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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Partnering with Negativity to Power Your Positivity!

Has it crossed your mind lately that no matter what you do to be positive about life, it seems the soldiers of negativity stand ready for battle, day and night?

Here is a universal law: that when it comes to negative and positive, you will always thrive more powerfully in the positive if you have first been immersed in, and have heroically overcome, the polar opposite negative of that thing. 
-C. Joybell C.

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photo: Carlsbad Twilight by PositivelyAnne

Has it crossed your mind lately that no matter what you do to be positive about life, it seems the soldiers of negativity stand ready for battle, day and night?

I used to feel that way.  Night after night tumbling into bed, my positive- self weary from the constant battle with the “negativity” demons that seemed to lurk in every crevice of my life.  I lost count of how many sleepless nights I spent tossing and turning as the plotting and planning in my brain took on a life of its own trying to find the perfect strategy for defeating my enemy, “negativity!”

Then one day, while I was performing the very mundane task of changing the batteries in a flashlight, I discovered that instead of going to war with negativity day and night, I had to do something a little different.  My positive self-had to develop

A PARTNERSHIP WITH NEGATIVITY!

It all started with a flashlight.   In my house flashlights are everywhere.  My husband is a flashlight aficionado and we have flashlights in every room in the house.  (Yes, all three of our kids got flashlights for Christmas last year, thank you very much!).

Of course, living in sunny Southern California there is not much use for flashlights except for finding the bathroom in the dark when camping, or the occasional item that rolls under the stove.  I went to grab a flashlight for the latter and of course, because we don’t use flashlights very often, the batteries were dead.  I found some new batteries and went about the process of changing them. Now I knew which way to do it by matching the plus and minus markings on the batteries to the plus and minus markings on the flashlight.  Of course, as life goes, the markings were barely visible on this particular flashlight and because I didn’t have my glasses on, it took me a couple tries and a few choice curse words to get them in the right way so that the flashlight worked.

I found myself more than a little irritated.  “Why in the 21st century am I doing battle with the batteries in my dumb flashlight?”  Of course, deep down I knew why.  That positive and negative had to go to together in just the right way to make it work.

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photo: Winter Hope by PositivelyAnne

But that didn’t matter.  My irritation was clouding my brain and as trivial as this sounds, I put down the flashlight, picked up my phone and took my irritation out on a search engine:

Am I the only one in the world who thinks it’s dumb that I can’t just shove the batteries in my flashlight any which way and get it to work?

Now I figured when I pushed the send button I would be taken to the blog-o-sphere and rejoice in a myriad of snarky bloggers intent on fueling my negative thoughts about batteries.  Instead, much to my surprise, what popped up first on my phone screen was from a site called quickstudylabs.com:

Electrons have a negative charge and are repelled by the negative terminal.

(“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…so what?”, I thought.)

Electrons are attracted towards the positive terminal because negative electrons are…

(drumroll please…)

ATTRACTED BY THE POSITIVE! 

What?!!!!   I re-read the words, once, twice, three times. Surely this was a joke.  I ran to get my glasses to make sure I was reading it correctly.

Electrons are negative and repelled by negativity. Electrons are attracted towards the positive terminal because negative electrons are attracted to the positive!

Holy Moly!!!!   Suddenly I understood the reason why my positivity journey was being derailed over and over again.

I was going about this whole positivity thing the wrong way.  I was spending way too much time fighting negativity with anger, frustration, and irritation when I should have been using the power of my own positivity to acknowledge negativity exists, to embrace it, connect with it and let it absorb all of my positive energy.  Just like a flashlight battery.

Negativity is attracted to Positivity! Positivity embraces it, absorbs it and uses it to affect change. In you, in me, in the world!

That’s what negativity wants…to embrace the positive…and when we let it do that, our positivity takes over and suddenly our flashlight works.

So how is it going in my life since the great flashlight revelation?   Well, I am human, and imperfect, and there are still plenty of times I just want to just stuff the damn batteries into my life’s flashlight and be done with it.

