The Pull of Negativity

Do you ever have one of those days where life is cruising along on positive speed and then for some reason, you feel the pull of negativity and just like that, your day has gone from milestone to millstone?

I have a theory about that.   Maybe you will agree or maybe you won’t, but my theory is that we are supposed to have days like that, at least until we learn to think differently.  

The reason has to do with how we are wired as human beings.  We have a hard time unconditionally accepting positive anything without some caveat being attached to it.  For us to truly develop an understanding and appreciation of the joy that positivity can bring into our lives, our imperfect human selves need balance and as such we invite good ol’ negativity to the table time and time again.  

In other words, we need some negative sprinkled into our positive lives in order to continue our positive journey forward. 

That seems rather confusing I know and it’s taken me forever to figure it out, but here is an example that happened to me recently that illustrates what I mean.  

A couple weeks ago, I had a very good day.

I sat down to write about 730am and continued for the next six hours pretty much non-stop.  My hands were literally flying over the keyboard, the flow of the ideas in my head perfectly translating into the words I wanted on the page.  For those of you who write, you know that sometimes the vision of what’s in our head isn’t exactly what translates to paper.   So, when it happens, it is a very good day. 

My back started to ache from being glued to my desk chair for so many hours and although I probably could have continued to write, my positive self knew it was time to get some exercise and keep the positive momentum going. My office window looks directly down onto our garden below and I spied a few weeds sprouting, a couple rouge snails encroaching on my newly planted veggies.   A positive opportunity to check off a couple chores, while making my Fitbit happy.  All good things.  

Two hours and a chipped manicure later, I had won the battle of the weeds and snails and had added another three thousand steps to my Fitbit and decided to reward my positive achievements with a generous glass of wine (emphasis on the generous), a little dish of wasabi trail mix and some quality time with my book club read before my hubby came home from work.

Parking myself on the couch, I dived into Hemingway and the Spanish Civil War, mindlessly reaching for my wine glass and a few Wasabi nibbles every now and then.

“Psssst!” 

Absently I looked up from my book. 

“Pssst!”

It was only me and the cats in the house, but still, I distinctly heard what sounded like someone trying to get my attention.   

I looked across the room at the sixty-inch box of doom and gloom affixed to the wall.  

“Hey girl, heard you had a positive day.  That’s good, really, really good, you’ve got your wine, your wasabi trail mix, your book, but it’s all so positive….”

Is my television set talking to me?   Eyes wide, I grabbed my wine glass and took a big gulp.

“Girl, you worked hard all day.  Productive.  Positive all the way around.  But   deep down you are worried things have been just a little too positive today.  Too smooth, no bumps in the road.  That makes you uncomfortable, right? 

“I’m not worried things have gone too positive today,” I say out loud to the television, “I AM NOT!”

Still my hand started to reach for the remote control, hovering. 

“Turn me on.  You know you want to!  Aren’t you the least bit curious if the Hallmark channel will bring back “When Calls the Heart?”  I mean who would have thought a goodie-goodie like Aunt Becky (aka Lori Loughlin from Full House days) would be capable of buying her daughers way into USC?   C’mon, you know there are probably four or five channels green screened with Ex-Justice Department officials discussing all the days political dirt.   Oooh, how about one of those home improvement channels where you can listen to people whine about not having an open floor plan?  I think one of those commercials for the Humane Society is on…you know the ones that show abused pets as Sarah McLaughlin sings “Arms of the Angel?”  

All that juicy negativity!

I took another huge gulp of wine and choked.

“Pick up the remote…pick up the remote…c’mon you know you want to!”

“I’m reading my book!  I’ve got my wine and my wasabi nuts, why do I need to turn on the television set?”

I didn’t need to.  I had a good day.  A completely positive day!  However, despite the positive vibes still reverberating through my body the pull of negativity was calling me and I pressed the remote button.

Like some mindless idiot, I began flipping, flipping, flipping, between multiple cable news channels looking for some nasty gossip of Aunt Becky and Hallmark; waded through five stations of unemployed justice department officials talking about how everyone hates everyone and was sobbing my eyes out watching a commercial featuring a dog with mange, eyes pleading at me to save it, when my husband walked in the front door.

