Wednesday, October 5, 2011

When being sucked dry isn’t a fun thing

What drains you?

This question was posed in a meeting I attended last week, and you’ll be proud to know I didn’t make a single filthy joke.

OK, I didn’t make a single filthy joke at that moment. I saved it for the headline of this post.

Still, I knew my answer to the question right away: negativity.

Negative people, in particular. You know the glass-is-half empty folks who can spin from “that editorial letter was kinda harsh” to “I hate my life and want to die” in 5.7 seconds? Being around that sort of energy sucks every ounce of joy and creativity out of my brain and spits it out in a dirty napkin.

The funny thing about negative people is that they’re seldom happy to wallow alone. They’re generous enough to want to share their misery with others, and heaven help the person who dares suggest there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

As a negative person will glumly point out, silver is prone to tarnishing.

I’m not suggesting I want to surround myself with people who devote their lives to blowing sunshine and rainbows out of their butts. That gets tiring, not to mention a little creepy.

I’m also not saying people aren’t entitled to the occasional bad day. I’ve certainly had my share.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned through the highs and lows of a writing career and the drama of a recent divorce, it’s the importance of having friends more likely to share a smile than a tirade about how much their day sucked.

There was a morning not long ago when my new gentleman friend and I were still easing into this budding relationship. I was upstairs primping for my workday when I heard a strange sound from downstairs.


He wasn’t just singing, but singing while he made me breakfast.

I stood upstairs and bawled for a good five minutes before fixing my eye makeup and heading downstairs to pretend to be a normal human. I’ve since discovered that not only was it not a fluke thing or the result of events that made him particularly cheerful that morning, but rather a personality trait. An amazing abundance of positive energy.

That’s something I’ll be damn sure I insist on having in my life in one form or another until the day I drop dead.

Cheerfully, of course.

So what drains you? Conversely, is there anything you’ve discovered that you simply must have in your life to keep your mind, heart,soul, and any other throbbing organs functioning properly? Please share!

And if you’ve got any positive energy to pass along, I’ll take that, too!


Isis Rushdan said...

Avoid negative people or anyone who makes me groan because they do suck up my energy. Life is too short to waste it around toxic people.

Getting outside, taking a walk in the park, laughing with my husband, unwinding with a glass of wine while watching a good movie, savoring a delicious meal, all of these things help me stay balanced and happy.

Sending positive vibes your way.

Patrick Alan said...

I didn't know it was possible to make breakfast without singing.

Patrick Alan said...

Also, I try to avoid women who randomly cry before breakfast.

Katt said...

Sometimes, you just have to sit back and recognize that a person or situation or job are toxic to you.

Then you have to pull on your big girl panties and make a move.

Not nearly as easy as it sounds, especially when the "toxic" influence is nearby or has a grip on you that involves paying the rent!

lynnrush said...

Nicely said. Negativity is a drain, isn't it. Singing while making breakfast. That's priceless. So glad you have that in your life!

Matthew MacNish said...

Liquor is my tonic. That and opiates.

But seriously? There's nothing wrong with positive attitude. Shit happens. To all of us. All the time.

But we can choose to be angry, and live with things like regret and resentment, or we can choose to let go, and be all the freer for it.

I think you've got an excellent formula for life, Tawna, and a cooking, singing friend with man parts is a fine thing to have around. At breakfast, or anytime.

M.E. said...

Yes, I have actually geographically moved away from negative influences, since they were intent on destroying my relationship with the hubby. Negative energy - not pretty.

As for things that brighten my day...cup of green tea, working out at the gym, solitude, reading, and sunning. :)

Geoffrey Cubbage said...

I'm not sure "while he made me breakfast" and "easing into this budding relationship" describe quite the same status there, Tawna! Unless you just like very, very early dates.

I love cheer in myself and others but insist on a morning exemption -- being grumpy 'til the coffee's up is the best way to get it out of your system for the rest of the day.

Julie Glover said...

A lack of a sense of humor gets me - people who can't take a joke or recognize irony and sarcasm as warm and fuzzy things. Life becomes terrible really fast if everything is SO SERIOUS. "Lighten up," I want to say.

Day-brighteners: music, humor, writing, books, nature, Coca-Cola, friends and family.

Jessica Lemmon said...

I'm attracted to positivity, and humor. (I did name my blog Sm:)e Feel Good, after all!) And while I'll admit, I don't always spew rainbows out of my butt, um... OW, I will say that being joyful is a choice. I am drained by both negativity and ppl who blame everyone else for their problems. "I have to pay my taxes..." always makes me want to stop them right there and say, "you don't HAVE to, you just CHOOSE not to go to prison." :)

Glad to hear you're with someone who is making you sm:)e, or, well, at least making you cry happy tears!

