Positive Reinforcement

Most people who know me will say that I am overtly critical, and I would agree. I find it hard to see the 'good' in something even if there is only a hint of imperfection. That's the downside in being a crazed precisionist; I focus on the things that I have no control over.

Upon hearing that, I know that you will tell me I'm being ridiculous; I can assure you that I am. Not only would I agree that I am insanely critical, but I would also agree that I fuss, fret, worry, and whine about things that I cannot change...factors that no human has any control over (such as the weather).

I suppose that I could learn to have faith in the simpler things in life. This is, at least to me, much easier than learning how to be genuinely optimistic. (I feel artificially cheerful when attempting to do so. Perhaps this is because I, ashamedly, take pride in my negativity--especially since it purveys my friends and family with entertainment.) It's not as if I lack the ability to find joy in the simple things; more or less, it is that I fail to recognize them.

I often take daily life in stride:
this is the TV commercial that drones while I make a trip to the fridge; this is the buzz of radio static; this is the high-pitched whine of a child; this is the on-again, off-again hum of the A/C; this is the fly in my ear, the mosquito on my shoulder. To me, it's all a forgotten hum. It is only when I focus on an element in the background--such as the ticking of the kitchen clock--that the little things become significant.

Take the clock, for instance. Physically, it is nothing more than a four-dollar, Wal-Mart investment. It is not fancy: it does not have a pendulum; it does not chime. Instead, the simple black clock steadily beats; tells me that I have both the time and the ability to listen to it count every precious second that has been given to me.

I think this is why I took the opportunity to go out to a local quarry yesterday. I didn't want to sit at home and have the ticking of the clock mock me. Rather, I wanted to take time away from what has so recently overwhelmed me: loans, bills, unanswered questions, and the relationship with my mother. I knew that the peaceful atmosphere and cool water would calm me.

Sure enough, the quarry offered a simple, beautiful moment to relish.

The water, cold and clear, massaged my skin and danced reflections across my face. Fish tickled my toes as I swam. The shadows of the trees rippled in the water, and as I trod through their reflections, I gazed up at the clouds passing through the open mouth of sky.

Words can paint a picture, true, but they can't fully describe the openness of the quarry; the vulnerability it has when clouds pass over the sun or what I feel when the water is disturbed and becomes more than an expanse of soft wrinkles. (This is similar to the feeling I have when I step into fresh, pure, smooth snow. Do I dare tromp through the placid blanket of icy, microscopic beauties?)

No. I do not dare disturb the rigid harmony that lies amicably before me. Instead, I leave it to the joyous mother and son who, just like me, came to escape. And although their activity sends out countless billowing rings into the quarry, I take it in stride. After all, my moment of serenity has passed onto them--the ones who, I'm sure, are less critical of their surroundings, more positive in their general outlook, and are-certainly-more aware of the simple joys in life.


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