What Happened To Me
Have you ever found yourself asking, “What happened to me? I used to be such a positive person, filled with hope and dreams! Now look at me”. Have you ever gone to bed saying to yourself, “Tomorrow’s a new day. I’m going to make some changes” only to wake up the next day to have nothing change. I have too and it’s disturbing!
When I was younger I had a few elderly people in my life that were very bitter people. I often wondered to myself, “What happened”? I also recall saying to myself, “That will never be me”. Now, in my late 40’s I find myself scared that that’s exactly what I’ll be unless I do something now!
This transition into bitterness didn’t happen overnight for me. Just out of High School I recall dreaming that I was going to be a professional football player. When I got past the age where I could realistically play football I moved to baseball. “Most of those guys are in their mid to late 20’s and a lot of them are so out of shape they can hardly make it to first base”, my thinking went. Then it was tennis, golf, lead singer in a band and on and on. The important thing was that I was always dreaming! Anything was possible in my mind! I’d been relatively successful in most of the things I’d set out to accomplish in life so why couldn’t I be headlining sell out concerts with thousands of adoring fans screaming my name! But one day the dreams began to fade…and then the dreaming stopped.
When the dreams died something inside me died. I no longer had the hope I once had that got me out of bed each day. Jealousy and envy began to replace hope. Anger replaced joy. And bitterness slowly started to spread throughout my body enveloping every thought and dictating every action. I found myself on the road that would inevitably lead me to where I swore I’d never be...bitter and old!
ROAD TO BITTERNESS
In the beginning I couldn’t see it happening. Little things like the tone of the music I listened to changed to an angry tone to better fit my mindset. Long lines at the store would irritate me. An older person driving on the freeway ten miles an hour under speed limit would set me into a foul mouthed tirade! Small mistakes made by the waiter would affect her tip.
Life had reared it’s ugly head and stood directly in front of me, index finger pointed directly into my chest laughing at me for ever having the audacity to dream! And I felt the hatred set in…
Each day became a day “to just get through”. Each night I’d pray that I could just stay in bed forever. Like those older, bitter people I once despised I now could relate. “Life’s hard and unfair”, became my mantra. Advice to children dripped with cynicism. “Enjoy these years while you can because you’ll never get them back”, I’d tell them. Nothing I said was positive. No matter the subject I’d always add a cynical twist.
I found out the hard way that people don’t like to be around bitter people like me. Slowly my circle of friends dwindled. I went from “the next superstar” at work to someone to stay away from. My interactions with my family became strained. The simplest conversations left the other person feeling down. All because I was a bitter, angry man whose dreams had died many years ago.
It’s amazing to me how hard it is to change for the good and how easy it is to be bad no matter the vice. I’d slipped into this state of bitterness and anger without even realizing it. And the seeds had been sown some time ago and now the roots were deep. This wouldn’t be a simple plucking. If I were to change I’d have to start digging up the roots that had embedded themselves into my heart and it would take some time. A long time.
The mind is a powerful thing! When I started on the road to changing from a bitter, angry man I started realizing things about myself. The things I was doing had become so normal that I didn’t see how destructive I’d become to myself! “You’re such a loser”, “You’ll never finish this on time”, “I hope I don’t wake up tomorrow”, were regular comments I’d say TO MYSELF! It was like I had an enemy living right inside my body that hated me! Stopping the ‘negative talk’ has probably been the single hardest thing I’ve had to fight. Beating myself up for being human! Sabotaging myself before I’d even start a project. It was debilitating and keeping me bitter.
Someone once told me to look in the mirror and say, “I love you”. Before you laugh, try it. It’s harder than you think. The first time I tried I was shaken to my core. I couldn’t even look into my own eyes let alone say, “I love you”! I realized for the first time in my life that I hated myself! I actually hated the person in the mirror! I could say that! I looked in the mirror every day to get ready for the day but all I was doing was viewing an image. I never looked at the person in the mirror as a person. I’d devalued myself so much that I’d just become a picture or a manikin to dress up for the day. “I love you”…no way!!
Determined to change from the bitter man I’d become I started listening to what I’d been listening to. Actually listening! Everything from the lyrics in the music to the debates on talk radio were oozing with negativity! I’d surrounded my day with negative influences from the time I got in the car in the morning to the time I went to bed at night. I started by changing the music to more positive music. This was very difficult at first! I realized that the music I’d been listening to was actually functioning in my life as a drug. The music would release chemicals into my system that I’d become addicted to. I needed the music to “get me going” each day.
Talk radio was another problem. I’m a political junkie. I like politics and follow every day. Politics are a necessary evil however it’s not an evil I need in my life if it’s affecting my view of life and people. If I’m a republican or democrat and I’m introduced to someone that’s not of my political persuasion and I immediately feel hostility toward the person strictly because they’re not the same political persuasion as I am, that’s wrong. Not only wrong but unhealthy! So I turned off the news. I deleted news apps on my devices. I stopped listening to shows. I stopped watching the news. Again, much like the music I found myself going through “withdrawals” for a time.
I’d love to tell you that today I’m a happy, friendly positive man that’s comfortable in my own skin. I’d love to tell you that people flock to me because of my enthusiastic disposition. What I can tell you is that I’m getting better. The voice in my head that continually beat me over the head everyday has vanished. Sure I have days where I’m hard on myself but the daily negative remarks have ceased. I watch the news but nothing like I used to. And I do find myself turning on music that isn’t the most positive music to be listening to but I don’t need it like I used to.
I’m thankful that I caught myself in time! I was headed toward being one of those bitter elderly folks I once looked at with pity as a young man. But the roots are deep. Much deeper than I realized! Bitterness is like a weed that can’t just be chopped off at the top. You’ve got to dig down and get the entire root. And even when you think you’ve got the entire root often times you’ll find that there was still more down there and you’ll have to keep digging until the day you can look at yourself in the mirror and truly say, “I love you”.