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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Finding “Me” in a Photo

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I have always been fascinated with photography. 

Oh, not in a way that I ever wanted to pursue any sort of career with it.  No, I’ll gladly leave that pursuit to my very talented brother and sister-in-law who have spent decades mastering not only a variety of camera lens and filters to achieve a perfect shot, but also possess a level of chill and patience in waiting for that perfect image, that frankly God didn’t gift to me.

But thanks to some creative folks at Apple, photography novices, like me, can be pretty successful with an I-Phone.  Point, click, edit a bit and post.  Yep, that suits my purposes just fine.   Because photography for me is strictly about appreciating photographic images for their ability to capture a moment that at once appears stagnant, but who’s meaning is a free-flowing, ever-changing story.  A story that can evoke all sorts of emotions in humanity, and can sometimes be powerful enough to change the course of minds, even history.   Including my own.

I’m going to tell you a story of one such photographic image.  It’s an image I took in 2017 on a lonely stretch of beach in Santa Cruz, California called, “Natural Bridges.”     

It was February and my husband and I had taken a drive up to Santa Cruz to spend the week-end with our oldest son. It had been nine months since my bi-lateral mastectomy for breast cancer, two months since I had completed radiation, ten days since I had surgery to control uterine bleeding and one month before my world would once again be turned on its’ end with five consecutive major surgeries having everything to do with my survival,  yet little or nothing to do with breast cancer.     It was a pretty scary time. 

But on this day, I was feeling happy.  The rain had been pretty fierce the day before, but today the sun peaked through the clouds in fits and starts.  Drizzling one moment and then seeming to lift so that the gulls and other sea birds could forage in the surf crashing on the rocks of the beach below.  My son thought it would be fun to show us his favorite spots around Santa Cruz and it was pretty spectacular, despite the drizzle.  Everywhere I looked, the light seemed to change from greys to reds to pink to yellows and back to grey.  Through my phone camera I just couldn’t get enough of the scenery.  It was as if every shot spoke to me somehow.

Our son told us about this special place where the water had worn a hole through a rock outcropping called “Natural Bridges.”  

“Mom, it’s pretty darn cool, a natural bridge, you just have to see this!”, he said.  

To view the bridge, we had a short drive, and then were going to have to walk a little bit through some brush and pretty deep sand and make our way to the floor of the beach below.  It was low tide, so access wasn’t an issue, but my husband and son were  worried the trek down to the shore might be a little much for me, given I was still recovering from surgery.   Maybe so, but I knew my boy and if he said something was special, it was special, and not to be missed.  So without another thought I said I’d be fine and off we went.

And I was fine.  I was totally fine…physically.  But emotionally was something else.

As I picked my way through the brush and sand, I could see this amazing rock outcropping in the distance about 300 yards off shore.    It was about the size of a football field and rose several hundred feet into the air.  Birds of all sorts were perched atop its’ smooth surface, almost like a football team lining up for the kick off.   The ocean was lapping against it’s surface, swirling and whirling, forming foamy bubbles that took on the hues of the changing sky. 

About three-quarters of the way through the outcropping an arched shaped hole had been worn through the rock by the water and the ocean was flowing in and out of it.   It reminded me of the natural bridges I had seen in Lake Powell, Arizona or a kind of imperfect Arc de Triomphe, that is,  if water were to flow through it.   

It was like someone just plopped a bridge in the middle of the sea with this really cool water feature.    

Excited, I picked up the pace and forgetting my recent surgery, I ran down a steep incline of sand so that I could take pictures.   Reaching into my pocket for my phone camera, I looked up and then I froze.

The rock was huge this close up.  Huge.  But all I could see was the hole in its’ center. 

A giant gaping hole! 

The hole, that reminded me of my mastectomy!   The hole, that reminded me of the pain of finding out I had breast cancer!  The hole, that reminded me of the pain of telling my family and friends I had cancer!  The hole, that reminded me of the pain of having to leave a job I loved because of cancer! The hole, that reminded me of the pain, both physical and emotional, that I tried so very hard to hide from everyone before, during and after my cancer surgeries and treatment.  