But I am learning that when I stop doing battle with the negative aspects in my life and instead pause, take notes and learn from what they are trying to tell me, my positivity just takes over.  The flashlight of my life is revealing blessing after blessing.   It’s those things I’m focused on now.   I’m learning to “partner with negativity” and keep it in my “positivity toolkit” as a reminder of all positivity wants me to be, can be and who I am! 

Maybe it will work for you to.  Oh, in case you are wondering, flashlights reveal a whole other world under our stoves- HA HA!!!…but alas, that’s a story I will leave to tell another day.

On this journey together, one positive (and negative) step at a time!

PositivelyAnne (positivelyanne.com and instagram #positivelyanne)

Thank you for reading and I hope you will not only Like, but Follow my blog.  I look forward to our positive journey together!

Time to put “The Fixer” on ice

I take great pride in being a problem solver. A helper.

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

-Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being
Waiting for “The Fixer”
photo by PositivelyAnne

I take great pride in being a problem solver.  A helper.

I enjoy the puzzle like quality of problem solving and the sort of “high” that comes from seeing a problem resolved and the happiness it brings not only to myself, but to others.   Over the years, besides working through my own personal problem arsenal, I have solved literally hundreds of problems for individuals, groups, companies and organizations I have been associated with.   My track record of success is pretty darn good and so it’s not a stretch to say that I am one of those “go to” people when the junk hits the fan. 

But as I entered my 50’s, I noticed that some of the shine was starting to wear off the challenge of tackling problems day in and day out. At first, it was nothing more than a little irritation or a few bouts of indigestion.

Take a few Tums and move on.

But after my cancer diagnosis and especially during my treatment, I found that tackling any problems, outside my own set of health issues, set off a vicious cycle of anxiousness in me that left me feeling so tired I could barely function some days.  The joy of problem solving was gone!

I talked to my physician.  “Fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatment and that can lead to a level of depression that can compound that fatigue.”   In other words what I was feeling was totally normal and expected.

But I wasn’t buying that explanation.  Something else was going on with me.  Yes, I did understand that cancer fatigue was real and I was experiencing it, but I was also feeling more blessed and positive about a lot of things in life since my diagnosis.  The little things.  In fact, I was feeling so blessed that the idea for starting this positivity blog bloomed and I began to take pictures and write, engaging my inner muse in a way I had only dreamed about pre-cancer. The only thing that seemed to rob me of energy was solving problems…something I used to love.

So, what the heck was happening to me?

Recently a friend, (who is also a terrific problem solver) and I were discussing the fact that a program at our church was not going to happen this year because a critical volunteer had dropped out and a replacement wasn’t readily available on the horizon.   

 “You and me, we are “The Fixers”, she said, “And, I guess we can’t always “fix things”, can we? “

I remember I stood there rather stunned that she had recognized this “Super Hero” label in herself and more importantly, in me.  

You see the dictionary definition of Problem Solving says this: 

A thinker who focuses on the problem as stated and tries to find a solution.

Merriam-Websters Dictionary

Notice it says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING…NADA…ZIP…ZERO about implementing the solution to the problem.      

That’s where I got off track.  Somehow, I moved from being a joyous problem solver to embracing being “The Fixer”, the implementer, if you will, of the solution, all day, all the time.

And there-in lies the reason WHY I WAS SO TIRED!!!

Why had I let my life as a successful “problem solver” morph into that of a tired, overworked, “problem fixer?”

A negative in my “positivity tool kit”.

Upon reflection, I think it was a combination of a lot of things:  I’m good at team building to solve problems and people know it, so I get asked all the time to help in some pretty dire situations; I’m willing to take on tough problems and stick with it until a solution can be found; and I’m not afraid to do battle with people (who are unreasonable, egotistical, lacking empathy and tact) to achieve a solution.  

All of this can be quite stressful, especially if it’s a daily thing.

