Not all lemons make lemonade

Maybe the birds weren’t too smart after all. I mean I wouldn’t build my house with a potential disaster looming overhead like that.

As you go about your daily life, you will encounter many lemons.  Sour expressions, sour attitudes, sour auras!  The good thing is that if you don’t want to be a lemon, you don’t have to be! Just don’t let those lemons rub themselves all over you! And you don’t even have to save them!  Just let lemons be lemons! -C.  Joybell C.

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photo: Morning Accomplishments by PositivelyAnne

As the morning sun was just peaking over the hill behind our house, I sat in my favorite chair, enjoying my first cup of coffee, when through the window I spotted a pair of doves who had begun the process of building a nest in our lemon tree.

The nest was being built in the apex of two branches towards the back of the tree.  These branches were covered with dark green leaves and laden with bright yellow citrus fruit.  One of the doves appeared to be in charge of gathering the twigs to make the nest and I watched it as it scoured the ground underneath a nearby pepper tree, where it would bring back to the waiting dove a single twig of the exact same size as all the others lining the nest.  The other dove would take that twig and maneuver it in place using their beak, head and breast.  One layer of twigs laid vertically and then another layer laid horizontally on top of that layer and then all layers compressed to form a sphere. 

I got up from my chair, face pressed against the window, and I marveled at the architectural, construction and engineering skills of these two birds.   I’m supposedly smarter than doves and yet, I can’t cut a piece of lumber without measuring and remeasuring and here each twig this bird gathered was somehow proportionate to the previous twig.  How could that be?   And that spherical shape…what’s up with that? I certainly couldn’t build anything spherical without…well, I can’t build anything spherical period!!! 

What really caused me to pause was the fact that the doves were building this amazing creation completely surrounded by dozens and dozens of really large lemons.  Some of the lemons appeared to be heavier, and larger, than their tiny bodies, and many of the lemons were hanging directly, ominously, over their handiwork.  All it would take is quick snap of a stem, a wayward fruit dropping and all that these two industrious creatures had worked so hard to create would be destroyed.   Yet, the doves seemed completely unphased by the lemons and just diligently went about the work they had set out to do.

Maybe the birds weren’t too smart after all.  I mean I wouldn’t build my house with a potential disaster looming overhead like that.

A thought crossed my mind:

“Not all lemons make lemonade.”

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photo:  Lemon Reflections by PositivelyAnne

Practicing positivity requires a certain level of “intentional awareness” of life’s lemons: the people, the places and the things, that bring one down and impact a person in a negative way.   A few years back, I made a list of the lemons in my life and it was a bit humbling to discover that even positive folks like me can get caught up in some pretty sour situations, with some pretty sour people.   

But being “aware” of life’s lemons is a totally different proposition then feeling compelled to try and make lemonade out of ALL OF THEM!

Is that even possible to do?  To make lemonade out of all of the people, places and things that bring us down.  Or were the doves onto something?  Is it possible to be your positive self, do your thing, surrounded, just as these doves are, by life’s lemons?

When I was a little girl, I remember being very sensitive to anyone in my life, be it family, friend or stranger, who had a sour disposition or approached life in a negative way.  Although I didn’t have much life experience, I had a keen awareness that there were some people in the world, who preferred to stay sour lemons.  The folks who had no interest in making lemonade and made it their mission to make life difficult for others.  I didn’t understand that.  I wasn’t wired that way.

Now this did not include the folks I knew with horrible childhoods or who were poor, suffering from depression, mental illness or addiction issues.  As complex as those issues were for a little girl to process, I somehow understood that there was a difference between being a victim of your circumstances and “consciously choosing” to be a lemon in life by permanently wallowing in anger, nastiness and hate.

As I got older, my concern for doing something about these individuals who checked off “lemon” as a lifestyle turned into a compulsion to where I felt I had to turn these lemons into lemonade any time I encountered one!  

And that meant lots of sleep lost and lots of disappointment for me. 

