Lesson 4: …to be surrounded with the positive

 

Do you remember the character, Debbie Downer, played by Rachel Dratch on Saturday Night Live? No matter what situation she found herself in, no matter how happy or festive, she always brought things to a screeching halt by dispensing her abundance of negative information. I remember laughing many times at those skits. There was great humor in the absurdity of the things she would say in the most inappropriate situations. There is also an important life lesson to be learned.

Funny as Rachel Dratch was, those skits can help us to understand an important lesson. We become the people we are around, whether positive or negative. Even if we are generally upbeat and happy, it will not take long for a negative person to bring us down and make us feel sad and depressed.

I was well into my thirties before this life lesson started to dawn on me. People has an immense influence on the positivity in my life. While I recognized that negativity breeds negativity, the damage to my own life I was slow to identify.

Smilies Bench

Generally, I am a happy person. Ask the people who know me, and they will say that I am generally smiling or laughing no matter how bad things are. Though I do complain and vent with the best of them, overall, I strive to keep my conversations and interactions positive. I make a conscious effort to smile and be positive as often as possible.

When I started to realize that my speech and behavior, and even my motivation to do projects at home, were being affected, I decided to try a little experiment. For three months, I limited my contact with the people I knew were generally negative. The impact was undeniable. I found myself laughing more. I was more productive. There was more enjoyment in everyday life. And I even slept better.

Read Lesson 3 in the series

Now I am not saying that I then proceeded to cut every negative person out of my life. In fact, I have a friend, and I will not use her name here to protect her feelings, who is by far the most negative person I know. No matter what good is done to or for her, she always finds fault and complains incessantly. She could give Debbie Downer a run for her money.

The last time she moved, a group of her friends got together and helped her move the bulk of her things. As a single woman, friends wanted to help out so she would not have to hire movers. Those of us who did not help then got to listen for days and weeks after about how disappointed she was with the process. Things were not moved the way she wanted them to be. They were not placed where she wanted in her new home. It was exhausting.

Yet, we remain friends. We have invested nearly twenty years into our friendship. At the end of the day, we both know that the other will be there if there is ever the need.


That being said, I do find the necessity to avoid her at times. After the moving experience, I had to stop talking to her for a time. I could not bear to hear how these hard working and well-meaning friends dissatisfied her.

When I am already blue or discouraged or just plain frustrated with life, talking to her will only make me worse. Then I become The Beast, as my wife used to refer to me.

At those times, I stop returning her calls and even stop reading her texts and emails. I love her dearly, but her negativity is a poison that I cannot always overcome.

The Beast is never pretty.

As to other friends, I did choose to cut many of the negative ones from my daily life. Not only have I found myself happier and more productive, but I also have the added benefit of much less drama.

It is a funny coincidence that negativity and drama seem to go together. That may be the topic for another post.

For many years I worked in a customer service industry. It was the type of business where I got to see customers on a regular basis. I often had the opportunity to spend considerable time with them.

Being in this environment gave me another chance to test my theory. I began to watch as some negative customers came in or called into the business. I then watched to see if the attitudes or behavior of my colleagues changed as a result.

Again, the results were undeniable.

The days that started with these negative customers were much harder days and much less productive.

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Do you want to be more positive? Then I challenge you to look at the people around you. Are they positive in what they say and do? Or are they negative complainers bringing you down? If the latter, why not distance yourself from them for a while and see if you can notice a difference? Then come back and comment on your results.

What are the keys you have found to keep positivity in your life? How have you benefitted from this life lesson? Please share below.

Until next time…

 

Anguish – Poem

 Anguish

 Within my mind I build you up

I put you up quite far

I make a wish and have a dream

And pain of truth I bar

I imagine that you do care

And that my needs you know

And that you want to be the one

To lift me when I’m low

 But all too real I know the truth

You can’t see passed yourself

And with the chance to just have fun

You stick me on a shelf

 It matters not how hard I hope

In time you will not change

You choose not to improve yourself

To grow within your range

 For in all truth you do not care

A fact that does me pain

And maybe once in coming truth

I will see what is plain

 And I’ll accept what can’t be changed

For you won’t let it be

I must love you for who you are

Or turn around and flee

– March 27, 2005

 

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Anguish - a dark poem by Wolfe Butler

