22) One Month without Saying a Negative Thing About Anyone

If I learned one thing from watching Bambi, it’s that Walt Disney and company were quite content with teaching little kids the awful truth that sometimes you can lose your mother unexpectedly and at a very young age. If there are two things I learned from that much-beloved childhood film, the second is, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” For those who may have forgotten, this is said by the little rabbit Thumper, who, after announcing that Bambi doesn’t walk very well, is reminded by his mother of his father’s advice to be nice.

Though I’m not sure I need to be reminded too often of the first lesson, I definitely could and should heed Thumper’s father’s advice much more frequently than I do. I don’t consider myself negative, whiny or gossipy, but throughout my nearly thirty years I have spewed more negativity than I’d like to admit.

I am not a religious person, as evidenced in my post about practicing spirituality for one month, so the main ideology I try to live by is that of the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. While I hardly live a life void of speaking ill of others, I do try to be conscious of it and keep such comments to a minimum. Selfishly, perhaps, I just wouldn’t want people saying mean things about me.

That philosophy, however, has not kept the negative self-talk to a minimum. I have always been my biggest critic, and seemingly have no issue saying negative things about myself. I am fine standing in front of the mirror and stating every perceived flaw and thing here or there that could be improved. If I’m watching Jeopardy!, and I miss a question to which I know the answer, I readily put the heel of my palm to my forehead and make a sound akin to Homer Simpson’s “Doh!” Come to think of it, I often have no trouble unleashing a litany of similar gestures and sounds on the innocent game show contestants themselves—primarily during Wheel of Fortune—if the answer is so painfully obvious to me, but so completely lost on them. (I understand that, in addition to my goal of playing Bingo at a Bingo Hall, this offers more evidence of my fondness for “grandma”-like activities).

I wanted to see if I could make it one month without uttering such off-putting talk—to and about others (even if my voice doesn’t penetrate through TVs), and to and about myself. I knew it would be a challenge I would need to focus on intently and intensely, considering I had formed the unpleasant habit decades ago.

To achieve success, I decided to avoid using gimmicks, or multi-step plans, or rubber bands I’d snap on my wrist every time I reverted to my old ways–not that those ways of quitting bad habits don’t work for a lot of people. For me, though, I knew that focus and willpower would be the only way to go. I would just quit it.

And, essentially, I did just that, which makes it sound considerably easier than it was. In part, I simply talked less—which is difficult in its own right because I am a talker. But I focused, with every ounce of my mind, on not saying anything mean or nasty or whiny, and instead sought the positive in everyone, and everything, and talked only of that. When this proved difficult, I resorted to Thumper’s dad’s advice and just kept my mouth shut. I let my thoughts go to battle on my mouth’s behalf, and that seemed to work out for the most part.

I’ll admit that I sometimes came up with ways to make a certain negative thought or feeling known, without actually saying it, which I chalked up to being crafty rather than a broken streak of no negative talk.

For example, if someone swerved right in front of me on the highway without using his turn signal, I might have said something like, “Gosh, I’m so appreciative of all the drivers in the world who use their turn signal when they rapidly switch lanes and are nearly touching bumpers with the car behind them,” and then of course think, Even if I’m not experiencing any of those drivers here!

Or, perhaps, if a Wheel of Fortune puzzle was missing only one letter, say, the “x” in the word “experience,” I might say to the contestant, “Oh, my gosh! You are a mor….ally decent person, no doubt, because surely they don’t let immoral people on the show.”

Like I said, I found ways around saying negative things. But, for the most part, I practiced using the filter in my brain that sometimes—and sometimes rarely—keeps thoughts from finding their way to and out of my mouth. I also realized that the less I said negative things, the less I thought them. It was somewhat of a self-fulfilling cycle that was beneficial to others and to myself.

Disney and the gang may have had a few, I’ll say interesting, ideas about what people should be made aware of at a young age, but teaching them, albeit via a talking rabbit, to withhold negative thoughts rather than unleashing them on people, or animals, was certainly not a bad one.

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