Life, in case you aren’t as attune to it as me, is sure full of a lot of lemons! 

Families! Friends! Communities! Workplaces! Schools! Churches! Grocery Stores! Banks! Airplanes! The list is endless…

LEMONS! LEMONS! LEMONS!

Literally, I’m drowning in lemons…a heavy, depressive pile of lemons!   What happened to positivity in this world?  What happened to light and hope and peace?  

Social Media is the worst of it.  The divide and conquer mentality, the focus on all things that tear us apart, all the things that don’t matter in the end.  I’m a cancer survivor so I know how futile it is to spend one precious moment of life focused on negativity.  It’s a big reason I started a positivity blog.  A happy place in cyber-space. 

“Why does the world have to be so focused on the lemons, when it could be focused on making the lemonade?”  

I remember one night recently, I unloaded on my husband (I owe him one!) my concern that the world was being taken over by negativity, a bunch of lemons with no interest in making lemonade.   He said something along the lines of “Maybe, but they are not stopping you from doing what you do best. Be your positive self, which everyone appreciates and it’s natural for you.  No matter what you do, there will always be some negative folks,” aka, some LEMONS!

I won’t tell you how I reacted.  It wasn’t pretty. My poor hubby. Gosh I do love him so for putting up with me.  I think I argued something to the effect that it was a cop out for me to just give those negative folks a pass without even trying to make lemonade.

But in the end, not looking forward to another sleepless night, I had to agree my hubby was right.   My way wasn’t working.  I was worn to a nub worrying about all of the lemons I couldn’t fix, when I was doing so much good with those who were open to positivity.   

And truth be told, not a one of the stubborn lemons I had come across, either in my past nor in my present, was permanently stopping me from doing anything I wanted to do, least of all creating a successful positivity blog, talking about positivity, BEING POSITIVE! 

It was me that was stopping me!  Me that was so focused on bringing all of the lemons over to my side that I lost sight of the fact that I didn’t have to do that.

“Not all lemons make lemonade.”

I finished my morning coffee and looked out at the lone dove, work complete, sitting quietly on her nest, trusting life in the face of all of those lemons above and below and all around it.   In fact, the more I looked at the bird nest, I began to notice the beauty in the lemons surrounding it.  Their brightness of color, their different shapes and weights.  Their importance in providing a cover and safety for the doves and at the same time a reminder of their vulnerability.

Maybe the doves are a little smarter than me after all.  We all encounter lemons in life.  Some will make lemonade sweeter than we’ve ever known, but many, and in some cases most, will only serve to remind us that we need to stay focused on our goals, on what makes us happy and positive.

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photo:  Lemon After Storm by PositivelyAnne

Sometimes, we just have to let the lemons be and build our nest the best way we know how.  One positive step at a time.

You, Me, Us. Together.

PositivelyAnne

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Keep Dancing!

I wanted to be that joy, that hope, that moment in time when there was nothing I could not do…

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Photo: “Moe and Joe #5” by PositivelyAnne

A person who says it cannot be done, 
should not interrupt the one doing it.
-My Money. My Time

I was about five years old the first time I saw Ginger Rogers glide across the television screen into the arms of Fred Astaire (they are considered the most successful on-screen dance duo of all time and well worth checking out if you have never heard of them). The memory, some fifty years old, is still so vivid.  Me, lying prostrate on the living room floor wrapped in my trusty blanket; the grainy black and white images of a beautiful woman, in a feather dress, twirling and swirling and leaping across the television screen (as if she floated on air) as a man softly sings, “Heaven, I’m in Heaven…”.   I don’t remember anything else about it, except that my still forming brain knew I was witnessing something magical…something personal…something life changing.

I just want to dance!

I uttered those words to my mother not long after.  My mom found a beginning ballet class at our local park, so off I went: pink leotard, white tights and black ballet slippers and a zillion dreams of floating on air just like that beautiful lady on the television. The class was held in the gym and it must have looked ridiculous, to any adult in the room, to see this group of gangly little girls gathered around a waif on toe shoes under the canopy of a basketball hoop.  But I didn’t care.

