together helped us to grieve together.  Through this experience we became vulnerable with each other and developed a relationship that goes far beyond that of student-counselor; we are now family.
  • Two days this week, a student who is taking summer classes treated me to Starbucks.  He knew that I was really tired and suffering from post-vacation withdrawal (that's a real ailment as far as I'm concerned).  Not only did this help me stay awake and alert, the conversations I had with him brought some energy into my current work routine.
  • I received an email from one of my students saying she missed me and asking me for an update on my life.  I had been thinking about her, and didn't want to reach out to her because honestly, sometimes I think my students might think I'm a little too intrusive.  Even though we had spent a lot of time together over the course of the school year, I was trying to give her space.  For me, receiving that email meant that she valued the time we spent together as much as I did.  It also helped me reflect on what quality time can do to build relationships.  
  • I got a text from another student on the same day, saying that he missed our department and asking how things were going.  We caught up on our work and internship happenings, and I mentioned that I had been to New York City.  He's home in NYC on break, so he asked why I didn't call him so we could get together.  I told him I thought he'd outgrown me.  He's a very independent young man with such a strong head on his shoulders and he doesn't need me in the same ways other students do.  His response was, "You can't outgrow love, Patricia."  That statement spoke volumes to me.  Even as I sit here and reflect on it, it brings tears to my eyes.  It summed up all of the good that is in my life, and made me realize that when I have the love of others in my life, I lack absolutely nothing.  
I could give more examples, such as the time I spent in New York City with friends, family and some of my former colleagues as well as former students, or the various Facebook posts and comments I've received recently, or those new people in my life who I've come to know through varying circumstances.  All of these good experiences have come at a time when I found myself saying a final goodbye to a relationship that was not good for me, and after a year of incredibly draining work.  It was as if God knew that my heart and soul needed to be filled, and He sent many, many people to fill me with love and happiness.

We can get into a rut when we live a life that is all routine and don't stop to reflect on the little interactions that we have with others.  Although I don't write down all of the things I'm grateful for as I used to do, I make an effort to stop and say, "thank you" for all of the things, big and small, that inject joy into my life.  Try it, you might like it! 

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