But I think the biggest reason problem solving has become such a tiresome chore for me, is that I lost sight of the fact that just because I can provide a reasonable solution to a problem, doesn’t mean that I AM the right person to implement it.  

I do not have to be “The Fixer!”

You might be thinking, why not just say “no?” 

That’s a valid point! I agree, many times I should have said no.  But it’s also true that we live in a culture today that values one stop shopping, in business and in pleasure. How quickly we can get from point A to point Z has morphed problem solving and problem resolution into a single mouse click.

Maybe I got caught up in that mindset.

But let’s face it, sometimes a single click isn’t that satisfying. Sometimes our skill set is better suited to only certain aspects of problem resolution.

In layman terms that translates to:

Not every problem solver is meant to be the implementer of the fix!

I know I am not.  When I think about problem solving, what excites me about it is that I love being the catalog; the wealth of ideas and possibilities that others can peruse, take bits and pieces from and make it their own.

That brings me happiness. It brings others happiness too and that’s important for me not to forget, but to make clear to those I agree to help.

Sure, I can implement solutions, but I’m happiest when I’m number two or even in the shadows.  When I’m the person behind the scenes engaging others to take a solution and implement it into action.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t step up in life. Stepping up is as much a part of me, as problem solving, especially with something I’m passionate about.

But I know I need to be more comfortable putting out the “stop sign” without fear and taking back control of my own narrative when my plate is full. Fighting cancer seems just as good a time as any. But really it doesn’t have to be that dramatic. When it stops being fun, it’s time to stop!

Just as not every problem is mine to solve;

Every solution is not mine to implement!

Sometimes we all need to put “The Fixer” on ice for a while, including me!

Maybe you are feeling the same way?  I encourage you to take the time to think about whether your current approach to “problem solving” has evolved into something that is leading you down a road to negativity and unhappiness.   And I can assure you, that if you choose to put “The Fixer” on ice for a while, you can trust that it’s going to be o.k.

The wonderful thing about ice is that it melts; so, when it’s time to jump back in and become “The Fixer” again, opportunities will be there.

They always are for talented people like you and me.

Positively Anne 

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

Stop collecting wisdom…Cultivate it!

A man does not know what he knows
until he knows what he doesn’t know.
-Laurence J. Peter

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Prior to what I now call my own “Period of Enlightenment”, I’m ashamed to say that once I hit my twenties, my approach to cultivating wisdom, involved nothing more than the curation of “wise” people and “wise” experiences with a sort of impersonal detachment one might feel when walking through a museum filled with marble statues.   I was a “master collector” of all things wise and yet, I felt nothing more than fleeting emotions to what I was collecting.   My passion was sincere in the moment, but I lacked the commitment to truly understand what I was doing.

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Simply put, it didn’t register with me that for wisdom to become an effective tool in my “positivity tool kit” I had to stop seeing it as an inanimate object placed atop a pedestal, where my only interaction would be to periodically admire and pet it. Instead I needed to “cultivate wisdom” as a living, breathing garden.  One that would need my constant attention, daily tending, and yes, weeding!

I am not sure why I chose in my adulthood to become a “collector” vs. “cultivator” of wisdom.  Maybe it was laziness, maybe it was wanting to prove myself to my family, friends, work colleagues, strangers.  Maybe it was fear of what I would discover about myself.  All, l I know is I have been collecting an ark full of wisdom with absolutely no clue what to do with it!

As a young child I think I was much better knowing what to do with the wisdom that was before me.

One example worth sharing is I had a best friend who lived next door to me and she had an older brother.  Her older brother was very creative and artistic and he would constantly change the décor in his bedroom. I am not talking new sheets or a paint color, but a complete transformation something akin to what you would find on a movie set.  There was man’s first walk on the moon, Pink Floyd’s infamous Off the Wall album cover, the undersea world of Jacque Cousteau.  All of it crafted and created by my friends’ brother.  It was incredible, magical and this boy, a kid really, was creating all of this before he passed algebra.   I asked him once why he was always redecorating his room and he said, “It makes me happy!”