The hole, that reminded me that cancer took a piece of me.  Left a hole, where now I had some silicone, some fake body parts that for all outward appearances made me look normal, but would never be the real me. 

My new normal was a hole.  Just like the one I was staring at in that rock outcropping and it frightened me. 

Here I was this sturdy rock of positivity for my family and everyone around me and I had a hole in me…a big, ugly, negative hole that no amount of plastic surgery, no amount of anything could fill up.     

I felt empty.  I grieved. 

“Mom, come look at the driftwood over here,” my son said.  

“Just a second,” I replied, and raised my phone.  I pushed the button for the camera and aimed the lens at the rock outcropping. 

Once…Click.  Twice…Click! Three times…Click!

Click, Click, Click, Click, Click…

With each click, I could feel the grief rolling through me. 

In and Out!

In and Out!

In and Out!

Just like the ocean rushing in and out through the hole in that rock.

I’m not sure how many pictures I would have taken of the “Natural Bridge” if my phone battery hadn’t chosen that moment to die. I’d like to think it was God’s divine intervention, but whomever or whatever forces were at work in that moment, a dead battery was enough to snap me out of my grief and go in search of my son and the drift wood.

And except for that one, brief, moment in time at the “Natural Bridge”, everything else about that week-end was amazing and upon returning home, I was anxious to make a photo collage so that I could post to my personal Facebook page a memory of our trip for my husband and for our family and friends to see.   

The shot of the rock outcropping, (there were over 40 photos on my phone of that hole in the rock to choose from), was hard to include.  To look at it made me sad, uncomfortable, and lonely for the me that used to be.  But I put those feelings away and mindlessly popped the photo into an insignificant square of the photo collage, no more powerful or important than any other memory of that trip.

And there that photo stayed until a few weeks ago.

I was looking through my on-line photo albums in search of photos of the ocean I could use for my daily Instagram and there it was, sitting there in cyber space, waiting for me, in all of its “holy” glory.  That “Natural Bridge” in Santa Cruz where I came face to face with all that I had lost, with the hole in my person. 

I expected to feel a rush of negative emotions looking at that photo.  But they didn’t come.   In fact, when I looked at that rock, at the hole in it, at the ocean rushing in and out of it, I felt…well, I guess you could say, I felt happy.   It reminded me of a fun day with my son, but it also reminded me of how far I have come in the past couple of years.

The photos story had changed, because I had changed. 

I mentioned before that soon after our visit to Santa Cruz, I had several unplanned health setbacks.   Five major ones to be exact, with a myriad of other health issues as a result of those five surgeries.   While these setbacks were not pleasant, with each one I made it a point to be more open to the positive, to remember to focus on not what set me back, but what propelled me forward.  The more I did that, I seemed to grow stronger emotionally and fear less all that lay ahead of me.   

It was true that my body was broken, bruised, battered, my energy depleted.  But somehow, someway, no matter how many holes in my person, deep down I felt a burning light, a strength that I didn’t know was possible because time and again the blessings flowed to me, through me, no matter how large the hole in my body. 

In and Out.

In and Out.

In and Out.  

And the more I opened myself up to the possibilities of the “new me”, to the fact that I was always going to have some “holes” in my life,  the more positivity flowed into my darkest recesses, planting seeds of faith and hope and blessing.  

The most amazing thing is that many of these blessings have come from strangers. People I would never have met or opened up to, if not for the fact that I had cancer or any of the other health issues. My life is so much richer for each conversation and there is a gratitude in my heart that kindness is alive and well and abundant in the world.   Do not let anyone tell you different! 

It’s as if this hole in me has become a welcoming portal to all that is possible for my life and I want to shout from the roof tops, “I AM BLESSED!”  

