Meet Gus-Gus. He’s the latest member of our backyard “zoo.” Isn’t he adorable? He just showed up one day last week and has since made our yard his own personal salad bar. I always get excited when I see him because he’s just so darn cute! I want to just run out, scoop him up, and hug him, but even if I could catch him I’m afraid it would turn out like the scene in Elf where Buddy the Elf tries to hug the racoon….
On Wednesday evening I was looking out the kitchen window and Gus-Gus was standing up so he could pull one of my echinacea (purple coneflower) plants over and eat it. I don’t mind if he eats them, but I don’t think the chipmunks will appreciate it. That’s where they spend a lot of their time, and the plants provide great cover from predators.
Seeing him utterly destroying those echinacea plants really made me stop and think. Although I don’t think he lives in the yard (we haven’t seen any holes big enough to be groundhog holes), we have invited him in by providing everything he could possibly need: food, water, and shelter. For many years, I’ve wanted to have a backyard wildlife habitat and now it seems we do. As I talked about with the chipmunks last week, all this cuteness can bring with it some destructive behaviors as well: digging holes in the yard (which in the groundhog’s case can damage foundations), devouring the garden, and impacting the other animals who live in the yard. This made me think about other things that we invite into our lives, things that may seem harmless at first, but can be detrimental to our well-being.
One of the first things that came to mind was unhelpful thought processes.We have thousands of thoughts that flit through our minds every day, and as I mentioned in week 2 of my Mindfulness Monday series, our bodies are extremely sensitive to the emotions that go through there. If we don’t consciously process negative thoughts and emotions, or if we start to dwell on them, we may be inviting them to take up residence. It’s normal, and yes, perfectly fine, to have days when we feel sorry for ourselves for a while. Chronic illness is HARD, and sometimes we just need a chance to “not be okay” and grieve the loss of what used to be. We just don’t want to allow ourselves to become mired down by those thoughts, because once they move in, it’s hard to get them to move out. We really do get to choose what we think about, and if we can train ourselves to focus more on the positive thoughts than the negative we see enormous benefits. It’s no wonder that in the Bible Paul tells the Philippians, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Holy Bible, New Living Translation)
Another thing is not really a “what” but a “who” – negative people. At first, it may feel good to have someone to talk to who really “gets” how we feel at our worst, someone who helps us give our angry or discouraged feelings a voice. Now please don’t misunderstand me – we definitely need people in our lives whom we can be real with and express these negative feelings – but we don’t need to surround ourselves with people whose default setting is negativity. There’s an old saying that you become like the five people you spend the most time with. Why not choose to make our five people the ones who can support us during the dark times, but who also lift us up and help us gain a new perspective when needed?
We have a choice about who and what we invite into our lives, and just as we don’t invite just anyone into our homes, we shouldn’t invite negative influences into our heads, hearts, and lives. Conversely, we should throw the door open wide to those people and things that will support us, push us to grow, and help us live our best life possible!
What positive things are you inviting into your life? Please share!