The Power of Negativity

There will always be haters.

Recently, I received a private message on Facebook informing me that there is nothing spiritual about seeing a hawk or eagle; it is merely a bird sighting and to stop forcing my religious views about birds onto people. Another person informed me that my opinions and actions towards pigeons are unfounded and that I am cruel to these birds. While I am not opposed to constructive criticism, I do feel the need to point out a few things.

First, my blog is not about religion nor is it intended to be. Anyone that knows me personally will tell you that I am the last person they expect to see in church on Sunday. I am spiritual, but I am not religious. There is a difference.

Second, no birds have been harmed during the writing of this blog. And if I want to use pigeons as an analogy to describe poor human behavior, I am going to do so because it is my constitutional right to use Zoomorphism in writing.

While these messages had negative intentions behind them, I found them to be entertaining because it’s obvious that these comments were made by people that either didn’t read my blogs in their entirety or they have less than stellar reading comprehension. Or, like many people, they simply wanted to spread their negativity with the world and decided I was a good target to start with. I am guessing it is mainly the latter, and these messages did inspire some thoughts on the power of negativity.

How many negative messages do you think you receive in a day? I don’t have any statistic to share, I am merely asking the question because it is worth pondering. When you stop and think about it, we live in a very critical world. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, someone is lying in wait, ready to pounce on you and spread their negativity at a moment’s notice. These people are everywhere and show up freely at unforeseen, random times.

Sometimes, it is downright crazy what people choose to be negative about. I recently ran into a couple of acquaintances at the grocery store and was surprised at the negativity that came up from a seemingly harmless subject and how quickly it killed what started out to be a fun, friendly exchange. For the purpose of this story, I am simply going to refer to the individuals involved as acquaintance one and acquaintance two.

To give you some background, these two women couldn’t be more different. Acquaintance one is a pretty, bubbly young lady that has two small children. She loves being a mom and she is very good at it. Her children are her world. Acquaintance two is an older lady that lives to watch news programs and frequently spends her time dwelling on world events and complaining about things that none of us can control or change. Thankfully, I know from some of her rants that she isn’t online or believe me, I wouldn’t mention this story here because I would never hear the end of it.

The conversation began between me and acquaintance one. We had exchanged pleasantries and I had just inquired about her two young children when acquaintance two showed up and joined the conversation. I asked acquaintance one about her daughter’s upcoming birthday. She excitedly told me that she and her husband were planning a birthday trip for their kids to Disneyland, the first trip of its kind for them. I mentioned that I had not been to Disneyland since I was in college. I jokingly stated that my favorite ride used to be “Pirates of the Caribbean” and that I wasn’t even sure if the ride existed anymore.

Without missing a beat, acquaintance two spoke up and firmly declared, “someone died on that ride! That place isn’t as safe as you think it is. I would think twice before taking a trip there.”

In my mind, I heard “wah-wah” in response to her comment. What a downer! Why bring that up and squelch the enthusiasm of acquaintance one, who was visibly excited about taking her kids to Disneyland for the first time? As fast as the mood changed, you would have thought we were in conflict about politics and someone’s wardrobe had been insulted.

I wanted to tell acquaintance two that I was hosting a parade next week and ask if she could show up and rain on it, but I held my tongue.  Some people have no sense of humor, and she’s one of them. I wasn’t in the mood for a debate with her, and I know her well enough to know that any sarcasm or humor would have started just that. And like the adage goes, “if you have nothing nice to say…”

Sadly, the conversation was awkward after that and ended sooner than it needed to. I felt bad for acquaintance one. All enthusiasm for her upcoming trip was destroyed in that moment, and I could sense the conversation upset her.

As I was driving home from the store, I couldn’t help but think about the conversation and the power of negativity. How does a conversation about Disneyland become negative? Is it necessary to be negative? Why are some people negative for the sake of being negative?

When you stop to think about it, negativity is truly toxic. How many times has the negative perspective of someone else ruined your enthusiasm for something? How many times has a negative person ruined a social event for yourself and others? On the flip side, how many times have you gone into something with a negative perception and the event seemed to drag on and on?  

Negative thinking is an easy mind set to fall into, and we have all been guilty of it at one time or another. Everyone has a bad day, after all. But perpetual negative thinking creates a space in our mind that allows depression, anger, sadness, and anxiety to nest, grow, and take over, much like pigeons in a barn. Negativity is very destructive.

It may be hard to stop negativity in your mind, but it can be done. Instead of being the person that brings “wah-wah” to the conversation, bring a ray of humor or sunshine instead. In the end, negativity is like a pigeon that has performed an air raid and pooped all over the barn, saddles and all – it is unpleasant and not enjoyed by others. Please keep your negativity to yourself.

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Pigeons

Generally, I love birds and find them fascinating. While it is true that I can spend hours searching for and watching hawks or eagles, there is one bird I am not so fond of. The Pigeon. In fact, most horse owners will tell you they hate these birds. Believe me when I tell you that there is nothing worse than having Pigeons try to set up shop in your barn or outbuildings.

Pigeon Pic

Why do I hate Pigeons? Because Pigeons fly in, shit every where, make a huge mess while trying to nest in your space, and are extremely complicated to eradicate. Once they are in, they are nearly impossible to get rid of and cause a type of frustration that is beyond measure. Pigeons, like some people, can be a real bitch. And just as with people, it is against the law in most states to kill them.