It made me happy too!  His creativity was free, joyful, knowing no bounds.  

More on that in a minute…

As I said, somewhere in my adult years, I tossed aside this idea of nurturing and tending and weeding my wisdom garden and I began “collecting” wisdom, in all its’ forms, for the sake of collecting.

And at first, it was fun and exciting this business of “collecting” wisdom.  I was very successful at surrounding myself with some pretty great people and partaking in some amazing activities and adventures. But after a while, the sheer volume of “wise” people and “wise” activities in my life became overwhelming, claustrophobic and scripted.  I didn’t know what to do with all of the wisdom in my collection.   Most of it, I would place on a pedestal, an object left forgotten to gather dust.

And after a while, I wanted to forget all of it because it was just too stressful. 

I felt the imagined eyes of all of my “wise” friends on me day and night and the pressure building inside me that I had to do something really great with all of this wisdom I had been collecting over the years or somehow, I would be viewed as a failure.

It made me literally sick, joyless, depressed. 

When someone would express they thought I was wise, I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone in my wisdom collection was laughing.  I’m serious!

I imagined a great museum hall, with thousands upon thousands of marble sculptures all staring down at me from great pedestals.  Their faces devoid of emotion.

“She has no clue what she’s supposed to do with us, so she just keeps collecting more and more of us!”

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How could it be that I had reached my fifties and so carefully made sure my world was top heavy with experienced, knowledgeable folks of good character and judgement and yet, be so clueless about what to do with it all?

The answer came to me last year when I was perusing Facebook.  I was thinking of launching a decorating site and it crossed my mind to look up my old friend and her very creative brother.  We had moved away in the early 1970’s and although we’d pledged, we’d always stay in touch, we didn’t, and well, I had no idea what paths their lives had taken.

It took me some time and I finally found both of them.  Their faces smiling out from the pages of Facebook, both older.  My friends’ brothers face lined with age and experience and holding what might have been a grandchild.  Both of their profiles required that I send them a “friend request” in order to see more.

My fingers hovered over the keyboard, ready to press the request key.  I remember thinking about my friends’ brother, “I wonder if he went on to do something with all of that creativity?”

And then it hit me.  He had.   He had changed me!

I had cultivated the wisdom I had garnered from him as a child and put it to daily use in my life.

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Without even trying, this creative boy next door, had become my lifetime guide, mentor and window into true creativity.

He is primarily the reason why I have been so comfortable redecorating first, the bedrooms of my youth, then apartments and houses I have lived in and taken on the responsibilities of designing dormitory living and eating environments at a major university, reimagining the youth rooms and preschool indoor and outdoor spaces at my church.

No, I am not a designer, architect, artist or any of those things.  I create simply because it makes me happy and I have the wisdom of a neighborhood boy to thank for that.

So now my challenge is to dismantle the remainder of my “collection” of wisdom and begin the process of “cultivating” it purposefully in my own garden.

Maybe I will discover many more positive stories of wisdom seed planting in my life than I realize.

Maybe the pedestals I imagine are not as plentiful in my life and my wisdom garden is full of beautiful blooming flowers, breathtaking buildings and simple, joyous people.  I’d like to think that’s the case, but I’m imagining, much like cleaning out my closets, I won’t remember why I collected a lot of the wisdom that is there.

I guess that’s the way life and wisdom intertwine.   Maybe it just takes some years to figure it out. To wipe away the film that keeps us from remembering the innocence of childhood, when it was as simple as a boys bedroom and before it became so very complicated.

But it is my hope that as I move from a “collector” to a “cultivator of wisdom” that I am more mindful to plant it, tend it and weed it, so that it grows into something that I use, day in and day out,  until there is nothing left.

May you find much success in the journey to “cultivate wisdom” in your own lives and know I will be here, garden tools at the ready, to support you.

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 wisdom and how it’s impacted your life.  

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