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

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

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.