Change – Poem

Change

Everything still looks the same

Everyone’s still here

There’s not a thing that’s really changed

            When held up to a mirror

The sun still shines, the rain still falls

            The grass and foliage grows

The river runs, the flowers bloom

            The same old wind still blows

The clock still ticks, each hand still moves

            Each moment gone for good

And time goes on ever as quick

            Just as you hoped it would

The faces all appear the same

            Each one betrays no change

As lives go on as ever lived

            With every new exchange

Not one thing here has seemed to change

            Not since you went away

Except my heart, which has a hole,

            I fear may always stay

September 23, 2004

 

Magnetic Poetry Kit

Journal – Poem

Journal

Open books lay on the table

Facts about a man not able 

Tell the story few want to know

And how a man put on a show 

He lived two very separate lives

Juggling both with his painful cries 

Most around him could never think

The depth of work he had to drink

 Each word, each thought, each precious deed

A tale of lies he had to feed

 Those who knew one, not the other

None knew all, not e’en a brother

He would have died to just be whole

But it would cost his very soul

 So now these books tell just a tale

About the man whose heart did wail

 

August 11, 2002

Leather Journals

Leather Journal

 

Lesson 3: …to not say, “Just kidding”

I have a friend, and, in this instance, that is the broadest definition of the word, who is infamous amongst those of us who know him for being the Just Kidding guy. You know the type. I am confident that all of you have at least one in your midst.

They are the ones that find an abundance of ways to disparage you but always do so with a smile and a postscript of, “Just kidding!” Even though he is a senior citizen, he still will punch you in the arm or try to put you in a headlock after he delivers one of his zingers.

As a young man, I frequently laughed along, even when I was the butt of the joke. I honestly believed that the people thus attacking me cared about me. At the time, I believed that people should be taken at face value, and that the things they said should be trusted as being sincere.

Age and experience has taught me that yes, the things that are spoken should be trusted, but not all of them. I was putting faith in the wrong words.

Just Kidding guy was quick to tell you he cared about you or was interested in your best interests. Time proved that the words he qualified with, “just kidding,” were the true ramblings of his heart. It was a hard, painful lesson to learn.


When I first met Just Kidding guy, I had recently moved and was many miles from my home and family. His family took me in, in a manner of speaking, and introduced me to people and included me in their social circle. On the outside, things looked very genuine. Indeed, for several years I enjoyed their company.

In time, other messages reached me of the things Just Kidding guy and his family would say when I was not around. Reality began to dawn on me that the things he said he was kidding about were how they viewed me. I was devastated. I am not one to cry. In fact, I probably can list the number of times I have cried as an adult in a matter of a few seconds. This truth, this lesson, made me bawl like a toddler for most of a night.

The lesson was a good one, though, and for that I do have to thank Just Kidding guy. It taught me to listen to what was really being said by people. As I paid closer attention, it became more evident that the people who said, “just kidding,” rarely were. That, in turn, taught me to choose to avoid those people in my daily life. There was some time where my social calendar did have quite a few openings, but the relationships I did develop have proved to be enduring, quality relationships.

I also learned to be vigilant with the words that escaped from my mouth. Internally, I ask myself, Am I sincere in what I am about to say? How will my audience interpret my words? Are they kind and upbuilding? Those questions taught me to keep my lips in check and not rattle off hurtful things, even under the guise of kidding.

Read Lesson 1 in the series

It is more than twenty-five years since I first met Just Kidding guy. He and his wife still live a few miles from me. I rarely see them, and we run in very different circles. When he does chance upon my path, I always maintain how great it is to see him, but in my mind I cannot help but think, “Just kidding!”

Do you have a “Just Kidding” experience. Please share it below.

Until next time…

Smile Today – Poem

Smile Today

The peace of sleep shattered by the dying

The rising sound of a baby crying

Roused from the bed I preset today’s stage

There’s no good news on the newspaper page

I leave my home to rehearse this poor play

Morning light veiled by dark clouds streaked with gray

The homeless stand in lines upon the street

Shattered glass lines the dirt beneath my feet

An office filled with lives I cannot change

A desk covered with files I just rearrange

The day goes by and the tempest rolls in

Driving rain blows but erases no sin

Leaving at five thick smoke strangles the air

Signs overlooked, with stark warnings, beware

I head for my home that shattered old house

Once near the doorway I kicked a dead mouse

I bolt the door tightly it must stay out

I head for the bed my mind filled with doubt

This world is so dim I wish I could say

At least I was able to smile today

Umbrellas for everyday

Author’s Note:

This is another dark one. There was a period is my life where it was hard to see above the darkness. Eventually the rain always stops, and the skies always clear. If you are in the dark place, the sun is coming. Just hold on.

