Revelations: Learning to block out negativity
A few years ago, when I was living in Atlanta, my cousin Ava and I decided to drive to Callaway Gardens for the weekend.
We were meeting her parents and spending the night in one of the nearby inns. It was to be an easy, informal weekend in the Georgia countryside.
Driving to Callaway Gardens is almost as relaxing as strolling through the garden itself.
It's a beautifully landscaped paradise of butterflies, muscadine vines and rows upon rows of manicured flowers.
For me, Ava has the personality of Callaway: easygoing, beautiful, thoughtful and peaceful.
As we were driving down the highway that day, I noticed the car behind us in my passenger-side mirror. He was angrily swerving behind us, trying to signal Ava to move to the right lane.
Apparently, she was driving too slow and passing her would be too much of a chore.
Ava didn't notice him. She was in the middle of telling me a sweet story about Jesus in her soft, little, delicate Ava voice.
With plenty of room in the lane beside us, the angry driver man pulled up to my passenger side and drove parallel to our car for a while.
He was ranting and raving for at least 60 seconds, a muted display of screaming profanities while banging his hands on the steering wheel.
I looked over at Ava. She was still looking forward and chatting away. A soft, little tune was playing on the Christian radio station. If the man wasn't at that moment driving beside us and cursing at her, it would have been the most lovely little moment.
I didn't want to upset her or distract her from the story.
So I leaned forward to block the window and responded something like, "Oh, that's interesting," so she would continue talking.
The angry driver eventually sped away, and she was none the wiser.
I was reminded of my Callaway Gardens drive the other day when I ran into a girlfriend at Wal-Mart.
I haven't seen her in about two years, and she was shopping with her new husband, a recent Christian convert. I was having one of those days where my mind was distracted on negative thoughts.
"I'm a failure; He thinks I'm stupid; Why can't I ... ?"
The negative thoughts were really beating me down that day.
But my spirits were lifted immediately when I saw my girlfriend. We hugged and laughed and pretended no one else existed in the store.
She's a woman of many tattoos and facial piercings. Her husband, also a tattoo junkie, is covered from forehead to feet with ink and piercings.
They both practice various forms of body modification, including subdermal implants, tongue splitting and earlobe stretching. They're both a little weird, and they would be the first to tell you that.
But if you didn't know them, and their hearts for God, you might think they were the Antichrist. They don't look like everyone else, and clearly they paid a lot of money to be that way.
We spent about 20 minutes laughing and joking around, and it was great to catch up on the new ministry they started.
It was a spiritually encouraging conversation, and it completely distracted me from my negative thinking.
At some point during the conversation, I looked up and noticed a man peering out from the toothpaste aisle behind us. He was eyeing my friends and staring at me as if to signal that he had my back if I wanted to flee the conversation.
It was then I noticed other shoppers wheeling by with their carts, slowly rubber-necking and squinting their eyes at us with confusion.
I could see it all over their faces. They were trying to figure out why they had so many tattoos and piercings and why I was standing there talking to them.
Just as I did with Ava in the car that day, I didn't mention the rubber-necking shoppers.
I didn't want to interrupt them from their sweet story about Jesus, and I figured they were used to the stares.
As I walked out of the store, I realized how great it would be if we could all be each other's shields and protectors of the negativity that encircles us every day vying for our attention.
I made a conscious decision as I walked out of the store that I wouldn't allow myself to focus on negative thoughts or people for the rest of the day.
And I haven't really experienced any since.
I don't know if I'm just not paying attention or if God is standing in front of me while I continue to jabber on about Jesus.
Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @jenniferpreyss on Twitter.