09/11/2014 04:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

On Being Negative

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Growing up, we (myself and siblings) always poked fun at our dad for his thick accent. Dad (that's "Joe," to you guys) is an "off-the-boat" Italian who occasionally jumbles up words and phrases, and has been known to put letters where they don't belong.

For example, we should "search the hinternet" when we need a quick answer to something. When we talk too much, we sound like "that talk show lady, Hoprah." In the midst of us teasing him one day, he laughed and said, "Sorry if I wasn't born here, like you did." Cue hysterics.

He plays the saxophone professionally (he is a fantastic and talented musician, so if you are in the Westchester, NY area be sure to keep your eye out for an Al Pacino look-alike jamming on the sax at any local establishment), and one day we asked him if he would be playing outdoors that evening. His iconic response: "Yes -- weather promiscuous, of course."

There are the "grammar police," and then there's "grammar police for immigrant parents." While the former gets generic training, the latter is a rough-and-tumble street team where no rules apply. It's like Ultimate Fighting for linguistics. They've seen things.

To be clear, my dad knows that this poking is all in good fun, and really, we grew up poking fun at each other for all sorts of things. None of us took ourselves too seriously. He is a very smart and talented man who speaks three languages. We just can't help but lose it a little bit when he mixes things up because, to our native ears, it sounds funny. (The same way I know I'd sound attempting to speak another language in a different country.)

And, while we joke about his dialectal mishaps, the truth is that there are always wise gems of wisdom to be found within them; little life lessons that stick with you as the years go on, until their logic permeates your rationale and becomes second nature. As far as mispronounced words go, you tend to forget what the actual word even sounds like, because you've gotten so used to pronouncing it his way. Because really, they sound so much better hisway.

So it's no surprise that one of his most recent charming "Joe-isms" is yet another phrase I try to live by, delivered to me when I was having a particularly bad day. He saw my face, looked right in my eyes and said, in a very serious tone: "Hey -- no more negatigaty."

I don't care what sort of funk you're in -- how do you hear those words and stifle your laughter? He knew right away he mispronounced something because he started laughing, too. I was grateful for this mishap because had it been pronounced correctly, it may have passed right over my head, but instead it made me pause to really let it sink in.

It was so funny (even if it wasn't meant to be) that it lightened my mood just enough to pull me out of my funk, and yet so true that I find myself repeating it out loud whenever I'm feeling down. I shake my finger at myself, furrow my brow, and say, "Hey -- no more negatigaty." Simple as that.

And this applies to so much in life, because there's too much negatigaty in this world already! We don't need anymore negatigaty, and if we are mindful enough, we can squash any that arises with this little mantra. Here, a random sampling of places where all sorts of negatigaty can creep in, and how we can apply our new catchphrase to squash it:

  • A-hole in line at the grocery store got you down? Shake it off and don't let it ruin your day. NO MORE NEGATIGATY.
  • Noticed that your "inner voice" is more like a cruel, ruthless, drunken tyrant? Overthrow the belligerent queen and appoint a new, more gentle (and sober) one. It's time to start being nicer to yourself. NO MORE NEGATIGATY.
  • Toddler getting impatient while waiting for breakfast? Take a deep breath. Sing a song. Do a little dance. She'll calm down, and even if she doesn't, at least you'll look like a total whacko. NO MORE NEGATIGATY.
  • Good friend acting like a total jerk? Chalk it up to a bad day on her part (boss got her down, toddler puked on her favorite shirt, hormones, whatever) and give her a free pass. We've all been there, and it's probably nothing personal. NO MORE NEGATIGATY.
  • Stuck in a cycle of hating on yourself because of a mistake you made, the actions of someone else or something you wish you could have done differently? You guessed it: NO MORE NEGATIGATY to the third power.

I can sometimes get stuck as the star in my own internal movie, replaying deleted scenes and bonus reels of things I wish I had said, or didn't say, or did, or didn't do. It is exhausting and unproductive when this happens, not to mention a total time-suck. And let me tell you, this activity brings LOTS of negatigaty. I think we all wish we could have done things differently at some point in our lives. But if we can learn from our experiences and then turn off the mental DVD, we can start focusing on the here and now, and leave any past bad feelings where they belong -- in the past. NO MORE NEGATIGATY.

I love my new mantra and, who knows, maybe I'll read about it in "Hoprah" magazine one day, as I'm sitting outside leisurely flipping through the pages on a warm summer's day. Weather promiscuous, of course.


This post originally appeared on Alessandra's blog, Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Author's note: This post has been previewed and approved by Joe. He understands that it's all in good fun and that the life lessons learned from his wisdom are what's really important here. I would never publish anything that could bring him any negatigaty.