Confession: I hate November.
To be sure, my stats class last spring and this book by Thomas Gilovich taught me that my distaste for this particular month is irrational; it only seems that most bad things in my life have happened in November. I sift through the archives of my life thus far for data that will prove and strengthen my hypothesis; I’m certain bad things happen every month, but they are discounted as they don’t fit this particular belief.
But, if you will indulge me for a moment, I shall list my November trials:
- TWO trips to the ER in early November 1996. One incident involved a rock being lobbed at my skull as a group of friends misbehaved on Halloween night; the second, an unfortunate accident with a steak knife while trying to OPEN A BOX OF MAC AND CHEESE.
- Mid-November 1996: one of my best friends loses her father, very suddenly.
- November 1999: On my way home from a weekend of debauchery in NYC (I was in between schools at the time), I call home (via payphone) from the Trenton train station. I learn my eight year-old brother has broken his femur playing football, and is recovering in the hospital after emergency surgery to repair his thigh. In the aftermath, he wears an external fixator (a giant metal clamp sticking out of four bloodied holes in his leg) and uses a walker and a wheelchair for a good long while.
- November 2003: My aforementioned (half) brother loses his father. Extremely suddenly. He is just 12 years old.
- November 2009: On the drive home from Thanksgiving dinner at J’s parents, we learn that Nana – J’s maternal grandmother – has died.
I was thinking about these things this morning as I showered and prepared for my day. My imagination started spinning, and I conjured up all kinds of terrible calamities.
And then, I told my brain to SHUT UP ALREADY ABOUT NOVEMBER.
Lately, blurbs keep popping up in my reading about “negativity bias”; that is, people react more strongly to the bad than the comparable good. Gretchen Rubin sums it up nicely here. And if you read her post, you see she speaks of “an area of refuge.” I hadn’t read this article this AM, but while blow-drying (small joy) my hair this morning as both of my babies continued snoozing, I decided I would rid my brain of these bad feelings associated with a calendar month, and focus all of my energy on the positive and the good.
Each morning, I will be grateful for all that I have. And when I find a spare minute, I will conjure up happy memories from November’s past.
This morning, I didn’t need to conjure anything. Two of my most cherished memories actually involve November. In 1999 and again in 2000, I trekked out to Colorado Springs to see my grandparents (and again in 2006, but that was a different sort of vacation). These trips were among the first I had really taken on my own. My grandparents were overjoyed to have me there; and I spent so much time laughing with my beloved Far-Mor, especially when she tried to teach me to fold napkins for dinner. (I have no discernible talent with anything tangibly artistic. NONE.) I am so grateful to have had that time with them; it comforts me, as I miss my grandmother so fiercely since having my daughter.
So that’s the lesson for November, folks: a break from weight loss and BMIs to focus on gratitude. I’ll also be trying to journal these thoughts each morning when I wake, in the hopes that I can keep the good thoughts flowing until December and beyond.
I’m curious to know: how do you all keep the bad thoughts out? It seems the older we get and the more we acquire (babies, homes, real jobs, etc.) the more terrifying the worst-case scenarios seem.