Love Song – Poem

Love Song poem wolfe butler

There is a song I once did hear

That brought me joy and peace of mind

Of lovers found and thoughtful leer

With one for each of all mankind

Where rainbows shine and flowers bloom

And little birds sing lullabies

The light of day in ev’ry room

Fresh foliage smiles and lights the eyes

No word to hurt is ever said

Young lovers walk all hand in hand

While ev’ry dream brings joy to bed

With love notes spelled out in the sand

A place where all can trust each man

No gossip flies or rumors cry

Each friend is true, fulfills his plan

And to be real each one does try

But this sweet song is only that

A hope of dreams not found here yet

A secret kept hid under hat

Its time may come and us beget

March 13, 2005

Poems

 

Friend or Foe? – Poem

Author’s Note:

I wrote this poem specifically to work out the obsession with alcohol of Tom Jacobs, the protagonist in my debut novel, Getting HomeTom suffers from a long and ongoing battle against alcohol. If you enjoy the poem, be sure to check out the book as well.

 

Friend or Foe?

It winks at me with single eye

And offers peace before it’s dry

It beckons me, “Take just one sip”

Then noise of mind will slowly slip

It swears to smiles and joy of heart

All in minutes of when I start

The price to pay is fairly small

Some little change for quite a fall

And maybe head or stomach aches

But what is this when peace it makes?

And though I swear this time the last

I take that drink to drown the past

It laughs at me, knows I am weak

My chance to win looks less than bleak

For this old friend, this wicked vice

Knows it holds me in frozen ice

My only friend, my only peace

This liquid holds but gives release

So I stay bound, each time I cave

A helpless ship tossed by the wave

No other way for me to cope

This drink to death my only hope

– June 5, 2005

 

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Poems

This poem is about the struggle of addiction. | #poem #poetry #poet #addiction

This poem is about the struggle of addiction. | #poem #poetry #poet #addiction

This poem is about the struggle of addiction. | #poem #poetry #poet #addiction

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Shadows of Doubt – First Draft

Author’s Note:

This past weekend I started a new novel, working title, Shadows of Doubt. I already have a good idea which direction it will take but would be interested in some input on the front end. Below is a very rough draft of the opening 1500 words. Please share your thoughts.

JUNE 10

“Don’t you know?”  The Ella Harvey played somewhere in the distance as I slowly opened my eyes and stared blurrily at the ceiling.

It’s morning, I remember thinking. What do I have planned for today?

Something felt off.

“I gave it all to you, body and soul,” the song played on.

I tried to roll to my side and a searing hot pain radiated from my lower back all the way down my right leg. Involuntarily I screamed out in agony.

“Oh, God! What is that?” Another pain manifested in my right shoulder and the room started to spin. I closed my eyes to fight the nausea.

“What’s going on?” I asked the empty room. My mind raced trying to make sense of what I was feeling. I couldn’t remember being in pain the night before.

It seemed safer to just move my head, so I slowly rolled it to the right side and tried to open my eyes again. The room was still spinning but not as fast.


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What I saw brought on more confusion. I did not recognize the table next to the bed or the lamp on the table. There was a wooden rocking chair in the corner I was sure I had never seen before. A Sherpa throw was folder over the top of the chair equally foreign.

I tried to turn my head back too quickly and the room sped up again. Clutching the sheet with both hands, I tightly closed my eyes again. Concentrating on my endeavor to slow the spin of the room, I never heard the door open and visitors come in.

“She seems to be waking up,” a strange man’s voice said.

“It’s too soon,” an older woman answered back. Both voices were foreign to her.

Opening my eyes, I put all my strength into lifting my head but a force stronger than me was keeping me still.

“Laura, it is okay,” the woman tried to comfort her.

Laura? Who is Laura?

“Another dose?” asked the man.

“Yes, I think so.”

Something pinched my left arm and within seconds the nausea and pain started to subside. The relief was euphoric and momentarily I felt like myself. Seconds later everything became fuzzy and drifted away.

Shadows of Doubt cover

June 21

Someone was playing the piano. The melody was not unpleasant, but it was too early to be playing the piano. I wished they would stop.

My body was sore like I had been lying in one position too long. I shifted under the sheets and my whole right side ached. My mouth was too dry, and my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth. I tried to swallow but my throat was sandpaper.

I fluttered my eyes, but the room was filled with harsh light.

“Are you in pain?” It was the older woman’s voice again. I wanted to answer but it was too hard to form words.