I just wanted to dance!

My mom, always a stalwart supporter of my dreams, soon found a dance studio in our area and I dived in, not only ballet classes, but I took tap dance and later jazz and Hawaiian (hula).   I can only imagine the sacrifices my parents must have made in order to afford all of those lessons.

But I loved it.  I loved tap dance; the energy of it, and with my tap shoes (named “Moe” and “Joe”), I would practice for hours in our garage with the goal of beating Ann Millers’ tap record (again for you younger readers, she was a 1940’s actress and dancer famous for being able to exceed 500 taps per minute-also worth checking out if you want to see tap perfection).   I loved jazz dance and the challenge of mastering the unspoken rhythms between the notes.    I loved Hawaiian dance, hula.  The idea of telling a story with my body either in flowing, almost dream-like movements, or with just the simple volcanic explosion of my hips.

It made me feel beautiful, powerful, magical!  I just want to dance!

Now ballet was another story and I soon discovered what it means to love something when it doesn’t love you back.

In my cherub years, public park ballet classes were fun, joyful and basically all that was required of me was to try and make it from our house to the park gym without shredding my tights!  I was taller than most of the girls and already had some athletic ability so I caught on easy to the steps.   I also adored my instructor, a waif like, still teenager, who seemed to float on air, just like the lady I had seen on the television screen at home.

But once I got into a dance studio environment, ballet became a whole different beast.  While tap, jazz and hula dance were pretty much open to anyone willing to give it a go and learn the steps, ballet belonged to an elite group of girls: the pencil thin waifs and gossamer fairies with swan like necks, whose pristine footwork on spindly legs made one think of elfin creatures in magical forests and all things fragile.

I was anything but waif like, elfin, or fragile.

The good Lord gifted me with thighs that rival those meaty turkey legs you get at the summer fair. Powerful thighs that enabled me to leap with athletic prowess, but shook the floor when I landed.   And my neck…well, I guess the best adjectives to describe it are “squat, stubby, short.”  Not a hint of fragility or waif likeness there.

I was pretty much a gladiator in a tutu. Still am!  My ballet instructor let me know it:

“Your legs are so…so…well, top heavy dear!”  “You have turkey thighs!” “That neck, stocky like a pig!” “Be a swan, dammit…elongate, elongate, ELONGATE!”

I won’t lie to you, it was discouraging.  Even ten-year old girls are savvy enough to know what adults mean when they whisper and point and outright tell you to your face you aren’t worthy.  And my mom, well my mom, bless her heart, knew that, and I can remember a time or two when her vocal talons let my ballet teacher know just how she felt about her criticisms of her daughter’s chances at ballet greatness.

But the thing is, I didn’t want to be great at ballet…or tap…or jazz, even hula.

I just wanted to dance!

I wanted to be that long ago grainy black and white image of a lady, a beautiful lady, feathers wafting as her dance partner carried her across the dance floor effortlessly.  I wanted to be that joy, that hope, that moment in time when there was nothing I could not do.  I was floating.  Lighter then air.  “Heaven…I’m in Heaven…”.

So, I kept at it.  I danced for years until time passed and “Moe and Joe” (incarnation number 5), lay forgotten in my closet, replaced by high school shenanigans, chasing boys and new dreams of learning to fly and to sail and to write.

Along the way,  I have had more than my share of naysayers.  Kids, teens, grown men and women, just like my ballet instructor,  intent on making sure I understand I don’t fit the profile.  I don’t have what it takes. Sometimes they have been right.

But more often than not, I’m grateful for that little girl who believed in the magic of the dance. In that grainy black and white image on a screen of all that is possible, of all that could be and will be in my life.  Of all the joy, hope and beauty in the living, in the trying. 

The wonderful swirls and twirls of life that weave us in and out of our dreams.

I’m grateful that I didn’t give up on her. She knows

I just wanted to dance!