The photo I took of the “Natural Bridge” in 2017 told a story of a woman who was uncertain of her future, feared her destiny and felt she had to battle her demons alone. 

This same photo, viewed in 2019, reveals the story of a woman who has accepted her vulnerability, embraced her imperfectness and is working to conquer her fears one day at a time with a whole lotta help from the world. 

It is now a photo that tells a story of me. 

PositivelyAnne 

I hope you like and follow me here and on Facebook.   I also have an Instagram where I post daily positivity boosts.  Together we can change the world, one positive step at a time!  God bless you all!

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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What’s Your Mission?

Have you ever thought about what your “mission” in life is?

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Have you ever thought about what your “mission” in life is?  

I’m not talking about the lists of errands and forgotten “To Do’s”.   I’m talking about if you could focus on something that would bring you happiness, joy, purpose, and encompass all that “You” represent to yourself and the world, what would your “mission” be?

My journey to uncover my own “mission” has by no means been an easy one.   In fact, it’s actually pretty fluid and right now, I guess you could say that in this particular moment my “mission” is to spread “POSITIVITY”  through my blog on PositivelyAnne.  

As my life ebbs and flows though, so does my “mission”, but it might help you to understand how to define your own “mission”, if I share with you a little back story on how I have been able to find and define mine.

My journey to find my “mission” began when one afternoon, at the age of eight, I happened to hear these powerful words spoken by Captain James T. Kirk (actor: William Shatner)of the starship Enterprise in the opening credits of Star Trek: The Original Series:  

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year “mission”: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

I imagine you are laughing now, but I am totally serious.  Totally!

You see I grew up at a time when space was on the minds of all of Americans.  Once Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag on the moon in 1969, those grainy images on our television set of subsequent Apollo missions and the nightly commentary from broadcaster, Walter Cronkite, sent my imagination soaring.  The nursery rhyme of my childhood that talked of a cow jumping over the moon, was now replaced by real people traversing the “cheese” planet with lunar landers.   It all seemed so big and grand, a “mission” of the utmost importance.

In addition, my father was an aerospace executive and one of my earliest memories is standing with him and my brother in front of a rocket as it was intentionally blown apart on a launch pad as part of its’ “mission” testing.    I have never heard a bang as loud as that since then.   It was truly awesome to witness, but more importantly it etched the word “mission” into my subconscious.  The idea of something powerful, something important, something BIG, really, really BIG!

I was too little to watch the original Star Trek series when it premiered on NBC in 1966, and if not for the growing interest in space after the moon landings, the show probably would have faded into obscurity, written off as a novelty, as were most of the shows in the early days of television.  But the moon landings happened and after it’s 3 -year run, Star Trek was blasted into syndication riding high on the possibility that the secrets of space were now within our reach.  I watched it as often as I could.

Now being so young, I had no real concept of the deeper meaning of Star Trek.   I didn’t understand the lasting implications of the diversity of its’ cast.  I didn’t understand its’ ground breaking storylines addressing differences, and inclusion and compromise    I guess you could say I didn’t understand much, if anything, of the historic context of the television I was watching.   

But, to be perfectly honest,  I didn’t really care about any of that.  I didn’t watch the show for its’ story lines, my little girls heart was captivated by the opening credits and Captain James T. Kirk’s hypnotic voice inviting us to be a part of his “mission.”

 “Space, the final frontier…”   

I was rapt with curiosity. I wanted to be a part of the “mission” of this crew.  To explore, to seek, to go where I had never gone before. 

It sounded so important.  I wanted to be important.  To do important work like the men on the moon and my father.  I wasn’t sure that my calling would be space flight…math was not my favorite subject, but I knew that whatever I did, I wanted my “mission” to matter, to my family, to strangers, to the world.

As I entered high school, America had long ago stopped going to the moon, both in real life and on television.  We discovered the moon was not everything the Gumby cartoons had portrayed it to be, let alone Star Trek.   My father now worked on a new space program, a space shuttle that would be able to return to earth…a sort of “space truck”, if you will.   While its’ initial missions seemed endlessly exciting to me and my heart soared along with my fathers at each successful flight, I was watching television both times the shuttle exploded.  First the Challenger, then several years later, the Columbia.