BarbN said...

As a former negative person, I can give you some advice on dealing with negative people. First of all, they probably don't realize they're being negative. Possibly, like me, they grew up around people who were in complete denial about some fairly awful things, so being negative feels like a relief-- like being honest. I didn't understand how it came across to other people until I was in my 30s.

And secondly-- the best way to deal with it is to agree. "Wow, that sounds really awful." Don't try to cheer them up or talk them out of it, because it will just reinforce their need to convince you things really are awful. But if you say back to them what they're saying, it snaps them out of it. They may even start arguing with you--"well, it's not THAT bad." Or at least, that's what worked with me. I still have my moments, but I'm mostly reformed now.

Rick said...

I feel the exact same way, though maybe for a different reason. I try to avoid negative people like the plague - though sometimes I'm stuck with them - because I have enough work on my plate battling my OWN negativity, that I'd rather surround myself with people who make me smile and laugh so hard my sides hurt than people who are all Doom And Gloom.

Like, I don't need help to be miserable! And I especially don't revel in it the way some folks do. I'd much rather be around people who can help me get over myself.

... which may explain why I spend such an unhealthy amount of time on your blog. Oh hai.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

You're right. Negativity sucks the energy from those of us diligently blowing rainbows and butterflies out our derrieres. Another thing that drains my battery is the self-righteousness indignation of people who ignore verifiable facts in deference to the crap they read on the internet and get from those million-times forwarded emails.

As for the positive? (Cue "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things.") Lots of positive stuff in the world if we take the time to look for it. And it doesn't cost a single penny to smile.

Malin said...

I'm one of those horrid, negative persons. And when I "wallow" I often just want people to know that if I snap or go quiet it's NOT their fault. It's all me and my mood.

Of course I understand if people can't face it. We're all different. But it's just unfair that we who need to share our pain to lessen it should be considered such bad people.

I'm a little disappointed to see you mocking people for their flaws.

On the other side, your gentleman sounds like a darling and I fully appreciate your need for surrounding yourself with positive people. When your own world is very bleak, I think it's quite necessary to avoid bleak influence for a while until you're back on your feet.

Meredith said...

My mom (85) was out visiting last week and stayed with us, even though we have major construction going on at our house.

She hasn't been feeling well, so I asked if all the hammering was bothering her.

She looked at me and said, "Honey, that is that sound of a man working. There's no better sound in the world."

A depression era response, if ever there was one!

But it reminded me of how much choice we have over our responses.

And that I still have a lot to learn from my mom.

Shannon said...

You must have been reading my IM messages with Mike this morning. We were just talking about this topic.

I am naturally a positive person. I don't try to be all sunshine and roses, it just happens. Something bad happens to me and I immediately look for the lesson and find the good.

Anyway, one of my coworkers is a Negative Nancy. I have never met someone who exudes so much negative energy.

So, yeah. Negativity gets my vote.

Maja said...

I had a coworker who was extremely negative and constantly complained about everything. It drove me nuts, especially because I had to work very closely with her the entire work day, and the small group of us would always have lunch together and there was no getting away.

I came home every night pissed, because her shitty moods would put me in one too. Eventually I got so stressed out I had to quit. I wouldn't blame that on her entirely, but she certainly did exacerbate my preexisting anxiety.

Suzanne Korb said...

What keeps me going at times of distress is knowing you will always blog every weekday, Tawna!

It's always nice to know I can scoot on over here to your blog and cheer myself up by reading your posts.

This one was funny, yet I got tears in my eyes reading it too.

Mark Simpson said...

Luke: We'll never get it out now!

Yoda: So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?

I believe that success or failure is usually the result of self-fulfilling prophesy, and those that seem bent on failure can certainly be exhausting. Criticism without offering alternatives is pointless. Anyone can see all the reasons something can't be done; they are like trees in the forest. Winning is done by finding the ways and reasons something actually can be done.

And even though we often fall short of our goals along the way, That mindset is the only way to ever eventually arrive where we want to be.

For example, I started this post with the lofty goal of producing a funny and insightful contribution. And even though I clearly fell short my the first objective of humor--and really didn't offer any additional insight--I still stepped fearlessly to the plate, vividly envisioning the home run that still might have happened. Even though this time it didn't, I hold my head high.

Hannah Kincade said...

I've had enough negative people in my past to last a lifetime. Now I only surround myself with fun, upbeat people...or at least, people who tend to be upbeat when I'm down and vice versa.

My partner is like that. When he's down, I'm up and when I'm down, he's up. Good thing we're opposite in pretty much everything.

