Today I had a bad experience. Whatever the reverse of serendipity is, this experience was that. It was out of the blue on a perfectly normal day. I got my daughter to school late and suffered some sharp words from the teacher. Ouch!
So maybe it's not that big a deal--it's not like I shot someone or lost a leg--but these tiny little criticisms can cause an otherwise sunny day to spiral into something dark and stormy. We've all suffered them--eye rolls, scoffing disguised as coughs (or not disguised at all), and sometimes out-and-out verbal assaults. What do you do when you’re the object of someone else's disdain?
Though I understood the logic behind the teacher's words—okay, yeah, I need to get my kid to school on time (even if it is preschool)—that doesn't mean it didn't hurt. Self-defeating thoughts ran through my head. I'm the worst mother ever…I'm so irresponsible…I let my daughter get away with too much…Everyone else knows what they're doing; I'm the only clueless one. I even came close to crying (I'll admit I'm pretty thin-skinned).
But then, I remembered the advice I told myself years and years ago that I’ve turned to repeatedly in my life. Now I'm going to share that advice with you:
This too shall pass.
That's right. Those negative feelings will pass. The bad times won't last forever. Things will get better. I know it doesn't feel that way when you're in the pit of despair, when you feel like the world is against you, but remember that it's exactly that--a feeling. And feelings are transient; they don't last forever.
I know I’ve had rotten experiences throughout the years—I was bullied in school, I had a terrible fight with my best friend from college that ended our relationship, my crushes were never reciprocated—but all that passed. It’s in the past. I got over it.
____________________________________ Oftentimes even if we know things intellectually, we don't acknowledge them emotionally.
And here's my second piece of advice: don't let other people determine how you feel about yourself.
Let's face it--people can be downright mean. Sometimes the world looks like a truly ugly place, and other people can reflect that ugliness in their actions and their words. What you have to remember is that if other people are throwing bad karma your way, it's their problem, not yours.
Now, this seems pretty self-apparent. Duh, you already know that you're not responsible for other people's behavior. But the thing is that oftentimes even if we know things intellectually, we don't acknowledge them emotionally. What I mean by this is that even if you know someone is lashing out at you just because he or she had a bad day, it doesn't mean that it's not hurtful.
You have to remind yourself as often as you need to that if a person's attitude is broken, it's not your fault and it's not your problem. That can be a hard idea to accept. Sometimes we might feel like if we did things a little differently, maybe the other person would be nicer to us. Maybe if we were just more patient or kinder or if we were more careful about what we did, the other person would be nicer to us. But that's not the case. The truth is that people with ugly attitudes are going to spew their hate no matter what you do. It's not because of anything you've done. It's just because they're unhappy. And that's not your fault.
I remember this girl I worked with the summer after my senior year of high school. She had the personality of a Tasmanian Devil and the sting of a bullet ant. If you said, "Good morning!" her response would be "Grumble grumble," *eye roll*. Actually, I don't remember any conversations with this girl. I just remember how horrible she was. For instance, months after we'd worked together, I saw her at the college library on the pay phone (yeah, OLD school), and so I yelped a greeting at her in surprise. Rather than acknowledging me with a smile or a little wave, she just held up one finger as if to say I-will-deign-to-speak-to-you-after-I-finish-this-very-important-phone-call-in-spite-of-the-fact-I'm-not-talking-and-there-doesn't-appear-to-be-anyone-on-the-other-end-of-the-phone. So after a few seconds standing there like an idiot, I just walked off. She just wasn't worth the effort.
And that's the hard truth: some people just aren't worth the effort.
So I'll leave you with this advice when negative karmic rays come your way--remember that this too shall pass and don't let other people decide how you see yourself. And good luck out there--it's a tough world.
For another perspective--
Here's a good article from Psychology Today about dealing with negative people.
How do you deal with negative people? Leave a comment below.
What if people who were dead came back to life, but instead of just being normal, they were flesh-eating monsters, you know like zombies?...No, wait, that's been done. Night of the Living Dead and ad infinitum.
But what if these so-called zombies destroyed civilization, and we got to watch the survivors in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse?...Oh, no, that's been done too. The Walking Dead et cetera.
So then what if one of those brain-eating creepers accidentally fell in love with a girl and regained his humanity?...Okay, that's been done, too. Warm Bodies, a zombie romance.
Insofar as zombie-related plots are concerned, it seems like it's all "been there, done that." Hmmm....
Ah, but what about this--The zombie apocalypse has occurred, but the survivors have reversed it with a new miracle drug?
Hey, that hasn't been done before!
And now it has. Welcome to In the Flesh, a post-zombie apocalypse story courtesy of the BBC.