I felt the horror, along with thousands of other students across America, as our disbelieving eyes tracked the sky for the glittering remains of lives lost and dreams shattered.  Something in me decided that day that it was no longer practical to reach for the stars and the moon.  Keeping my feet grounded here at home, where I knew it was safe, seemed the best course of action.  At this point in my life, my “mission” was to get my head out of the clouds and remain rooted in practical tasks and goals here on earth, at least for the next several years.  Sometimes my “mission” seemed very trivial. 

I’m on a “mission” to finish my homework so that I can go out with my boyfriend.

I’m on a “mission” to pass my geometry class.

I’m on a “mission” to get my college applications completed before the deadline.

Then…

I’m on a “mission” to get my laundry done.

I’m on a “mission” to go to the grocery store.

I’m on a “mission” to finish this book I’ve been wanting to finish.

Lastly…

I ‘m on a “mission” to lose 5 pounds.

I’m on a “mission” to not have tan lines.

I really like those Mission Tortilla Chips!!!

Yes, the grandeur of Captain Kirk’s “mission”, the same “mission” that made landing on the moon possible and sent the shuttle into outer space, was now reduced to nothing more than making sure I had a decent tortilla chip to dip into my salsa. 

So much for the final frontier!  

But trivialities aside,  I did accomplish quite a bit after high school.  I graduated with degrees in Liberal Studies-Journalism and Business and launched a successful career, first in hotel management and then in higher education.  I met the love of my life in the dorms and got married and within a few years we were expecting our first child.

One day, in the first trimester of pregnancy, I found myself on the floor of the bathroom wrapped around the toilet battling a terrible case of morning sickness.   I had pretty much memorized “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” and realized I needed to do something to take my mind off of the nausea.  Laying down seemed to make it worse, so bed was out, but I decided I could probably prop myself up on the couch and watch a television program as a distraction.  

I crawled out of the bathroom and over to the couch and turned on the television.  I had no idea what was on.  I heard the opening notes of Star Trek and Captain Kirk’s comforting voice:

“Space, the final frontier…”   I relaxed.  The nausea left me. I closed my eyes and I began to dream about all the “missions” that had come before me and were to follow.  

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I dreamed about those men who braved the odds to fly millions of miles above our earth to place their footprints and our flag in the dust, only to travel home to crickets chirping once we knew that aliens were not a part of the equation. They never gave up on their “mission”, even as America lost interest in them.

I dreamed of my dad and how tirelessly he and his team worked to make space flight look as easy as driving a truck and the sadness he must have carried inside him when all that was possible for space exploration, suddenly seemed impossible.  He never gave up on his “mission” of searching and seeking answers to mans quest to explore space.  

I dreamed of my unborn child, the bean inside me that soon would become our son or daughter and how much I wanted them to know that whatever their “mission” in life, their father and I would never give up on them, ever!

Lastly, but most important, I dreamed of my own “mission” and how I didn’t need to let life’s twists and turns stop me from progressing.  At times, I move forward at warp speed.  Other times, I sit quietly in the shadows taking it all in.   Sometimes, I am a great success.  Other times a great failure.  But, I am always, always compelled to keep trying, not only for myself, but to honor all of those who have come before me and risk it all.

I have a “mission” and it’s ever changing, like me.    But I’m all in.  I’m ready for the challenge and in doing so, I truly think I have a damn good shot at this whole live long and prosper thing.  

Thirty years of marriage, three kids, and four careers later, I’m still trying, one positive step forward at a time.   Won’t you join me?   PositivelyAnne

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Are you “The Forgiver?”

I remember the minute the words were out of my mouth, I wanted to crawl in a hole. I could literally see the light go out of my husbands eyes…

++ymw84WTu2ZBahTZCI_thumb_5afcTo forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you

-Lewis B. Smedes (Ethicist and Theologian)

The Forgiver

It seems I’m always asking for forgiveness

again, and again and again!

