“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always had some qualities that resemble Eyeore. I’ve been drawn to people who are hurting and in college pursued a degree in Psychology. I wanted to change the world and make a difference with those who had been hurt. I worked for a while at a children’s residential facility and before that, assisted my dad when he was a hospital/police chaplain. My parents are in the helping field as well, so listening, comforting, and being there for others was second nature. Whenever I see a friend hurting, I want to bake them some brownies, send an encouraging card, or somehow let them know I care.
After I got married, I was a foster care/adoption worker for five years and would bring home the sorrow of the children’s situations with me. Even my present job as a medical transcriptionist sees a lot of sadness. I type about children who have been abused as well as people facing terminal illnesses. However, I realized that unless I balance out the sadness and burdens that my friends (or my own family) are experiencing with pleasant memories and fun-filled activities, I begin to imitate Eyeore. And Eyeore isn’t much fun to be around.
A couple months ago we pulled out some home videos from about ten years ago and I realized I used to be Tigger; happy and smiling with an infectious laugh. I wondered when Eyeore had permanently moved in and Tigger was kicked out. I realized I missed Tigger, and it was my responsibility to find him again. It was possible, but I would have to actively look for him.
I started by realizing who I imitate has a lot to do with my choice. If I fill my life with only sadness (reading sad books, watching sad “Made-for-TV movies,” listening to sad songs, dwelling on the negative in my life or watching too much of the news), I tend to imitate that spirit and I’m not very fun to be around. However, when I come alongside others but refuse to join them in their sadness, encouraging and listening, then I am less an Eyeore and I begin to see glimpses of Tigger again. When I take care of myself by planning special fun family times (hiking for me includes both family time and communing in nature, thanking God for his creation) or even taking some time for myself with a relaxing bath or curling up with a great book and a cup of coffee, Tigger emerges again and I have more balance.
In addition to the types of things I focus on, the words I choose to speak play a big role in whether Eyeore or Tigger sticks around. What we say we are…we become. What we believe about ourselves…eventually becomes truth. It wasn’t until I became a mother and started to see some of those same Eyeore traits emerging in my children that I realized I needed to start modeling more positive speech. Now I’m realizing that like many others, I make mistakes, I don’t always get it right, but I’m God’s child and I’m moving in the right direction. When my default button emerges and I start to put myself down, I stop and rephrase the sentence, not just for the example I’m setting but to keep things in proper perspective.
Some people are born with the tendency toward being an Eyeore (pessimistic) and others gravitate more toward Tigger (optimistic) thinking. Just because we have a certain tendency doesn’t mean we can’t change. I myself realized that I was born with a Tigger attitude but had allowed life to get me down and therefore Eyeore emerged and thought he was invited to stay. When I stopped focusing on what was wrong in life and started instead focusing on all the blessings I truly do have (and we all have many more than we realize once we start listing them), Eyeore wasn’t welcome anymore and Tigger came back.
It boils down to this: We all have a choice. Sometimes life stinks. It’s true. However, our circumstances are always temporarily and feelings are fickle. If we choose to look at the positives even when the negatives are pushing for more attention, Eyeore can fade into the background and Tigger can again take center stage. And you know what I’m learning: Laughter really does make you feel better, even when bad things happen. I want to leave a legacy of endless energy and enthusiasm for my children instead of being known as the donkey who was always looking for his lost tail.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Wittenrich
Copyright 2013: Cheri Swalwell