This month I'm working on giving myself something my mother offered to give me countless times throughout my teenage years: an attitude adjustment.
I'd been struggling with what to focus on this month (and yes, I know that we're already ten days into the month and I'm late to the game); I really want to spend a month focusing on learning/creativity, and a month focusing on working/professionalizing myself and my blog, but as we will be in Spain for half the month, I knew I couldn't focus on those things in a sustained and deliberate way.
But I had a good uncle, my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life-insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.
So one of my resolutions this month is to say, out loud, If this isn't nice, I don't know what is, as often as is appropriate. As the weather will be 40 degrees warmer in Spain and we'll be staying five minutes from a beach and we'll spend our days playing with the kids, I imagine this will be fairly easy. In fact, I think this is something built into parenthood: an unconscious relishing of the moment, a knowledge of how fleeting and yet transcendent our time with our children is. Every single night, after the boys are asleep, I spend time sitting in the dark bedroom, listening to their breathing, kissing their cheeks, admiring their tiny shoulders, and reveling in their very being. I don't say the words, but I definitely feel them: If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.
Of course I want to do this in more than just the obvious, grand moments of sunset and laughter; I want to remark on how nice it is to go for a stroll with my husband and kids, pointing out what we see, talking about the day. How nice it is to sit on the couch with a book while the kids make magnificent creations out of blocks; how nice it is to feel Bing Bong stretching and hiccuping and getting ready to come into this world; how nice it is to laugh with a friend, or eat rich dark chocolate. I want to practice expressing all the niceness there is (especially when reading the news only reminds me of all the niceness there isn't).
My only other resolution for this month is to stop complaining. It's funny, in my head I'm not someone who complains a lot. In reality, I'm someone who complains all the time. Strange how drastically different those two people are, huh? I think it's partly because complaints come out of my mouth before my brain realizes it has formed them. It's almost a reflex for me. I grew up seeing a lot of this, and I think it was just embedded in me as normal, possibly even as how one ought to behave. Which, of course, it isn't.
My real challenge is that I want to stop complaining both externally and internally. Not only do I want to stop the outward behavior of saying negative things, but I want to stop the inward behavior of dwelling on them. I'm not foolish enough to believe I can banish all my negative thought patterns in 21 days, but I can become more aware of the negative things I'm thinking about and dwelling on and choose to move on to something else. Perhaps moving on to a thought like If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.
If you were only going to make one tiny resolution for the rest of the month, what would it be? What small shift could you make that would make a huge difference?
Most photos by me, one or two by James.