Unfortunately, we all have “Pigeons” in our lives. They come to us in many forms daily: the annoying co-worker, the “contribute nothing, complain about everything” in-laws, the guy that has the rest of his life to be in front of you on a two-lane road that you can never get around, and the uninspired restaurant employee that makes dining out miserable instead of a pleasure. This list could go on for days. We all know who these people are. “Pigeons” show up daily in many forms because like the birds themselves, they tend to multiply with ease and rapid speed.

A few weeks before my husband passed away, several pigeons had started to nest in the barn. This was a direct result of the absence of our barn cat, Sheldon. Don’t worry, this is not a tale of how tragedy struck our barn cat. It is actually a tale of how “local barn cat makes good” and becomes a house cat. In other words, Sheldon wandered off one day, charmed a neighbor lady, and moved in with her. He upgraded his status from barn cat to house cat, and good for him. He was able to live out his final years living the dream life he always wanted. His departure, on the other hand, created a problem for my barn because his absence allowed a small flock of Pigeons to move in, and move in they did, lock, stock, and barrel, as the old saying goes.

One morning, less than a month after my husband passed away, I was trying to clean the barn through my tears. The funeral was long over and only a handful of people were still around. I was suffering from a form of PTSD and my grief was at an all time high that day. I was also being hassled by “Pigeons” disguised as my husband’s loved ones, and I had reached a breaking point. I was spending time in the barn to clear my head and to try to find a moment of peace. It was not meant to be. I was sweeping the barn floor when I heard and felt the “whoosh!” of wings over my head and immediately felt something wet on my arm. It was a Pigeon airstrike, and I had been hit!

I looked up and Pigeons were everywhere. I felt as though I was being swarmed in a vicious bird attack. My instinct took over and I started swinging the broom wildly in the air, screaming at the pigeons to get out. Feathers and pigeon shit filled the air in the chaos. I was angry now, and I just wanted the Pigeons out. All of them! Finally, after several frantic moments of swinging the broom wildly and yelling like a mad woman, the broom left my hand and flew out the door, hitting the ground with a loud thud. The Pigeons had finally flown outside. Tears streamed down my face and I started to sob. The Pigeons had to leave. All of them. Permanently. But how does one get rid of Pigeons?

It was in this moment that I knew I needed to talk to someone and seek counseling from an unbiased source. Friends had been encouraging me to go to counseling, but I was too absorbed in my grief to see the value in it. As it turned out, counseling was the best decision I ever made. Initially, I didn’t feel it was helping because I would leave some sessions and cry uncontrollably in my car. I would feel completely spent by the end of the session, and I didn’t see the value in that. Not at first, anyway. However, I stuck with it, because I honestly didn’t know of any other way to get rid of the “Pigeons,” and I needed answers. Something had to give.

It took nearly two years of grief counseling for me to come to some very important realizations. The first one is something that sounds simplistic when I see it written out or say it out loud, yet it was something I didn’t grasp because I had allowed the “Pigeons” of my life to rent entirely too much space, “nesting” in my mind for far too long. Here’s the earth-shattering revelation – I am not responsible for the dysfunctional behavior of other people. I do not own the behavior of other people, and I should not ever hold myself accountable for the actions of others. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, when the dysfunctional behavior comes from people you once loved, respected, and considered loved ones, it is hard to comprehend and accept.

To take it a step further, I also learned that it is human nature to question yourself and think that perhaps you did something wrong to deserve being treated that way. No. Odds are, you did nothing wrong and it’s their issue, not yours. In my case, the dysfunction had always been there, my husband and I had just found a way to put a bandage on it and live with it. Unfortunately, the bandage was ripped off with a vengeance when my husband died, and there was simply no adhesive left to put it back in place.

Finally, allow yourself to move on and remove yourself from a situation that has become toxic. It’s okay to let go of people that are going to do nothing but crap in your barn. There are times that the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is move forward in a manner that is best for you and leave the “Pigeons” behind. Let them crap elsewhere! Perhaps the “Pigeons” will acknowledge their behavior was wrong and take responsibility for the mess they created and clean up their shit. And perhaps not. That may well be wishful thinking! If they can never see or acknowledge that what they did was wrong, remember that it falls on them, not you. You don’t own their behavior, nor are you responsible for their actions. Not your nest, not your “Pigeons.”

Circumstances and life events can change people, and unfortunately, those changes may not always be positive. Death can bring out the very best in people, and it can bring out the very worst. I saw both sides of this very clearly when I lost my husband. Right now, the goal of my journey is to move forward in a positive light. The “Pigeons” are gone from the recesses of my mind and my life, and hopefully it stays that way. It feels good to let go.

As for the barn itself, spikes were placed in the rafters to prevent the Pigeons from being able to nest there. I placed large plastic owls in the rafters and completely closed the barn as often as possible, so as not to allow the Pigeons back inside. I also moved.

Sandy

P.S. The stress and anxiety caused by grief can be overwhelming to the point that you may feel as though you are having a heart attack. An anxiety attack is nothing to take lightly. I suffered from anxiety attacks endlessly the first year after my husband passed away. Trying to find a way to calm down, relax, and manage your anxiety is important. There are a lot of tips and tricks for alleviating anxiety and stress. I found the following blog excerpt from Greg Thurston to have some valuable insight. http://bbbblog19.7minutem.hop.clickbank.net?type=blog3&tid=TRACKINGID