Get Real on the Internet

“Sick of “perfect” posts online? Who isn’t? That’s why this month Real Simple is hosting “Get Real on the Internet” week.” January 2014 issue, pg. 23

Or take the social media post I read recently that went something like “Couples who are really happy don’t feel the need to talk about it to others.”

Is that what we really believe?

Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the thought behind some of these ideas. Real Simple takes the stance that social media has become a platform of one-upping and painting ourselves in a perfect light to create jealousy. I could chalk up the second quotation to a private person who doesn’t feel the need to share life details. Both of these things are fine. But what I can’t get behind is the idea that by being “real” we are called to be negative. And here’s why:

  1. Negativity breeds negativity. And it doesn’t always start with that intent. If I establish a routine of negative honesty and call my girlfriends to complain about something Freddy did that day (for example), they will get behind me and tell me why I have a right to feel upset, angry, etc. They mean to build me up and be supportive but what they do is feed into my negativity and encourage it. Likewise, if I complain about something Freddy did that day and they had a similar experience that they’ve already brushed off in their lives, they’ll bring it up in an effort to empathize with me. Now suddenly, we’re all festering over an issue that (usually) really wasn’t an issue at all. On the other hand, if I establish a routine of positive honesty, those same friends will offer me the good examples and encourage me to dig deeper into finding a solution or peaceful resolution. (“Positive honesty” and “negative honesty” are both honesty. It all has to do with perception. I can choose to focus on the good things in my life or I can fester over the bad. I have both in my repertoire.)
  2. Negative honesty leads to missed opportunities to experience blessing. We often see the greatest blessings after a stretch of trials. And when we are in the habit of living with positive honesty, we are able to appreciate smaller blessings with greater impact. The card in the mail. The coupon for the store you love. That picture from years ago that captures exactly how you felt at the time. All of these are easily missed when walking around with a cloud of negativity. Somehow they’re not big enough blessings to break through.
  3. Negativity portrays the wrong image. We all want to be liked, respected, and loved but when we focus on the negative, we exhibit those qualities that we shy away from in others. To take it a step further, as Christians, we are called to be lights to the world. How do we stand out of the crowd if we’re constantly being negative? Why would anyone look at us and see something they want to be a part of? We’re walking billboards for our faith and we need to start realizing that the way we react has an impact.

I could go on, but I think you get my point.

I should probably mention that when I talk about negative honesty, I’m not talking about the honesty of admitting “I’m having a bad day.” or “I’m grumpy.” or “I feel like I was mistreated during this conversation.” I think those are basic building blocks for communication – we need to let the people around us know how we feel to start working toward a better relationship. What I’m talking about it is “Everything around me is awful.” or “People make me so angry.” or “You never treat me right.” Those generalities and absolutes mean we’re constantly searching for examples to support our claims. I have bad days. And when I can tell my coworkers or my spouse that I’m having a bad day before we get started, it helps us to navigate the day better. 

When Freddy and I got married, my mom gave me the best advice I could give to anyone searching to be more positive. She said, “Don’t tell me about Freddy and your fights as a married couple. You spend every day with him and you will forgive him and move on but if I hear only bad, I will resent him and find it difficult to forgive.”

Seems pretty clear cut. I want the people I love to be loved by others. If I find myself in a pattern of only bringing up the negative things because I feel negative or feel as though I will be judged for being positive, then I’m setting my relationships up for failure. Why would I want to do that? And why would I want to pull someone else into negativity when it has nothing to do with them? I wouldn’t.

So by all means, be real. Be happy in your relationship and keep it to yourself if you don’t like to share. But when someone asks, offer them some positive honesty. And when you’re having a bad day, seek out the silver lining before spreading it on social media unless you’re generally asking for help. And if you are, qualify your negative honesty so we know to build you up. Because we want to. But you need to want it too.

The Happiest 5k on the Planet

My alarm went off at 5:50am this morning, reminding me that I was about to run in The Color Run – Grand Rapids with one day’s worth of training under my belt and some pre-existing knee pain.

5:50am. Yuck.

