Saturday, September 5, 2009

Letting go = Gaining control

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."

That is the banner hanging over the white board in my classroom. It is one of those cheesy, supposedly-motivating banners you buy at the teacher store.

The secret?

I didn't put it up for my students. I put it up for me.

The banner faces my desk, and I try to read it...really read it...everyday. And you know what? Attitude really does make a big difference.

I can be a pretty glass-half-empty kinda girl. I get really frustrated (indignant, my husband says) when people behave in "inappropriate" ways. When someone does not do his job properly and it then affects me, I can go around pissed off for days. But somewhere along the line I have realized that my indignance, my rantings and ravings, my general pissiness does not change a thing. The problem is still there. The incompetent coworker is still there. People still do and say the wrong things. So I've realized I have a choice: I can deal with the situation and be pissed off or I can deal with the situation and not let it get to me. Either way, I have to deal with the damned situation. My anger does not make it go away. So, I'm learning to "go with the flow" "relax" "be positive" "not stress": all things I've been told and scoffed at.

My first week back to work, I was constantly conscious of my attitude. I walked around trying to be a light of positivity. I almost couldn't stand myself. When people made snippy comments (as co-workers so often can), I did not throw out a zinger (as I so often do...and do well). When stuff went wrong, I shrugged it off and either solved it myself or ignored it if it could not be solved. I smiled at everyone. I made small talk. I was cheerful and pleasant. And exhausted.

I think I was more tired from trying to be so damn positive all the time than I was from actually setting up an entire classroom, going back to work, and dealing with my 2 kids while Hubby was out of town. I felt like the pressure to be positive and stress-free was a literal weight on my shoulders. At the end of the day, I felt like a smoker who was trying to quit: I just wanted one puff of a sarcastic, negative complaint.

But as the days have gone on and I've gotten more used to the idea of not complaining, of being more positive, of not letting things get to me, I'm starting to really notice "those people" more and more: the ones who sit around the lunch table and complain about everything, the stuff which warrants complaints and even the stuff that doesn't. I used to be one of those people. I'd join in with them, always feeling justified: 'See? Everyone else feels the same way I do!' But now that I've removed myself from that talk, I'm realizing I don't even like being around those people. I walk away from them feeling like the life has been zapped right out of me. I don't want to be those people anymore. And the most amazing thing is that I thought it was easier, more natural, to complain and get stressed and pissed about stuff. Now I'm realizing the exact opposite is true: I feel like I've been liberated. I am free of that feeling I'd get in the pit of my stomach when I was indignant about something, when I made a list of all the things that were going wrong, when I expected the worst from people.

I had heard it before: sometimes if you want to be happy you just need to be happy. Oh, so simple. Oh, so cheesy. But oh, so true. Being the control freak that I am, I was always upset because I couldn't control situations, people, circumstances. But what I've realized is that I am in control...of myself, my reactions, my attitude. And I'm just now starting to understand what a difference my big attitude was making...


  1. Thank you for this, Liz. Your secret is safe with me. Good work.

  2. Beautiful post Liz. And so very true. It took me a long time to come to the same realization. Attitude does make a difference!

  3. Liz,
    You hit the nail on the head...Karma will get the people who are in the wrong...there is no need to enslave yourself with negativity...Bad stuff will continue to happen, how you react to it will change...and therein lies the difference...Welcome to the other side...Hope you have a wonderful day off tomorrow!

  4. So happy I just found your blog! This post could have been written about me! My journey to FREEDOM has come through my yoga practice over the years. I too was once a control freak...and I was miserable. Letting go, having faith that all is as it should be, and looking at the bright side/having gratitude are such powerful tools for being content! Thanks so much :)
    Lisa Flynn
    ChildLight Yoga:


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