If you’ve ever taken a physics or chemistry class, you have likely heard of the law of conservation of energy. This law says that energy remains invariable and is maintained over time, so while energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can be altered or transmitted.
While this law holds true for scientific purposes, it can also be applied to the attitudes of people, and we can see this play out in a variety of ways. This past Monday, my 10-year-old son, Landon, was a total grump in the morning. He was negative and snippy and sounded just like I do when I am tired or hungry or mildly inconvenienced. I realized that my reaction to his attitude was going to make his day either much worse or much better, but that it would also impact the rest of my day and how I felt about myself as well. When we got to our morning destination, before we exited the car, I asked him why he was so upset, and he simply said, “Because it’s Monday and everything that can go wrong has gone wrong.” I then asked out loud if he would like for me to drive us around to different businesses so that he will have the opportunity to share his negativity with complete strangers, and when they become flabbergasted at his behavior, he could shout, “This is OK because I’m having a bad day!”
My younger son found this idea hilarious, but my 10-year-old looked at me and said, “Well that would take too much energy and makes no sense.” We talked about how unproductive it is to go around throwing negativity at people, and we ended up laughing before heading off in different directions, but his negative energy had been successfully transformed into a more pleasant one. The law of conservation of energy works in our interpersonal communications and relationships as well. This interaction with my son on Monday morning led to me being hyper aware of my own words and behaviors the rest of the day, and I realized that things zap my energy in different ways.
For example, when other adults in my life are negative with each other, and then I have to navigate those connections in a way that avoids being pulled in myself, it sucks energy from me, and I then have to go refill my energy by watching too much Jeopardy or eating an entire package of Oreos. However, when I use up all of my energy by doing things like creating art or writing poetry or painting my daughter’s nails or learning something new, I’m not actually losing the energy, I am regenerating my own energy into more fuel to do more cool stuff.
These things that contribute to a self-fulfilling energy cycle are a much better use of my time because the energy used is leading to positivity in my life and builds upon itself. Meanwhile, the energy I use to attempt to figure out how best to interact with adults who cannot behave like adults is transported to another dimension, leaving me with little left to carry out these energetic activities with positive outcomes.
Simply put, I don’t want to be some kid scowling and rolling my eyes at a cashier at a fast food place because I dropped my phone down the stairs. I’d rather be someone making things that beautify my life or my environment and, hopefully, someone else’s as well. I want the energy I’m sending out to be part of a positive energy cycle.
Because of this, I don’t have the energy for people who think everyone is out to get them. I’ve got no time for answering questions about what someone said when someone else was around, because even if words are innocent in nature, people in a negative energy cycle will turn those words into lightning bolts instead of lilacs. I don’t have the energy to disagree with someone else’s reason for a weird decision just because it’s not what I would have chosen for myself. I have zero energy for rumors or takedowns or arguments. I don’t have any energy for people who use their own energy for those things.
I don’t have energy for sucky food or books that have no plot or friendships with people who are not friendly. I don’t have the energy because I’m too busy using my energy for good.
Anna Layer lives in Hartford with her three children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.