Tawna Fenske said...

Isis, I’m with you on all those things – the walk, the laughter, the meal, and especially the wine!

Patrick, your wife tells me she weeps every morning when she wakes up to discover you’re still there.

Katt, can my big girl panties be sexy with lots of red lace?

Lynnrush, the funniest part about the breakfast singing is that he’s the opposite of a morning person, so to be that cheerful in spite of being groggily forced out of bed truly says something.

Matthew, amen to what you said here: >> Shit happens. To all of us. All the time. But we can choose to be angry, and live with things like regret and resentment, or we can choose to let go, and be all the freer for it. >> So true!

M.E., wow, moving just to get away from negative influences? I bow to you! Way to take charge of the situation!

Geoffrey, well, that’s sort of how it works if the relationship kicks off with “wanna be my divorce mentor and friend-with-benefits?” and then takes an unexpected turn when you discover, “holy crap, I’m really nuts about this guy.” But that’s a blog post for another time!

Julie, excellent point about people with no sense of humor. As you might imagine, I have an impossible time relating to those folks.

Jessica, I love, love, LOVE your taxes/prison example. I’m stealing that!

BarbN, that is wonderful advice. Thank you!!!

Rick, I love that you can acknowledge your tendency toward negativity and take charge of that!

Susan, LOL on the self-righteous forwarded emails!

Malin, I’m not mocking anyone’s flaws or calling anyone a bad person at all. What I AM saying is that I’ve learned enough about myself to know my well-being can’t handle a constant flow of negativity from outside sources. I can respect that other people have their own ways of dealing with life’s drama, and I can handle a certain amount of hand-holding and mutual wallowing. But in order to preserve my energy so I don’t end up with my creative well sucked dry, I’ve learned I need to limit the amount of time I spend around negative forces. I also need to make sure there’s plenty of positive energy in my life so I can remain my usual, cheerful, filthy-joking self.

Meredith, I LOVE that story! And I love your mom!

Shannon, I love this: >>> Something bad happens to me and I immediately look for the lesson and find the good.>>> That’s my exact approach to most things!

Maja, for sure I’ve found myself avoiding co-workers or certain work situations because I can’t handle a colleague’s constant negativity.

Suzanne, were you crying about the singing breakfast? Yeah, it still kinda chokes me up, too!

Mark, wow, you really ARE Yoda! Love this: >>> Winning is done by finding the ways and reasons something actually can be done.<<<

Hannah, what a wonderful balance! While I certainly wouldn’t suggest my singing breakfast companion never has a glum mood, I’m reveling in the amazing balance that comes from having a pretty even balance of positive and negative between the two of us.

Great comments, guys! Thanks for reading!

Malin said...

I just reacted to how you said it. The sarcasm ("They’re generous enough...") and negative phrasing ("sucks every ounce of joy...", "misery"), you know? I totally understand and can relate to the overarching idea of the post.

I saw a hefty dose of bitterness in the passages from "You know the glass-is-half empty..." to "As a negative person will glumly point out, silver is prone to tarnishing." I felt it being uncalled for.

I'm sorry if you thought I criticised your choice of staying clear of negativity. It was not my meaning. I think it's a simple way to assure a full cup of energy. I do see how my comment could be read as that, though, so for that I apologise.

Thanks for answering my concern.

Geoffrey Cubbage said...

Well, all right. I won't "ask" more leading not-questions in the comments if you're saving the story for a proper post. But we want the gossip at some point!

Are all writers terrible gossips? Is it just the storytelling impulse? I don't even know. Might be a blog post in there somewhere, now that I write it out!

Patrick Alan said...

Well, that's not random crying... It's predictable and understandable.

Beverly Diehl said...

Love your new manfriend singing while he made your breakfast.

My ex hated it when I sang. Or hummed. Or laughed too much.

Shortly, I stopped doing all of the above. Not long after that, he became the ex.

Major diff between "I'm in a bad mood, today, don't take it personally, not anybody's fault," and trying to suck the joy and light out of all those around you because they're not being Realistic. They're too Optimistic. They're too... hey, where did everybody go?

Keep on sharing smiles, Tawna.

Jeffe Kennedy said...


N.M. Martinez said...

Maybe it's the time of night, but your story at the end made me tear up a little. How sweet!

Negativity is draining for me too. I even hate seeing it online. It's one thing to vent, but it's another thing to complain via twitter about the "stupid" people in the office or to rant on a blog about things that are mildly annoying at best.

This is why I love reading your blog-- you always make me laugh and make me think. :)

N.Scott said...

People who are constantly looking to be reassured. People who care too much about what other people think.

Jessica Lemmon said...

*snicker* steal away! ;)