“You don’t have to be,” she told me. Another pinch and fuzzy bliss returned.

June 30

More music. Today it was a string quartet. Vivaldi maybe? My mind wasn’t entirely sure.

The room was darker but still bright enough I had to squint at first.

The room was painted a pale pink above the white chair rail and there was a floral print wallpaper below. It was a large room with three windows, one on each side of the bed and one to my right. I thought it was day, but it might have been dusk. It was hard to tell through the pink sheers covering the windows.

Across the room from the bed was a cherry dresser with a large mirror. To my left was a sitting area with two Victorian parlor chairs on either side of a scroll arm loveseat and a fireplace. There were two white panel doors on the other side of the room. I would learn later that the one of the left went into the rest of the of the house, and the one on the right opened to a walk-in closet and bathroom.

Nothing about the room was familiar.

I felt a little stronger this time and was able to sit up enough to see myself in the mirror across from me. The first shock was seeing glass cuts and yellow-purple bruising spread along the right side of my face. The bigger shock came a second later. I looked intently at the person in the mirror, but she was not someone I knew.

I brought up my left hand and touched my face. Yes, I was looking at myself in the mirror. My mind could not reconcile the reflection with my expectations.

Attempting to sit up further brought back intense pain in my lower back. I let out an audible cry as I eased myself back down to a horizontal position.

The door opened then and the older woman came in.

“Laura?”

I looked past her expecting another woman to answer.

“Laura, baby girl, are you in pain?”

She was speaking to me, but the name did not make sense. My name was not Laura.

“I’m not,” my voice was raspy, and speaking was difficult.

“Don’t strain yourself, dear.” She reached in her pocket and pulled out a syringe.

“No,” I tried to protest. I wasn’t ready to go back to the darkness, but in seconds I was gone.

July 9

This morning it was big band music. Glenn Miller, I think. The window to my right was partly open, and the sheers were moving gently with the warm air coming in. Birds sang happily to each other from the oak tree outside.


Clarity came quicker this time. I remembered the pain immediately. I remembered the room that I did not know. I was able to sit up easier to look at myself in the mirror. The face was still foreign, but most of the bruising was just a pale yellow and the cuts were mostly healed.

“Laura?” I said the name aloud. No, it was not my name. I was certain of that.

My back protested, but I was able to sit up completely. There was a glass-front, cherry bookcase next to the bathroom door full of books. The room was sparsely but richly decorated. Renoir’s On the Terrace was on one wall and Degas’ Dancer with a Bouquet of Flowers on another. I knew both paintings like old friends, but they were not mine. There was a tall carousel house statue on the dresser. On either side of the bed were matching cherry tables with matching alabaster lamps. The table to my right also had a crystal pitcher of water and an empty glass.

Trembling with some difficulty I was able to pour myself a glass and drink a sip of water. Swallowing was an unfamiliar sensation, and I found myself wondering how long it had been since I had anything to drink.

The door opened then and the older woman came in.

“My baby girl is sitting up,” she cooed like I was an infant.

“Where…?” Talking was painful, and my throat constricted after the first word forcing me to sip more water.

“I’m sorry, Laura, I am not sure what you are asking me.”

“Where…where am I?”

Genuine concern distorted the woman’s face and she came closer, sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Laura, honey, what do you mean?”

She took my hand in hers. Her hand was cold and unfamiliar.

“Who are you?” I pulled my hand away as tears started to form in her eyes.

“Buck?” she called over her shoulder. “Buck, you better come here.”

An attractive dark-haired man walked into the room. “She’s sitting up,” he noted.

“Yes, but she’s confused.”

“Should I get another dose?” They talked to each other like I was not in the room.

“We probably should.”


AbeBooks Weird Book Room

Buck left the room and my heart started to race. These strangers had been dosing me with something, keeping me in a place I did not know. Panic and fight or flight started to kick in and I tried to move to the other edge of the bed, but my legs would not move.

“What?” sweat was already beading up on my face and back.

“Laura, baby doll, breathe. Just breathe. You are okay,” she spoke slowly.

“No.” I felt tears on my face. “I have to get up.”

She grabbed my wrist with more strength than I expected. In a stern voice she told me, “You are not fit to go anywhere. Now, be still.”

Buck was back at this point and the needle was in my arm before I could process what was happening.

Fuzziness again and Buck lowered me back down on my back. Then darkness.

Fiction, Poetry, and Life Lessons Learned for Bloggers and Writers

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