And dance I am.   I hope you are too!

In this positivity journey together, one positive (and negative) step at a time,

PositivelyAnne

Practicing Intentional Kindness

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No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.  -Aesop

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, like so many of you ( or those you love), cancer figures prominently in my life story.  Specifically breast cancer,  but there were also a host of other medical issues that came about as a direct result of my cancer treatment (I will share some of that in later posts).  To sum it up, I became intimately acquainted with hospitals and medical professionals pretty quickly after finding that first lump and the next fifteen-month journey literally flipped my world on its head.  Now heading into my 2nd year post drama, looking back on that time, I consider it a gift.  For it was during those long months of struggle that I came to understand how important it is to live my life as positively as I can and to do that, I had to not only follow my doctors’ instructions for self-care, but I had to equip myself with a “Positivity Toolkit” to help me navigate my new world post cancer.  

One of the first tools I added to my “Positivity Toolkit” was to practice intentional kindness.

Prior to cancer, I would say it’s a pretty fair assessment that I felt pretty adept at being kind.  Kind with my family, kind with my friends, kind at work, kind at church, kind, kind, kind!  Yep, kindness was a natural part of my personality and I just never questioned it as being anything I needed to work on; let alone understand that the brand of kindness I was practicing wasn’t always leaving me feeling warm and fuzzy. 

In fact, looking back on my life pre-cancer, my brand of kindness actually caused me a whole lot of personal daily stress…maybe even downright misery. 

Didn’t my husband know I was just being “kind” when I said that?

My employee didn’t appreciate the raise I gave them…why do I bother being kind?

I do laundry all day and all I get for my kindness is more clothes on the floor?

 Yep, I was kind alright.   But the kind of “kind” I was practicing had a price to pay. 

I was fully expecting others to be kind back.

Well, isn’t that the way life is supposed to go?  I’m kind to you, you’re kind to me?  Seems logical right? And for over fifty years I lived my life with those expectations. Then during one of my hospital stays, I saw kindness modeled in an entirely different way (intentional kindness)by a graveyard shift nurse, and I began to understand the importance of making a change in my practiced brand of kindness.    Let me explain.

Hospitals are scary places, period!  I spent enough time in them over the past couple of years to feel pretty comfortable saying that no one goes to the hospital (except for hospital employees and volunteers) with the intent of doing anything other than getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible!  My observation is that in our vulnerability, as patients who have no choice but to lie prostrate, in a hospital bed, beholden to the wims of our disease and our bodies response to the remedy, many patients feel it’s also their inalienable right to morph into Satan and unleash every obnoxious, miserable and all around crabby thing that could ever be said to anybody on the nursing staff. 

Well nurses are trained caregivers, right?    It’s their job to take care of us in all of our crab- fueled glory.  It’s what they are paid to do!!!  That being said, it was shocking to me how many people in the waiting areas, in the ER, in the bed next to mine, in the hospital rooms lining floor after floor after floor, would treat the nurses as if they were the person responsible for them being in the hospital in the first place. 

  “Get me my water!”  “I don’t want to do what you are telling me!”  “You fix me right now or I’ll do something to you!” “Who made this pudding sh**, you?”  “Our family hates you!!!” 

I heard all of these things and much more coming from my fellow patients and even some of their family members.  Now you might be thinking , well people are hurting, a bit of nastiness is to be expected.   Maybe.  But what I saw and heard was this systemic spewing of “negativity”  that knew no bounds.  Nothing was off limits for people to say to their fellow human being, let alone their caregiver.   It made me feel sad and ashamed.

 “Had I ever said anything that nasty to someone trying to be kind to me?”

One particularly late night, I was attempting to sleep after back to back emergency surgeries and I could hear this man verbally tearing into a nurse down the hall.  

