Speak No Evil: The Power of Positivity

An online scribe vows to speak no evil and embrace the power of positivity.

| May/June 2012

Perhaps it was the corrosive nature of the websites I frequented. Maybe it was the inebriated pack of blowhards I hung out with and our constant blasphemous banter. Or maybe it was my wife’s affair that finally sent me over the edge. Whatever the last straw was, there was an omnipresent cloud of negativity slowly but surely poisoning me—and I aimed to flippin’ do something about it.

For the past 25 years, I’ve made my living as a humor columnist, hired to rant wildly about rabid vegans, sell-out politicos, and closeted Christian fundamentalists. Even so, I genuinely tried to be a conscientious, thoughtful, sometimes sardonic but generally pleasant human being. Notwithstanding this upbeat self-perception, the smart-alecky satire was starting to creep into my personal life, as I recently heard the following words come out of my mouth:

“Did you see Tommy last night? Guy was hammered! Though I’d drink heavily if I was married to Sandy, that’s for damn sure. I can’t believe their marriage lasted longer than mine! Did you check her out? She’s lookin’ like a combo of William Shatner and Chaz Bono on steroids.”

As my pal silently picked at his blackened salmon Caesar, losing his appetite for my company, it became clear that an internal intervention was needed. In an effort to reprogram my brain toward a less foul-mouthed future, I decided to take the radical step of removing all trash talk, mudslinging, and taunting tweets from my everyday existence for an entire month.

Week 1: “If you don’t have anything nice to say…”

The concept “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is a helluva lot easier said than done. For one thing, it means you have a lot less to say. My sister called and wanted to know if I’d had any recent interactions with my soon-to-be-ex wife. “No,” I lied, “Vanessa and I are giving each other the space we need right now.” Truth was, we’d had several screaming powwows including a Please Take Me Back session, followed by a My Therapist Says It Must Have Been Over Before the Affair discussion.

Given that my previous efforts at major life changes—losing 20 pounds, quitting weed, laying off the West Wing DVDs—had failed miserably, I knew I’d need an experienced sponsor to keep me on task. So I called on the most dedicated and fierce influence in my life: my yoga teacher, Dawn Jansen.