I've only seen about the first 30 minutes of the first episode of this series (okay, so I'm definitely not an expert--I know that), but I am really psyched about the premise. A boy named Kieran is one of the undead...or at least he was, but now he's been identified as actually having Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS), an ailment that apparently causes people to lose their minds and go cannibal all over people's butts (well, every part of their body, not just their butts). But now, with the help of medication, he's learned the error of his ways and has recovered enough to be returned to his family. The problem is that he's wracked with guilt and suffering flashbacks of the people he's eaten in his zombie state, his home is ground central for a militia that hunted and exterminated "rotters" like him, there is still a lot of simmering anger towards people with PDS, and Kieran's sister Jem was/is a zombie hunter (Her buddy in the Human Volunteer Force (HVF), Billy "Sarge" Macy calls her The Rambo of Roarton). How is Kieran going to navigate this new life as a regular-teenage-boy/recovering-human-flesh-addict?
I can't wait to find out!
Here's what I like about this series so far:
As far as I can see from a rudimentary Google search, In The Flesh originally aired on BBC three and BBC America. It's available now on Hulu Plus. I don't know if it's available anywhere else right now, but if you get the chance, check it out, and please let me know what you think about it in the comments below.
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For my composition students' first paper, they wrote an essay based on a quote. It was a diagnostic essay, which implies that I am a "doctor" and they have writing "ailments" that I have to cure. :-) Below is one of the quotes they were allowed to choose to write their paper on as well as my own meditation on the quote's meaning and its relevance to my life.
"I think there's a time in your life where you don't feel like you fit in. I think everyone has that when you're a teenager, especially, and especially in the society we live in."--Matthew Vaughn
We were reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self Reliance"--his proclamations that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," and that "Whoso would be a man, must be a noncomformist." Eleventh grade English class, Calera High School, 1993. After we reveled in Emerson's trenchant philosophy of life--which went completely over our teenage heads--the teacher, Mrs. G.--who in my opinion looked like a witch with her sharp eyes, crooked nose, and cackly voice--asked the class if they knew anyone who was a noncomformist. Tara, a girl with a big voice who never sufferd her presence to be unknown, piped up and said that I, yes, me, Cheryl Clark, the brown-haired pipsqueak who sat at her desk and never said anything ever, never spoke up in class, never gave her opinion, always let gossip and mayhem flow around her, never to graze the flesh of her skin, I was a nonconformist.
I was shocked in two ways. First, I was shocked that someone had called attention to me in class. The thing about me as a high school student is that I abhorred attention. I was a tiny mouse who crept around the corners of social life, peeking in from the outside, never one to be looked upon, except to perhaps comment on the background wildlife in the room. My heart sped up, just like that of the tiny creature I identified most strongly with--the field mouse--one who's spotted a predator in its periphery. Maybe my mouth dropped open; I know for certain all thoughts fled my little mouse brain. I had no way to respond because all I wanted was for the attention to pass around me, like a stick flowing around a rock in the middle of a stream.
_______________________________________ The identities we carry as teenagers remain with us throughout life.
Mrs. G. protested. What? No, Cheryl is not a nonconformist. Don't be ridiculous, Tara. I'm talking about a real nonconformist, she said. And that's where the second shock came from.
Was I a nonconformist? I was very shy, didn't speak up in class. I tried to avoid crowds, not to stand out in them. And I read. A lot. I loved to read. I rushed through my assignments in class so that I could grab the novel I kept at the ready next to my desk and devour every last morsel of prose. I got good grades, really good grades. Most of my peers were satisfied with C's or even D's. But for me, it was A's, preferably A+'s, or nothing. So in many ways, I did not blend in; I did not conform to the behavior of my peers.
But Mrs. G said I wasn't a nonconformist. Was she right? I didn't live in a cave or eat worms. I wasn't a hermit. I didn't dress like I bought my clothes from a retired theater troupe. I didn't do anything zany or ever stand out. People's eyes trailed over me, never lingered. I was the forgotten girl. I was not special.
So perhaps my nonconformity--that which Mrs. G. scoffed at--was a quiet sort of thing. Mine was a silent rebellion. Against the negative expectations, the self-destructive behavior, the brashness, the idiocy, the irresponsibility, the promiscuity, the boldness that marked my peers. I stood out by not standing out. And no, I didn't fit in. I had friends, but they were the weird kids--the kids no one else wanted, the fringe folks who just didn't connect with the mainstream.
The identities we carry as teenagers remain with us throughout life. I still feel like I am the odd girl out of the group. I still feel like a noncomformist, but whereas it bothered me when I was younger, these days I embrace the status of the outsider. I don't want to be like everyone else. I don't want to be a typical middle class white lady. I don't want to keep up with the Joneses. I don't want to strive for mediocrity.
I remember a few years back when I was working as a school librarian, a teacher told me that her aspiration was to be the epitome of middle class-ness. She wanted to have the best house on the block, the kids with the highest grades, the nicest clothes a middle class income could afford. She want to be the best example of the middle class that small town Oklahoma could offer. I had never heard such an aspiration verbalized before, and I found it shocking. It seemed like she was striving for everything I had railed against all my life--why would anyone want to be the best at being like everyone else? It seemed a strange idea, and it still seems strange to me.
So how important is fitting in? For a young person, I suppose it is the thing, and for many adults it is as well. But like Emerson and like Robert Frost, the great American poet, I like to think that I have taken the road "less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference."
If you enjoyed this post, please click the share button below. Thanks!--Cheryl
Word and Book Lover.