Last night my eldest daughter shuffled into my room, just after I’d drifted off into a deep sleep. I sensed her presence, even before I awoke, and then stirred when her “Mommy?” pricked through the quiet. At the respectable age of eleven, Laura reserves ‘Mommy’ for those times of special need, usually in the ink of night.
“Something’s not right,” she whispered. “I feel like something’s wrong.”
“Are you sick?”
“No. I just feel like things are… off.”
I lifted the cover next to me and she cuddled into my side. She’d mentioned feeling like this before she’d gone to bed. We laid there quietly for a few moments, as my sleepy brain formulated what I wanted to say to her, my sensitive darling who takes everything on the chin, who notices when someone burps on the other end of the planet, and feels bad about it. I understand her sensitivity because I am like this, too.
“Something will always be wrong, somewhere,” I finally said. “People are, right now, being pushed out of their homes because of war. Other people are sick and sad. You can choose to focus on these things. But, for every bad thing in the world, there are ten good things. For every bad thought, there are ten good thoughts. You can choose to dwell on the negative stuff… or push it all out with the abundance of positive things you have to think about. It’s your choice.”
My little girl sighed. I could feel her tense body relaxing next to me.
“Focusing on bad things—like anger and violence and weird feelings and suffering and pain—is only helpful if you’re thinking about how you can help make them better. If you’re not coming up with solutions, though, you might as well drop thinking about them altogether. Otherwise, you’ll only poison yourself with negativity.”
We cuddled together for a few more minutes until I heard her breathing even out. I thought maybe she was asleep.
I’m not curious about why she absorbs bad stuff. It’s all around us. Acidity in relationships. Controversy in conversations. Egotistical bickering among politicians, even those running for the highest office. And stomach-clenching stories of hatred, fear, violence, and the smallness of humanity in almost every news story the media leads with. It takes the mental stamina of the Dalai Lama to stay positive these days.
“Laura?” I whispered.
“Want me to tuck you back in?”
“Oh, I can do it… I feel bad for waking you up.”
I followed her, anyway, and tucked soft blankets to her chin.
“Thanks, Mom. I love you so much.” I kissed her delicate cheek, pearly white in the dimness of the room. “Love you, too, kiddo.”
I tiptoed back to bed. And let good thoughts run rampant in my own head in the few seconds before I drifted back into my night’s dreams.