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I seem to have developed an unfortunate ritual over the last several years: every time I visit my parents, and now it’s just my mom since my dad’s passing last year, I inevitably get sick when I come back home. And I’m one of those people who never get sick. Unless, of course, I go to Florida for a few days to be with my family. I guess it should be embarrassing to admit, but I don’t spend my days pretending to be a perfect human anyway, so what the hell.

It all started some years ago, when I realized how negativity and drama in any form — complaining, gossip, worry and the garden variety “if only” thinking, the ego’s favorite —affects me. It took me years to figure out why I was becoming more and more of a hermit: I just don’t do well, including physically, when I’m around such heavy energy for any length of time. I try to keep my life simple, straightforward and, according to most people’s accounts, boring. When I crave drama, I turn on Netflix.

My mom is an incredibly giving and caring person, but she’s also a negativity addict, like many people are. Something is always wrong or missing, according to her mindset. And if nothing is wrong or missing now, she’ll rehash things that happened 20 years ago. On a good day, I have tons of patience with her, gently steering her away from the toxic, circular thinking and guiding her toward gratitude for the good things in life, and there always are plenty. But on a less ideal day, I just decide that I can’t handle the negativity and because I’m too grown up and too considerate (or maybe feel too guilty) to explode, I implode. Which is why I get sick. It’s not the “germs” on airplanes or the humidity of Florida, but my resistance to my mom’s state of mind that brings me down and gets me sick. It’s my own stubbornness and lack of perspective.

If I claimed that my mom’s negativity made me stressed out and sick that would be ridiculous because someone else’s state of mind can’t do anything to me. Someone else’s business (and another person’s state of mind is their business, not mine) can’t affect me unless I make it into my business. It’s true that I wouldn’t want my attitude to be like my mom’s but that doesn’t mean that I should fix her in any way; not that I could. So the moment I internally decided that I couldn’t handle my mom’s negativity anymore was the moment I allowed it to affect me.

You see, the less we can tolerate, the lower our level of being. This is not an invitation to have an “anything goes” attitude. Having personal boundaries and being honest and brave enough to decide what goes and what doesn’t go for you is key. But when you decide that something is not acceptable for you, can you drop the story about it and move on? By “the less we can tolerate,” I’m referring to our inner mental and emotional circus, which is solely our business and our responsibility.

The less we can stand, the lower our level of being, or our vibration, which happens any time we identify with our thoughts and therefore reengage in the never-ending battle of ego versus what is. When you look at life in this way, you see how, and why, most humans operate from such a low level of being for most of their life. And we blame someone or something else for it, as if someone or something outside of us determines our level of being.

Turns out, I was not much different than my mom during my visit with her last week, when I decided that I just couldn’t stand her negativity. How dramatic and negative of me was that?! When I realized this once I got home (and got sick), I had to laugh at myself. How silly we humans are, thinking we’re so original in our BS (belief systems, that is).

If it’s true that the less we can stand, the lower our level of being, then it must also be true that our vibration is raised when we at least accept and allow, and maybe even start to appreciate, something that’s initially not sitting well with our personal views. The key here, as always, is to be aware of what your anchor is. If your anchor is the ego, the flimsy and shortsighted patterns of your mind, don’t waste your time hoping for a steady anchor. But if you anchor yourself in who you truly are, which is a vastness that can include any experience without even a hint of resistance, then life as a human starts to become a bit easier. I wish I remembered to use the right anchor last week, but there’s always next time to practice this, and it will come soon enough.

As Joseph Campbell said: “The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.” I’m really looking forward to spending time with my mom again, or anyone I view as chronically negative, because it’s completely up to me whether I drown or swim with delight in anyone’s company. What a relief to know that it was never up to anyone else.