I was in the grocery store last week, which is rare because at this point in our crazy two-working-parents-with-two-small-children lives, we have everything that can be delivered, delivered, and this includes groceries. It's seriously saved us about three hours a week, ordering our "big shop" right from a cell phone, and having it all magically appear early Saturday mornings.
But, that week, I'd ordered on the fly and, of course, forgotten a few things, plus an item or two had been out of stock. So, in an unexpected free hour on Tuesday afternoon, I found myself wandering our local Big Food Store.
I'm so out of grocery-shopping mode that I got a little disoriented. In the old days, I'd have my list jotted down, roughly organized by aisle, and I'd zoom through the place in relative ease.
But there I was, bouncing from Snack Foods to Produce and back again because I couldn't find the damn Pea Puffs Babygirl likes. Then, way over to Dairy for the cheddar cheese sticks I absolutely have to have with my apple for lunches, and that you can't order online for some reason, and then back over to Crackers because Hubby texted that we're out of the kids' favorite crackers... et cetera.
Then I was lost, searching for the powdered instant breakfast stuff we shake into the kids' morning cup of milk to make us feel better about their nutritional intake. It wasn't with the Cereals... I saw a couple of young employees standing in an aisle, with bar code reader-things.
Oh good, I thought. People I can ask.
But just as I was rolling near, one of them started griping, loudly:
"Man, I am so ready to get off work. Get me the heck outta here!"
His buddy replied:
"Yeah, work sucks. The whole thing sucks."
I veered away, pretending I hadn't been about to ask them something. I wondered how working in a bright, overstocked first-world grocery could possibly be THAT bad. It was kind of a downer.
I never found the stupid instant breakfast, and I was almost out of free time. I aimed for a checkout line.
The man doing checkout was still scanning items for the person ahead of me, but he looked up, smiled, and acknowledged me, calling out cheerfully:
"Hello! Beautiful shopping day, isn't it?"
He turned back to the shopper and took her coupons.
"Smart lady, you're going to save some money today. You should treat yourself to something special, you deserve it!"
The woman and I exchanged smiles and chuckled. In the space of less than a minute, the atmosphere had gone from Ugh, errands to I can't help but smile!.
Now, I've seen this guy before. He's older, has a thick accent, and he's ALWAYS cheerful. Not in a fake, annoying way. I mean, he's just really genuinely cheerful. He always greets people and says nice things, makes a lighthearted joke or two. He's very efficient at checkout. He also bags items with care. He acts like someone who loves their job.
As I stood in line, I studied him. Given his appearance and accent, I guessed that he was an immigrant. I imagined that he had come from a developing country, and had known oppression, hardship and hunger. Maybe it had been difficult for him to get to the U.S., and then to get a job. He might have a family he desperately needed to support, and so, he's amazingly appreciative of the opportunity to work the checkout counter at the Big Grocery Store, and help bag groceries for harried and distracted moms like me.
Whatever Mr. Positive Attitude's story was, he cheered a couple of people up that day. I truly wish everyone was like him. Imagine that!
And whatever the Griping Employees' story was, their complaining brought me down. It's depressing to think how many people sludge through this life like they do.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I find that I'm sensitive to negativity, I want to run away from negativity. This regardless of whether it's expressed by my colleagues at my own job, or by friends. Examples at work might include the judging of another provider's care, complaining about some administrative issue, or griping about the electronic medical record. With friends it may be grousing about our school system, grumbling about a spouse, or sharp self-criticism.
I think some venting with a trusted confidant, in private, is okay, and even necessary sometimes. Even better if it's with a mental health provider. Emotions can be validated, and a response discussed. You know, "talking it out". This is head-housecleaning. It's therapeutic.
But pointless negativity (aka "Work sucks") is just toxic. It's just pollution. It serves no good purpose. It should be banned. And there's alot of it.
People who have known me over the years may be surprised to hear me saying this. I was kind of the Queen of Complaining in residency and fellowship. What happened? Well, to sum up: in 2006, the years of sheer physical and emotional exhaustion, unhealthy coping, poisonous relationships, and social isolation brought me to the lowest point in my life.
The struggle upwards involved hundreds of hours of therapy with an excellent provider, liberal antidepressants, formulating meaningful life goals, clean living, and meeting my husband.
Through our very different journeys, we've been touched by the pain and hardships life can offer, and we've been witnesses to some true horrors. A twist of fate, bad luck, the finger of God... bad things can happen to anyone. When they do, some people are consumed, crushed even, and yet, others transcend.
I'm thinking of my patients with devastating diagnoses who choose to stay positive. I'm thinking of our family members who have lost children, and choose to go on living and loving. I'm thinking of the people I've known in Central and South America who suffer true deprivations, but choose to hope. I'm thinking of all victims of random violence who choose to forgive. I'm thinking of the immigrants around the world who are being shunned, but choose to go on in search of better lives.
For everyone who chooses to say:"I'm going to take it day by day, and be grateful for every sunrise", I'm thinking of you.
We are so lucky, so blessed, and we acknowledge that. In our house, we joke that if we ever won the lottery, we wouldn't change much, because we've already won the lottery. We are passionate about our hard-earned careers. We've been blessed with our beautiful kids. We enjoy a place in a wonderful community.
Is everything perfect? Duh. Of course not. Read my blog.
But our eyes have been opened to what could be, and so, we're thankful for what we have. And we are truly happy.