My request is almost always met with confusion.

And yet, I keep asking,

“Do you forgive me?”

Pleading…

“Do you forgive me?”

Begging…

“FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME!!!”

Then one day I hear you say

“Do you forgive me?”

and clarity blooms.

For forgiveness is not about the

question, nor the answer, but about trusting the action.

Copyright 2019 PositivelyAnne.com

I remember the minute the words were out of my mouth, I wanted to crawl in a hole.  I could literally see the light go out of my husband’s eyes; those two brilliant green orbs that had welcomed me to the breakfast table just a few moments before, now blinked at me dull and hooded.   As we ate breakfast, my husband had made some forgettable joke about some HGTV show we always watched together.   I was nursing a cold and had awoke with a terrible headache and my initial reaction to his joke was not to go along with the fun or respond in kind as I usually would, but to bite his head off.  And when I say bite, I mean “CHOMP!” To be honest, my reaction caught me off guard as much as it did him. Damn that Nyquil is some scary stuff! When the heck did I turn into Godzilla? But my own disbelief aside, I knew what I had said.  I owned it. I was an adult.  I had to fix things, make it right. 

“I’m sorry honey, that was pretty crazy.”  I mumbled something about not feeling well and then with a question in my voice I said those four timeless words: 

“Do You Forgive Me?” 

At first he said jokingly, “No”…then seeing my crestfallen face, he broke out into a big smile, those green eyes twinkling and said, “What do you think?”

I said I honestly didn’t know.  I mean I thought I did, but I needed to hear the word. 

“Yes” he said and went back to his eggs and casual conversation.  All be it, any and all discussion of HGTV was unspokenly off the table lest Godzilla rear her ugly head again.  

Now after over thirty years of marriage I can attest to the fact that my husband and I pretty much read each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences.   It is quite funny sometimes and actually catches us off guard at other times. 

“Oh my gosh, I was just going to tell you about that…you must have been reading my mind.”   “I can’t believe we both were thinking the same thing about that person!” “I just read that article and was sending it to you!”  Happens all the time with us.  We are simpatico.  Soul mates and instant best friends since our first date in 1984. 

So, it might surprise you to know that despite our deep connection and my sorrow at spoiling our beautiful morning with my Godzilla impression, I didn’t put a lot of stock in his simple one-word response of “Yes!”  I guess you could say I didn’t trust it. 

Which is odd because my husband is truly one of the good guys.  The most genuinely honest and decent person I have ever met.   So there is absolutely no excuse for questioning his forgiveness.  I mean this is a guy who makes his living working fourteen hour days as a contractor and yet at the end of the day, he still finds the energy to cook a wonderful gourmet meal for us and give a damn about my day.  This is the guy that got up early on his day off to make me fluffy eggs and oranges with sugared rims and I just bit his freakin head off.  I’m blessed, more than blessed. 

But something in me just wasn’t buying that I had done enough to earn his forgiveness. So again I told him I was sorry for my words.  His response was to say that it was o.k. and that he was going to clean up the breakfast dishes and go outside to do a little gardening. He truly seemed unaffected.   But not me.  No inside me, I was a bubbling caldron of guilt.   OMG, he’s washing the dishes after what I said to him! Why aren’t we rehashing all I said so I can really apologize?  Really earn his forgiveness.  

My head was throbbing now.  My tummy gurgling despite just having had breakfast.  I felt like I was going to throw up.    How the heck can he garden after what I said to him? Maybe he’s still mad at me and just needs to clear his head?  Yeah, that must be it.

I told him to go on outside to the garden while I finished up the dishes and I would join him when I was done. 

Working in our yard has always been one of those things my husband and I  enjoy doing together. Immersing our hands in the soil, pruning and sculpting our trees and bushes, coaxing fruit and veggies from seeds,  fussing and putzing till whatever troubles we have on our minds are long forgotten.   

