The Importance of Positivity

I forget sometimes how my mood affects those around me. If I have had a rough day at the office and come home with a dour, exhausted expression on my face, that sets the mood for the remainder of the afternoon and evening with my Spouse. He becomes…

…irritated, crabby, and shuts down listening. Then he over-reacts to anything I may say, which spirals toward frustration, anger, and jumping to false conclusions.

I hear myself saying, “I only asked a question,” but he does not hear the question. He just assumes an outcome.

On the days that I arrive home less stressed and see The Spouse waiting for me, I smile broadly, give him a warm hug, and ask about his day. I comment on the good things I hear and compliment him on activities that I observe that he has done, like vacuum the carpets, clean the kitchen stove, or wash, dry, and hang up my clothes for me.

Those days are far better. Spouse smiles, laughs, and listens. We have good conversations and are happy and content.

As I think about what I did this past weekend and how I maintained my composure and a positive attitude, I clearly understood how the “power of positivity” got us through what could have been a much worse situation. The positive attitude kept my spouse engaged and encouraged. If he “shut down” because I was negative, then I would have been in a very bad spot.

Context: we drove to Pittsburgh on Friday morning to take my mother-in-law to her doctor for a checkup. She is not eating, not drinking, and losing weight rapidly.

M-I-L was kicking up quite a fuss, and refusing to go. She had made up her mind that the doctor would require that she go to the hospital, and if she did that, she would die. She was not in fear of dying, but she will not leave her home. She thinks that whenever she leaves her house, she will never come back.

However, throughout this ordeal, I just kept being positive and encouraging. Even as I had to lift her up and carry her to our vehicle and she was screaming profanity-laced language the entire time, I just gritted my teeth and continued to be as positive as I could be, even though I was feeling like I wanted to drop her on the sidewalk and … (I would not really do that, but that level of anger and profanity was very ugly. I understood, though — she is very afraid and was reacting out of fear).

Amazingly, her doctor did a quick exam and said, “you need to eat better, now go home.” And that was it. He did not take blood or conduct any tests. As we were leaving, the doctor took The Spouse aside and said, “for a woman of her age, her energy level remains strong. If she wants to go home to live out her last days, however long that may be, then so be it.”

The trip home was quiet. When we pulled up to her house and opened the back seat door, she got out on her own and began almost running to the front door of her house. Spouse unlocked the front door, and she thrust it open, then beat feet to the bathroom. (Later, she told us that she had to “go” before we left the house, but did not.)

A half-hour later, I remained positive. I prepared a meal for dinner, which she ate with gusto. So much for “not being hungry.” We lit a “9” and “0” candle on a cake and sang “happy birthday” for her 90th. She smiled — first smile I have seen on her in a long time. She blew out the candles and ate the cake.

That evening was quiet. M-I-L fell asleep in her chair (as she usually does.) We took her to bed, then collapsed in bed ourselves, quite exhausted.

Saturday morning, I fed M-I-L again, and once again. I kept smiling and encouraging her. She took that as I had hoped. She ate with gusto.

Spouse was feeling more encouraged, too, so we did some yard work (mowed the lawn), went to the grocery store for supplies, and prepared lunch.

M-I-L once again surprised us by eating well and asking for more — a slice of cake! Sure thing, sweetie.

But the level of emotional trauma had taken its toll on The Spouse. He asked if we could just go home. He was exhausted. His mother would have a caregiver coming later today anyway (she now has caregivers working 6/hours/day, 7/days week).

So we packed up and I drove home. Spouse was generally okay and talkative all the way home. He’s great company when he feels good. (Or shall I say, when he doesn’t feel “as bad.” Remember, every day is a bad day for him, but some are “less bad” than others.)

Even though it was very difficult to remain positive, the experience this past weekend proved that being positive, even if you do not want to be, makes for a better experience overall. Our weekend could have been far worse.

Life is short: smile and be positive, even in the face of a sourpuss resister.