“You get your damn behind out of my room, you witch.”  “I do not want you near me!” In response I heard a very calm voice say, “Oh I’m so sorry you are hurting there sweetie..I know it’s hard.  Get some rest and I’ll check on you in a bit.”   Then I heard something crash…maybe a chair…I don’t know.  But it was scary.   I hunkered down in my bed and pulling the covers over my head a million things ran through my mind, but the biggest was: Why would anyone in their right mind become a nurse?  She was just trying to be kind.  She was just doing her freakin job! 

Just then the door to my hospital room opened and this nurse walked in, her face lined with the years and I had no doubt it was the same nurse who the man was yelling at.  I peered skeptically out at her from the safety of the covers over my head.

“Hey there sweetie”, she said very softly. ” I’m sorry.  I’m sorry he’s so loud.  He’s upset and hurting and well, I’m sorry.  How are you doing my dear?”

 “Huh, sorry?”  “YOU ARE SORRY, WHY? (I think I was actually yelling at her)  That guy treated you so poorly, you were just being kind to him and he treated you like crap…you deserve better!” 

Taking my hand, in her careworn one, the nurse sat on the edge of my bed and said something that would change my life.  She said, “Yes, I do deserve better.  But I learned a long time ago that kindness is not what you get, it’s what you give.” 

And there, there in that hospital room, with a crazy guy screaming down the hall, was my introduction to practicing intentional kindness.   Plop…right there in my lap! 

To practice intentional kindness is to give kindness freely and openly, without attaching conditions or expectations that it will be returned.    Powerful stuff!!!

Wow, it’s hard to do.  It really is.  I stumble often.  But the more I practice intentional kindness, I find that kindness is not something I need others to see in me, but something that is living and breathing in my own mirror.  I no longer wear a “kindness” façade with expectations and objectives that no one can live up to.   I am kind because it pleases me! 

So this week, I encourage you to take a look at your own kindness meter and practice intentional kindness with me. 

Together we can do this, one positive step at a time!  PositivelyAnne

If you like my site, please click like so that it moves up the blog foodchain and others can find me.  I figure the more positive souls out there the better, right?!!!  Also, feel free to share briefly your thoughts on kindness and how it’s impacted your life.

All photos and images are my own, except where noted.

With what lens do you view life?

Positivity not Negativity equals a blessed life!

Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

Dennis P. Kimbro

I have always been about “a good story”, having had a passion for the written word, in all its forms, since the 2nd grade when my teacher handed me an empty book cover and told me to fill it with words.   But despite my desk bulging with folders brimming with tales of adventure and passion, my own personal writing has mostly been a private journey until now.

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the treatment left me temporarily unable to sit at a computer for any length of time, I grabbed my camera (nothing fancy, just my iPhone) and started taking pictures.  Through the lens, I could see so many things that literally made me smile.   The inner sanctum of a flower, a tree branch reaching towards the heavens, a solitary cloud wafting across an azure blue sky.   I felt happy, free, filled with positivity looking at these images.   Suddenly words and images merged together in my mind and I began to think:

“What if, the lens by which I choose to view my life and the way I choose to approach each and every day could have a positive impact not only on my own health and well-being, but potentially on the happiness of everyone I come in contact with.”

That’s where the idea of sharing my writing and photography to inspire others to choose to live life positively comes into play and what my blog, PositivelyAnne, is all about.  Each week, I plan to share with my readers a photo I have taken, captioned with my own message of positivity, along with one of my favorite positivity quotes and my reflections on life.

Trust me, the journey to viewing life more positively won’t be an easy one  Like myself, so many struggle with depression, health issues, personal life challenges and at times, it’s almost impossible to see through the filter of negativity these struggles bring to our daily lives.   But I want you to try with me.   Start small…one positive thing in your day.  Maybe it will be my blog page!  But do not stop searching for it.  

Together we can do this, one positive step at a time! PositivelyAnne

If you like my site, please click like so that it moves up the blog foodchain and others can find me.  I figure the more positive souls out there the better, right?!!!  Also, feel free to share briefly your thoughts on positivity and how it’s impacted your life.  

All photos and images are my own, except where noted.