Did he have me on his mind?  Was he angry at me?  Did he really forgive me? 

I found him in the garden shed getting his tools. 

Me: “Um, did you mean it when you said you forgive me?”

My Husband: “Yes!”  It was a casual, almost flippant response.

Me: “Well what kind of a “Yes” is that?”

My husband: “It’s a Yes kind of Yes!” A slightly irritated, but still pretty casual response.

Me: “Well are you sure?”

My Husband: “Yes!” His tone was definitely a little annoyed now.

Me: “Well, I think we should talk about it, because you still seem upset!”  I don’t remember if he walked past me or ran past me, but he definitely walked away.  He looked completely perplexed. 

But that did matter, I wanted to talk about it and talk about it I did … ALL AFTERNOON!  

I couldn’t seem to stop myself.  

While I babbled on about how I didn’t mean this when I said that or how I was cranky because I wasn’t feeling well, my husband stood in our yard carefully and methodically pruning our lemon tree.  

I didn’t catch a clue that he was over it.  Moved on.  That he knew I wasn’t feeling well and had given me a huge pass on my behavior the moment the words were out of my mouth that morning.  That he couldn’t even remember what he had said about the goofs on HGTV, let alone anything I had said.  

I wasn’t ready to accept the trust implicit in the words “I forgive” that he had given to me.  I was too consumed with blaming myself, with not forgiving myself. 

It was all so silly given the triviality of how the whole thing started.  But I was determined to get to the bottom of this whole forgiveness deal.  So I dug in and morphed into a self-appointed private investigator, invisible note pad at the ready, British accent, pipe in mouth, on a quest to dig and analyze and probe the sincerity of my husband’s forgiveness of my words. 

In my head I heard a little voice that sounded an awful lot like Benedict Cumberbatch. 

“Now sir, when you told your wife this morning that you forgave her, what was the context of that conversation?  Did you say “I forgive you” with clarity of thought, no malace or conjecture, or did you say it with just a hint of snark?”  

Huh? What the heck am I doing?  Why is Benedict Cumberbatch vocalizing in my head? 

I came back to reality long enough to look at my husband, still pruning the lemon tree, a look of peace and contentment on his face despite my Sherlockian attempts at interrogation.  Ah gardening….

Suddenly another voice popped into my head…but it was my own.  “Are you so caught up in the idea of forgiveness that you have forgotten what it actually means to forgive and the joy that comes from accepting the simplicity of the gift that it is? 

I had a feeling I knew what the answer would be. 

The word “forgiveness” is a noun, a label that categorizes all the steps, processes, things we do to rectify an offense.  It’s a label in which we strategize, question, ponder, mull, what it’s going to take to fix our misdeeds.  Sometimes when I talk about forgiveness, I convolute it’s meaning with all of the other things I want out of those two simple words, “I forgive.”  Yes, it’s admirable I want people not to hurt anymore.   But I tend to take it a step further and I want people to forget what I did, to immediately let go their anger, frustration at my actions and I want them to like me.   I become “The Forgiver!” and boy am I  demanding as hell of the humans I hurt.   I need proof I’m forgiven.  And I can’t provide that for my own misdeeds, so I go round and round in a circle complicating all that it means to forgive. 

Because the word “forgive” is an action, a verb.   It’s simple, uncomplicated, a little gem of a word, without caveat.   It is to be taken at face value as simply, “I stop”.  Now you can fill in the blank after I stop to anything you want.  “I stop feeling resentful or angry or frustrated or sad or hurt!”   It is one of those words where it means what it means and that is all there is to it.  And I might add that what it means is up to the individual and their timetable, but it has a heck of a lot to do with trust. 

Ah there’s the rub.  My husbands ability to forgive and the parameters he places on it are his and not mine to control or manipulate or worry about. His simple response of “Yes” when I asked if he forgave me, was absolutely the best and most appropriate response for him.

