Taming the Negativity Monster

I admit it’s hard for women to get away even for a weekend for dedicated “me time.” My calendar has been especially filled with music and family activities this month; fortunately I’ve enjoyed all of my busy-ness. Not everyone I’ve associated with this month has been as positive, however, and I sometimes feel like a swimmer, just out to enjoy the sunshine, being sucked toward a whirlpool with a Negativity Monster at the bottom.

I went for a drink (of Italian soda!) just before a performance of Evita with two fellow members of the pit orchestra. One, whose talent, energy, and perfectionism sometimes leave her frustrated and angry, spent our break time complaining bitterly about how the show was going. Evita is a difficult show for an all-volunteer community theater group. The music is complicated, with odd intervals, constant changes of time, tempo, and key, and difficult timing issues. The conductor was struggling to keep everything together, and despite strong singers, excellent dancing, and a talented orchestra, we did not always sound like the Broadway recording.

The other friend commented quietly as we walked back, “I just listen.”

As we began the performance, the Negativity Monster threatened to pull me down. I needed to focus on my music, not on all of the negative feelings permeating the orchestra. After missing a couple of entrances, I grabbed the lifeline Patty had offered me. I just listened. I felt good about offering companionship to someone who needed to blow off steam, but I didn’t need to share her feelings. I listened to everything good that was happening, the many moments that went right. I listened to mistakes and vowed to fix mine in the next show. During one 82-measure rest I summoned up the Serenity Prayer and listened to the wisdom of acceptance. In the end, we all do our best, and we try to do better in every performance. It’s the shared effort, the gathering of people who care about creating something powerful and beautiful, that really matters.

I can’t take a retreat anytime soon. Even my upcoming trip to our Montana cabin will be less than idyllic as I confront the effects of last summer’s fire. I’ll be cutting a new woodpile, cleaning smoke-infested linens, and mourning the five lost neighboring cabins. I’ll look out onto a bleak landscape dotted with black snags.

I can take a retreat from negativity, however. I can still find beauty in the landscape, appreciate the luck and prior preparation that spared our cabin, and start a photographic record of the new growth.

Perhaps I’ll just close my eyes and listen.
Summer 2008 094

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