We all have negative patterns. Some stem from childhood, created as mechanisms to fend from the bully who stole our lunch money. Some mirror the patterns of grandmothers, mothers and sisters; a habitual cycle carried through generations.
I often follow Mami’s lead. Her pattern is to complain…often. She simmers in negativity. Can never throw caution to the wind. And she frowns and groans like a senior citizen.
I hear myself saying “I can’t.”I wince as my high pitch voice whines about the little things: the obese woman who wiggles into the seat beside me and suffocates me in the process, my cousins emotional distance, my financial situation and the stalemate that is my career. I frown. I groan as I am stuck in a negative abyss. Until someone, something, restores my faith…in people, in systems, in the Universe.
And I don’t want to be a complainer anymore.
The wheels were set in motion on Saturday evening. I stood on the 96th street train platform waiting for the uptown 1 train. 2 minutes, read the florescent sign. I unwrapped my leopard print scarf from around my neck and tucked my gold clutch underneath my arm. I stepped closer to the train tracks as the silver limo arrived. Passengers exited through the metal double doors. Eying a seat, I stepped quickly into the train. Not far behind me was a young male, tall in stature and broad in width. He took the seat to my right. As he played a video game on his Android, I checked my email and began to compose a tweet.
If you ever speak to a police officer about tweeting and/or texting on the train, they’ll tell you it’s a big no-no. Not only can the phone be snatched from your fingertips, but you are also distracted. This I why I didn’t realize my purse was missing until two stops later. I shot up from the seat, scanned the floor and the doorway but found no purse. I hopped off the 110th street stop, approached two police officers and told them what happened.
“I’m not sure if it was stolen or if I just dropped it,” I recalled calmly.
“What was in the purse?” One of the officers questioned.
“Everything,'” I admitted. I noted the items: house keys, permit with home address, Revlon lipgloss, USB, $80 dollars, my bank debit card, Metrocard and American Express card. They shook their heads in disbelief. I shrugged, completely aware of the loss but also aware that I was powerless. So I let it go. I didn’t complain or whine or bitch or cry. The police officers were impressed as was I. “You’re so calm,” said the shorter one. “People are usually hysterical when this happens,” the bald one empathized.
“I have no control over this situation,” I reasoned. “Besides,” I continued. “They’re just things.” Things that I assumed I’d never see again.
If someone had stolen the purse, they wouldn’t return it. If I had dropped the purse, I had to believe in the goodwill of mankind., and believing in mankind is difficult for a skeptical New Yorker.
Again with the negativity.
But, The Universe had other plans. She wanted me to become a believer. On to the following day…
I sat on my couch when I heard the kitchen buzzer. Seconds later, my sister called out to me, “Sujeiry, your purse!” I ran toward the kitchen as she walked toward me. Someone was downstairs with my purse. “I’ll go with you,” my sister said. I skipped down the steps, excited to have the contents back in my possession and curious to meet my hero. We opened the entrance door and there he was: the stranger who makes me want to be a better person. He stood on the steps, head bowed. Modest. Humble. Shy. He said he found my gold clutch on the train tracks on 96th street. That he went into the track and picked up the purse. How he tried finding me on Facebook but couldn’t (my profile is unsearchable). How he decided to come to Washington Heights, though he isn’t from here, to return my purse. I stood there, mouth agape. I put my hand to my heart, touched by his geneority, goodwill and selflessness. He could have taken the money and tossed the purse. He could have left the purse for the rats to gnaw on. But he didn’t. Instead, Stranger showed me that there is good in the world.
And that makes me want to be better.
Today, I take a vow to be better, to complain less, to watch what I say and how I present myself. Today, I choose my words carefully. I will not whine about the little things and find gratitude in all things.
Today, I am breaking the negative cycle.
I am positive.
I am better.
I am free.