His “Yes” meant “Yes” and it was my job to trust in it, not to question it’s sincerity.  

To forgive is simply to stop and trust.   Trust in love, trust in kindness, trust in faith and hope and all of the things that help us to heal when we wake up cranky and spout nonsense. To trust in the goodness in each other.  To trust in the goodness in ourselves. 

Life can really can be that simple sometimes, if we humans stop complicating it.  

On a journey to live life more positively…come join me! 

PositivelyAnne

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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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“Turn off the Stove!

…and everytime before the surgical anesthetic took me under, a fleeting thought crossed my mind: “Turn off the Stove!”

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photo: “Goodnight Flame” by PositivelyAnne

At some point you grow out of being attracted to that flame 

that burns you over and over and over again.

-Taylor Swift

In 2016, my remarkably stellar health decided to make up for 52 years of an otherwise perfect track record.  I spent fifteen consecutive months floating in and out of stark operating rooms; their interiors filled with all sorts of monitors and robotic machinery sporting lobster like claws and dozens of masked strangers, whose eyes reflected the seriousness of my condition and yet, were somehow comforting.

After so many consecutive surgeries, it often times felt like I was dropped into the middle of an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”.  But unlike the television drama, my encounters with Mr. McDreamy and company were a little strange to say the least, as each and every time before the surgical anesthetic took me under, a fleeting thought crossed my mind:

“Turn off the Stove!” 

Given everything I could possibly consider as my last conscious thought: gratitude for my life, love for my family, thankfulness that the doctor hovering over me with that long needle was pretty good looking…concern for turning off the stove” didn’t even register. 

Definitely not an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy!”    

“Maybe it’s just some crazy side effect of the anesthetic!” My family and close friends knew how often I fell into the “only one percent of the population gets this side effect” column, so the possibility that this was just some sort of reoccurring hallucination (brought on by some very powerful drugs) wasn’t unreasonable. 

“Maybe it’s just one of those random things we humans worry about, like turning off the lights or locking the front door, when we are going somewhere for an extended period of time.”  Possible, but…the fact that this idea of “turning off the stove” kept happening, surgery, after surgery, I had to think there was something more to it.

“Turn off the Stove!” 

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my family was already dealing with my father-in-law’s declining health due to dementia and so I was determined not to let a little thing like “cancer” rock my world any more than it had to.   My prognosis was better than good and I had no concerns that life wouldn’t soon return to normal once I took care of this little blip on my radar.

But as time passed, and complications arose for me and other surgeries were required to treat those complications, it became a daily chore for me to keep up the positive veneer.  

On the inside, I was angry.  A seething, burning flame!  A stove perpetually lit! 

Seething with anger that I didn’t have any control over getting cancer or the other issues that ravaged my body.  Seething that my perfect life plan was no longer perfect.  Seething, just to seethe because, well, just because!!!

One could argue that it’s perfectly normal to be angry at the cancer demon. I mean we are trained from the cradle to light a fire in our bellies to beat life’s demons, right?

But what if that that fire is always on,  not only to produce the energy and passion needed to conquer life’s demons, but to fuel perpetual anger and negativity?

“Turn off the Stove!” 

A stove doesn’t turn on unless you light it, and when you light it, it breathes flames.  Flames that can only be controlled by a knob.  Turn the knob to high and the flames rise like a beacon in the night.  Turn the knob down low and the flames simmer, barely visible, but always there, just under the surface. 

Now, it matters not if the stove is turned up high or turned down low… as long as a stoves flames are left on, they can burn, scorch and destroy everything they touch UNTIL THE STOVE IS TURNED OFF! 

My personal stove had been lit for fifteen months straight!

On the morning of my 15th surgery, I was handed a clipboard by a nurse with the usual paperwork attached and I began to fill it out with my usual nonchalance until I got to the line, “I understand that complications may arise that result in permanent injury, disfigurement, even death.”  I had signed my name to that line fourteen times before without giving it second thought, but today I paused, and the magnitude of those words hit me.  I felt the flames of my stove rise, higher and higher.  I COULD DIE! 

