Negativity Is in the Ear of the Beholder

People who tell me I’m negative make me feel . . . well, they make me feel negative, and for no good reason. I might not be a sunny person, always looking on the bright side, and I might not be one of those who believe you fake it until you make it, but I’m not negative. I’m pragmatic. A thinker. A truth seeker. And the truth is, people who call others negative often want things their own way and are peeved if the others don’t like it.

For example, a friend invited me to go to lunch, so I arranged my schedule around the time she chose. An hour before we were to meet, she called and changed the time. The new time would interfere with my plans for later in the afternoon, so I told her I wasn’t sure I could make it. She called me negative.

Another friend often emails me and asks if I’m available at such and such a time so we can talk, and many times I wait for a call that never materializes. If I express my disappointment or say I’d appreciate being informed of a change of plans, I get called negative.

The other day I mentioned I couldn’t do something, and a person I’d met a scant hour earlier, said, “I hate negativity. Don’t ever say you can’t do something in my presence again.” Huh? I couldn’t do it. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t try to do it or wouldn’t try to learn to do it. Nor was I being negative. It was a simple statement of fact. Being positive and saying I could do it would be a falsehood — a negativity — which is anathema to a truth seeker.

During those horrendous first days, weeks, months, after the death of my life mate/soul mate, grief would so overwhelm me at times that I would scream to the heavens, “I can’t do this!” And at that very moment, I couldn’t. Sometimes it took everything I had to simply breathe, let alone attempt one of the myriad end-of-life chores. Sometimes the pain of grief would well up, obliterating everything but raw agony and angst. But . . . I did what I needed to do. I used the heat of my anger and despair as fuel to accomplish such impossible tasks as clearing out his “effects” or boxing our things to be stored.

Two months after he died, I got up early, cleaned out the few remaining items I’d been using, packed my car ready for the trip to my nonagenarian father’s house so I could look after him. I walked through our rooms, remembering with what hope my mate and I had moved there, remembering the good times, remembering the more frequent bad times. Remembering his last hug, his last kiss. His death.

As I was shutting the front door, I thought of all that lay ahead of me. Pain welled up in me, and I cried out, “I can’t do this.” Then, it dawned on me: Yes. I can. Because I did. I got out my camera, and went through the house one last time, taking photos of the empty rooms to prove to myself that all those things I thought I couldn’t do, I did.

I still have times of screaming “I can’t do this” when life overwhelms me, but it’s not a sign of negativity. It’s merely an expression of the moment. And if someone doesn’t like my saying I can’t do something without finding out why I think so, it’s too bad. I can’t live my life to suit those who call me negative.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

7 Responses to “Negativity Is in the Ear of the Beholder”

  1. Joy Collins Says:

    Pat, you are not negative. Those people are rude and self-centered. And they have no idea what the word negativity means. I say they don’t belong in your life.
    I have found myself streamlining my existence [and yes it still is just an existence, not a life] since my Love passed. And that has included people who are negative [like those who criticized you] and those who bring me down or just plain hurt me.
    I think at this stage of our respective lives, considering all we have been through, we have the right to do what is best for us and if that means getting rid of those who do nothing to enhance what we are doing now, so be it.

  2. Patty Andersen Says:

    I must admit, if someone was to tell me I was “negative” because I couldn’t change my plans to suit them, I would never have anything to do with them again. That isn’t negative, that is practical. Your reaction was perfectly normal.


  3. Holly Bonville Says:

    All my life people have been telling me to smile. I am not a negative person, but have been told many times that I was. If someone says that to me now, I take no notice and do not associate with them. I have never been a smiley person and never will be. Get over it.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’ve never been a smiley person, either. It’s especially galling to be told to smile when you’re reading or eating or doing something by yourself and someone just happens to be passing. People who grin all the time give me the creeps.

  4. Holly Bonville Says:

    There was one guy at one of my jobs that used to do this every time he saw me. I would be minding my own business, doing my job. If I wasn’t unhappy at the moment, he made me that way. I ended up hating him. Now I try not to let that bother me. And yes, he was one of those grinners.

  5. Carol Wuenschell Says:

    I am positively on your side on this negativity thing.

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