My parents were up for the weekend to take care of some GR chores, so I guilted my mom into coming as my support. She was already in the shower when my alarm went off and I shuddered to think of how tired she must be.

Geared up, I headed downtown with my mom to sign-in. I was meeting up with some girlfriends for the run and found them with relative ease.

This is what we looked like before the run:

TheColorRunBefore

Clean, fresh-faced, and ready to go!

And after:

TheColorRunAfter

Success! Running with girlfriends is so much better than running alone!

The race isn’t timed so we finished when we finished and threw that competitive awkwardness out the window. I may not have been in shape but I had a great time today with my friends. When I needed to walk, we walked. But they definitely pushed me to run!

Here’s my advice: If you have little running experience, I highly recommend signing up as a 5k team leader when you’re feeling ambitious. I know that doesn’t sound like it makes a whole lot of sense but thinking about it: If you lose motivation? Too bad. You’re the leader! You’re committed to running it because people are counting on you!

5ks are kind of my new thing. They’re long enough to make you feel accomplished when you’re out of shape but short enough to be within reach. And it might have something to do with something my mom said to me today about happy people too:

She told me that the happiest people actually engage in more activities that sit outside their comfort zone. Out of curiosity or a desire to tackle something new on their list, they sign up for those things they’ve never done before and, once they complete them, they’re happier for it.

Don’t go thinking that’s made a runner out of me (yet!) – but I continue to see 5ks in my future. And someday soon, I’ll take on something new!

TheColorRunColorPacks

www.thecolorrun.com

A special thanks to my mom for cheering us on and documenting our day! It means a lot to me!

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream!

To reread it, that last post was a little all over the place. Lo siento, mis amigos. I suppose that’s what I get for not taking the time to seclude myself from outside distractions while posting – or for having too many things running through my head at any given time; sometimes I feel like I need to say it all! And let’s be honest, that isn’t going to change any time soon!

Anyway, ice cream. I find an overwhelming sense of joy when I notice something that I believe goes largely unnoticed on any given day. The more “insignificant” the better. It’s the feeling that I’m seeing things for the first time or getting a glimpse of the true nature of something through all the distractions. They’re moments that I feel compelled to share though their retelling may be void of all the impact felt in the moment. For example: This weekend I was with a friend outside of a walk-up ice cream shop. It may sound simple, but somewhere amidst looking over the menu, deciding that I wasn’t hungry enough to indulge, and people watching, I noticed something: Everyone is happy at a walk-up ice cream shop.

Now, okay, I know that happiness can’t be bought, but if it did come from an exchange of currency for goods, I’m convinced it would come in the form of a twist of chocolate and vanilla, smothered in chocolate sauce and sprinkles, or scooped up into a waffle cone. Just trust me on this.

My awareness of this fact struck me while I sat in the car in the parking lot, separated from everyone passing by. Had I been standing in line, I would’ve been too caught up in my own excitement to appreciate the uniqueness of the general attitude around me. Or perhaps the contagious nature of people’s attitudes would negate the preciousness. Either way, this wasn’t the case. I was able to appreciate every laugh, skip, and smile that passed. Small children played with leaves and ran around the walkway in front of the windows before being called to wrap their fingers carefully around their small ice cream cones; the littlest ones then proceeded to navigate the path back to the car with cautiousness, determination, and excitement (the combination of which had me holding my breath, wondering if they would break out in a run and lose their ice cream altogether).

Mothers and fathers turned with smiles to pass out orders. Singles walked up without the “ice cream glow” and walked away, two cones in hand, with smirks spreading across their faces. After a while, my friend and I made a game of it – waiting for the smiles to come. And they did. You don’t come to an ice cream shop if you’re not in a good mood. You may run through Meijer and pick up a carton of ice cream – but a walk-up ice cream shop? That’s an experience. It’s associated with fond memories of youth, warm weather, friends and family. You can’t help but be happy!

So that’s it. My joyful realization of the weekend. What’s there to gain from this insight? Well, I suppose it can be summarized as follows: Happiness is now available for sale at your local walk-up ice cream shop in a variety of flavors! 🙂 Find a mom-and-pop shop; support the local community; spread a smile or two.

P.S. My birthday is tomorrow!