Has this type of thing ever happened to you?

There you are, ready to immerse yourself in a little “me” time to celebrate the fact that you’ve had a perfectly good day.   Maybe it’s not in your top ten of good days, but on the positivity scale, you have no complaints. You are all set to keep the positivity party going when for some reason you feel the pull to seek the dark side calling.

Sometimes it’s completely understandable.  Your life is cruising along great and then like a trip wire, you get news you have cancer or heart disease, your favorite aunt is dying or your job is being eliminated and just like that, you find yourself stumbling and tumbling into negative territory.     

We’ve all been there and if you haven’t, you might want to think about an Ancestry test to determine if you are a Vulcan, emotionless and related to Spock. 

But fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on your viewpoint), most of us feel and that means we are vulnerable to the negative in these types of situations.

That being said, what about the times when there is no trip wire, no obvious stumbling block for you to overcome in your positive day? Just like the pretty great day I was having before my remote-control trigger finger went in search of everything Darth Vader!!!

Why do we constantly do this to our positive selves?  Why did I do it to myself? 

One possible reason is that our human selves seek out negativity in response to positivity as a result of guilt.  

“Maybe I don’t deserve all of this positivity!”

I know in my own life, I can recall many times I have talked myself into thinking my positive experiences were not all that positive by intentionally picking them apart, looking for the loopholes.  

I also know I’ve gone through phases where I thought that embracing my positive self would somehow makes me less relatable to my family and friends.  That somehow, someway, if I gave all the power to positive thinking, positive behavior and positive living, I’d lose sight of the negative and become self-absorbed and unable to feel empathy towards those going through rough times.

“Oh, there SHE goes again, everything’s perfect in her world all the time!”  

As an introvert, the idea of people thinking this about me literally tore me apart inside.  Even though no one has ever said this to me or implied it of me.

What I’ve basically done is unconsciously instituted a sort of cover for both of these issues by reinforcing my daily positives with negative reinforcements.  In other words, I go searching for something negative to remind me how truly blessed I really am.  That’s why I picked up the remote the other day to seek out something negative.

A negative capstone to my day.

How messed up is that? It’s pretty messed up. BUT I guess it just proves I’m human and not Vulcan.

But you know something, the more I delve into this positivity thing, the more I feel like maybe it’s o.k. if the teeter totter of life isn’t quite balanced.  Maybe I don’t have to go in search of something negative to balance out the good. Maybe life can just be good, period!

Why do Positivity and Negativity have to share the ride?   Up and Down they go.  Up and Down.   Up and Down.

Sometimes I’d like to just go up, up, up and stay there.  How about you?  

It’s something I’m planning on really working on this summer by developing my level of trust and acceptance that if life is going great, then it’s o.k. to be positive and leave it at that.   Total acceptance of the positive. Well at least half acceptance of the positive is a good start. I’ll try!

But until that time, I’ll placate my negative side with a few moments of cable nastiness about Aunt Becky and her demise and then I’ll get back to appreciating my very positive life by drinking my wine, reading my book and …

Oh crap, I think the cat just hacked up a wasabi nut on my carpet.   UGGGH!!!!

Positively Anne

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Reflecting positively on life’s weeds

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There is good in the weeds!

I truly believe in the healing power of positivity not only to heal us physically and emotionally, but to inspire us to live our lives seeking not what is wrong, but what is right!   

That’s challenging because humans are curious creatures and it is our curiosity that pushes us into negative territory time and time again.

Now I’m not saying human curiosity isn’t a good thing.  If curious humans hadn’t questioned things since the beginning of time, we probably would have been extinct a long time ago. 

But when curiosity becomes synonymous with distrusting everything and everyone we come in contact with, that’s when we need to push our positivity button and say, “Enough!”  

A month ago, after a major rain deluge in San Diego, my daughter texted me that the rain had caused a super bloom of neon yellow flowers to cover the slopes surrounding her home.