And if those words came true, then would my husband, my kids, my friends remember a woman who had given life the best she had to offer or, would they, instead, remember a woman drowning in the flames and ash of her own imperfections? 

No, NO, NOOOO! I couldn’t let the latter be my epitaph. 

So, I turned down the flames of my stove to simmering and I signed my name on the line, put the clipboard aside and cheerfully asked my husband to pass me my purse.  In my purse, I found my makeup bag and I pulled out my trusty tube of cherry lipstick. My “happy” color always made me smile.   I painted my lips (without a mirror) and put the tube back in my bag.  I asked my husband if I looked o.k. and he said, “Great.” 

But as I said, I had left the flames of doubt on my stove still simmering, just there under the surface.  So I pulled out my compact and took a look at myself in the mirror:

WHO ARE YOU KIDDING GIRL?  A little cherry lipstick can’t hide the fact that YOU ARE TERRIFIED!  Yes, you’ve beaten the odds time and again…but, c’mon, it’s only a matter of time!

My stoves flames licked higher and higher beckoning me towards negativity.   

My anesthesiologist walked into the room at that moment, and I looked up from my compact, cherry lipstick smile quivering, our eyes met, 

“Look at you,” he said cheerfully.  “Wow, I needed to see a bright face this morning.”

“Bright face…me?”, I thought.  I’m dying inside.  Burning up.  Searing. Tears came to my eyes and I just stared up at him.  Everything in my heart, my soul, my entire being was in my eyes at that moment.  I could feel the flames of anger and sorrow that I had been carrying around with me for the past fifteen months rise up to the surface of my body.  My skin, like the flames within me,  felt so very hot.  Could he feel it too? Could he see the flames? Something in my eyes must have registered with him because at that moment he came closer, pulled up a chair and grabbed my hand.

“I will tell you a secret”, he said.  “It’s fine for you to be scared, I get scared too…I do, but keeping you alive is also what I do and I’m good at it.  I need you to trust me, but more importantly, I need you to trust in yourself. No doubts!   You’ve made it through fourteen other surgeries just fine and this is just another one. We’ve got this!”

I’d like to tell you that I had some profound words in response and we hugged and it was a true “Grey’s Anatomy” moment, but all I did was lightly squeeze his hand.  Two quick pulses of my fingertips against his palm.  A fleeting gesture of confidence in his words that I have no idea if he even felt.  But I’d like to think he did.

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photo: “Joy” Carlsbad Flower Fields by PositivelyAnne

But it doesn’t matter.  I felt it. I felt the sincerity in his words.  His willingness, like so many others before him,  to take on my lifes complications and face the fires of hell for me.  I closed my eyes and imagined my hand reaching,  slowly, slowly for my stoves knob.  I quickly turned it all the way off.  The flames winked out and unbelieving of what I had done, I reached out and touched the grate…it was cool to the touch.

Soothing.  Calm. Comforting.  A balm to my weary soul. 

It was then that I came to understand the immense value of what the words, “Turn off the Stove” meant the past fifteen months and for my life going forward. 

In times of stress, I had to let go of my ego, my pride, my fear that I, and I alone, could handle all of drama life was handing me.  God and a whole host of family and friends and medical professionals had been whispering in my ear each and every time I went into surgery and all along the road of my life, that I did not have to go it alone.  I didn’t have to fear things.  I had help…help to stay positive.  

I had to “Turn off the Stove” and trust others to light my way. 

As you sort through your own laundry list of challenges: health problems, difficult family dynamics, financial worries and all sorts of unresolved situations that raise your flame quotient higher and higher, just remember to keep your eyes, ears and heart open to those helpers, both familiar and stranger, who are there to whisper a reminder:

“Turn off the Stove!”

And then turn it off and go live your best life.  I can tell you it works!

PositivelyAnne