With New Year’s goals finding their way into our already full agendas, time is more critical than ever. We have our game faces on-feeling positive, confident, and indestructible. That is, until we run into our friends Debbie Downer, Gloomy Gus and Negative Nancy.
For those who don’t know who they are, Debbie, Gus and Nancy are the fictitious pseudonyms for those people in your life who thrive on negativity, play the victim in every possible situation, and tell their sad stories over and over again to whomever is willing to listen. Sometimes, they even thwart your plans by telling you about a guy who knew a guy who had a disastrous outcome in a situation similar to the one you are about to embark on.
Are you starting to recognize these people now? If not, a good way to spot them is to ask the mundane yet polite question, “How are you?”
Let’s be honest. When people ask this question, they are expecting a quick, “Everything’s great” so that they can go about their day. But a Debbie, Gus or Nancy will never let this opportunity pass. They will instead stop you in your tracks and make you listen to a ten-minute saga about why their morning/ex-husband from five years ago/dead goldfish from 1978 was plaguing them. When dealing with these people, I learned the hard way that giving them too much attention will validate the way they are feeling and ultimately suck you into their toxic bubble. Instead of becoming an ally who will support their pessimism, I learned that a simple wave hello is more sensible.
In addition, because social media has shown no signs of slowing down, thousands of people like Debbie, Gus and Nancy have been unveiled. Scrolling down a Facebook timeline can reveal quite a bit about someone’s personality. You can tell who is upbeat, fun, adventurous, crafty, narcissistic, angry, bitter, or just sad.
I understand that we all go through an array of emotions throughout our lives, and having a few bad days that we take out on our personal Facebook community can be somewhat cathartic. However, Debbie, Gus and Nancy have patterns that never stray too far away from the negative. Even though some of my former Facebook friends were nice and didn’t wrong me in any way, seeing how dreary their days were going on a daily basis started to affect my day. So, when it comes time to evaluate who I want to see in my newsfeed, those who can’t find a small ray of sunshine, even once in a while, are the ones who generally get the axe.
So, am I right in throwing a joyous mental goodbye party for these people after dismissing them from my life? Although it always feels right to me, maybe I’m too quick to unfriend. Like watching a soap opera, maybe hearing someone else’s drama can make me feel better about my own. Or maybe their rain will give me a better idea of how to plan my parade. Maybe we all need a force that keeps us grounded when we are trying to fly.\
OR…maybe we don’t.
When the majority of the minutes in my day are set aside for tasks like working, cooking or cleaning, the time that is left over becomes considerably important. Sharing even one of those minutes with Debbie, Gus or Nancy seems…well…depressing. Though I don’t live a shiny, happy life every moment of the day, I am pleased with where I am and who is here with me. Therefore, Debbie, Gus and Nancy will have to understand that my time is too valuable to be stuck in the past or to pine over the negative results of situations that have not yet occurred. Rather, I choose to reserve my minutes for those who make my life lighter and for those who simply hand me an umbrella when the forecast calls for rain.
*This piece was published on Sammiches and Psych Meds on March 17, 2016.