“Mom, you have to see this, it’s like the hillside is covered in sunshine,” and then she added, “…of course, they are just weeds, but pretty spectacular weeds at that!”

A few years ago, my reaction to my daughters joy probably would have been to chuckle and remind her that weeds after a bloom look like the kiss of death! 

But I’m not the same person. Positivity has changed me.

I trusted the joy in my daughter’s text and I arranged to meet her the next day to photograph the hillside, hoping to use a photo for my blog.  

Her property is up a steep hill.  Natural terrain on one side, older, aging homes on the other and most with unmanicured yards…or yards in a natural state, depending on your perspective.  

I can state emphatically that a few years ago, my curious mind would have wondered into negative territory worrying about unsavory characters lurking somewhere in all that imperfectness.   

But as I said, I’m not the same person.  Positivity had changed me.

The minute I pulled into the driveway I could see the yellow blooms. They were everywhere. My daughter was there too, her face radiant.   “Mom, isn’t it great?!!!”

Reaching up the slopes to the palm nursery above her house, where little yellow blooms, dancing in the breeze and dappled sunlight.  The greenery below the blooms was thick, yet delicate, and I could imagine fairies and elves living amidst their canopy.

I had brought my camera and some props for my blog post, my old tap shoes, Moe and Joe, and some other things.  I started to set out all the props, but thru my camera lens I saw clearly that Moe and Joe would be just fine among the blooming weeds without the addition of any fanfare.

They were protected.  Safe.  Loved.  Bathed in light.

There was another area of my daughter’s property, where the blooms were reaching down the slope through a chain link fence to an old shed on the adjacent property.

My old curious self would have immediately conjured all sorts of unsavory images about who lived on the property below and I probably would have blown the moment of happiness with my daughter with some negative comment about her safety.

But as I said, I’m not the same person.  Positivity has changed me.

I began to photograph the shed and a thought came to mind that the old shed, sitting in a field of blooms, reminded me of the Wizard of Oz and my old, negative self.   

An old house dropped from the sky into a field of yellow.  And there I am, under the house, my negative-self withering in anger and fear, begging to be let out.

Let me out! Let me out!  Let me out!

But positivity takes over and the image changes.

Faded boards and rusty nails, aged and imperfect like me, welcoming the sunlight of the blooms creeping towards them.  The yellow of the flowers speaking to my soul in all ways positive:  happiness, joy, hope.   Representing all that is good in the past, all that is good now and all that will be good.  Welcoming positivity.

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

It’s not easy to think differently.  To train our curious minds to choose positivity first, especially among the weeds of life.   But I can tell you personally that the reward for doing so is worth every second of the struggle. 

For when we are able to see the good in the weeds, we are able to see the good in ourselves and in others.

Our human curiosity becomes not a tool for divide and conquer, but about a shared love for what is right in our world.    We are empowered by a curiosity that seeks to squeeze out every ounce of value in this short time we have on this planet and that curiosity propels us forward into a land of positive change.

PositivelyAnne

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Faith is not a label, it lives and breathes

For here was “faith”, not as a label, not even as a building as magnificent as Notre Dame…

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It was Palm Sunday 2004, and my husband and I and our three children were on a tour of Paris, France. Our tour guide asked us if we would like to see the Dimanche des Rameaux” (Sunday of the Branches”) at the Cathedral de Notre Dame, a Holy week celebration of Jesus arrival in Jerusalem.  Our kids, being huge Quasimodo fans, thanks to the 1996 Disney version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, were thrilled.  My husband and I, while extremely excited, were still a bit unsure about putting our family in the middle of such a large gathering, only because the pain of 9/11 was still very fresh and we had already experienced a massive French military presence near our hotel and along the  Champs-Elysees due to the state visit between Queen Elizabeth and French President Jacques Chirac.   But children have a way of putting things in perspective and my little boys request, “I want to see QUAAAASIIMOOOO” sealed the deal.

Safety concerns aside, I silently hoped and prayed that some elfin creature would materialize from the bell tower of Notre Dame singing “Out There” or we were going to have some very disappointed children.   I wondered if Jesus would help me out here.

Palm Sunday itself had started off in typical April in Paris fashion: gray and drizzly!  But as our driver approached Notre Dame, the clouds broke to reveal a powder blue sky. The sun’s rays bouncing off the rose windows in the Cathedral tower reflected a kaleidoscope of colors onto the white robes of the clergy gathered on the steps below. 

Our driver, could not find a place to park, dashing any hopes of us joining in palm procession, but he quickly zipped into a red curbed driveway and rolled down the windows.

“Prenez vite vos photos!”  (Quick, take your pictures!). 

I didn’t think twice and just started snapping pictures.  Through my camera lens, I could see thousands of people, old and young, and somewhere in-between, locked arm in arm, standing in the shadow of this towering testament to gothic architecture and human survival.  Palm branches were waving everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  With my ears, I could hear a cacophony of voices: some angelic sopranos, some altos, tenors and bass, some off-key, literally hundreds of languages singing what I later learned was a hymn called, “The Palm.”   There were people who were not singing on the periphery of the crowds, but they were no less engaged.  Most of them were smiling, their teeth white against a myriad of skin tones, their eyes raised to the heavens in joy, to admire the bell towers or possibly the spire atop, or maybe in hope that the wafting clouds might part further to reveal the Christ they had come to praise.   Some were taking pictures like me. Others were silently holding hands with a loved one, or cuddling a small child.

I looked at my children, at my husband and gone were any thoughts of spying a Disney cartoon character.   For, here was “faith”, not as a label, not even as a building as magnificent as Notre Dame, not as a theological doctrine or a set of rules that I struggled to follow, but rather “faith” in its’ purest form:

Raw, human interaction.  Diversity in all its’ splendor.  A celebration of the human spirit, of all we can be together.   No barriers, no boundaries.

My three-year old son who was hanging out the window, turned to look at me, his tiny hands clapping, “Happy mommy, it’s happy.”    

Quasimodo was forgotten.   “Faith” had taken root instead!

I wanted so badly to get out of the car and walk with my family, arm in arm, towards those crowds outside Notre Dame and all of that “faith, but alas, our driver said we needed to move on and off we went in search of Montmartre and Sacre-Couer and all the other wonders of Paris.

But after we returned to the states, I thought about that moment at Notre Dame.  The cynic in me argued that I was romanticizing things.   Being a Christian and a regular church attendee, it’s natural that I would be excited to see such a diverse group of religious faithful joyously celebrating one of the most sacred aspects of Holy Week, at one of the most famous churches in the world.  

But deep in my heart I knew I had been blessed by what I had seen in a different way.  

And I began to wonder why I had couldn’t live out my life with a “faith” that simple and pure.  No labels, no barriers, no ridiculous expectations or judgements, just pure happiness.

I knew how to do it.  In fact, I think we all know how to do it.   

Terrorist attacks, natural disasters, the death of a child…almost any tragedy, we move together without thinking as one “faith”.   Oh, not the “faith” of a specific religion, but a “faith” that lives and breathes in each other, in humanity and in our very human desire to be the light in the face of darkness.  

Yesterday, as the world watched Notre Dame burn, I once again saw the people gather, this time in the shadow of the flames engulfing their beloved treasure  Their tear stained faces,  reflecting the sorrow of what was lost, but in their eyes was a determination and hope that immediately took me back to that Palm Sunday fifteen years ago.   

It mattered not where they came from.  It mattered not their theology or lack thereof.  It mattered not their income, their gender, their skin color, or any other label we humans assign other humans.   

What mattered were the images of strangers, standing arm in arm, voices raised in song, defiant of the flames, reminding us that even in the face of darkness, happiness is just around the corner.      

I need to make it a priority to not lose “faith” in my fellow human beings.  There is much good there…SO MUCH GOOD!    

Hope is alive. Positivity is stronger than Negativity.  Let it in.  Let it flow.   

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That’s what Jesus would want us to do.   That’s what we should do! 

Happy Easter,

PositivelyAnne

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