Steps to avoiding the rabbit hole of negativity

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I am convinced that quickest way to slide down the rabbit hole of negativity is to allow yourself to become a complacent participant in life by cutting off your connectivity with others.

Look, I get it, maybe you are going through cancer treatment or other health issues, or you are dealing with an unexpected financial burden, or maybe a break-up, death of a loved one, loss of a job.  All of that sucks!  It does.  It’s not fun, it’s not happy, it’s not joyful, so it’s understandable if you have some days where getting out of bed and facing the world isn’t exactly something you want to do.

So, give yourself permission to take a day or two to pay homage to the stress of your situation.   

The reality of negative situations is that they rarely resolve in a half hour like a television sitcom.    Anyone ever waited weeks for their cancer test results to come back?  I know I have.  What about watching your bank account dwindle and the bills pile up, or sitting in your staff meeting at work and being told that the company is being sold and your job is well, hmmm, sort of secure for now.  I can imagine a sea of hands are being raised right now.

Stress from negative situations is real, you feel it, so it’s important that you acknowledge it. 

Wallow in bed all day, watch some rom coms, eat that pint of Ben and Jerry’s and let yourself cry.   Whatever stress reliever works for you, as long as it’s safe and not causing you or anyone else harm, you are doing yourself a big positivity favor.

You are giving your mind and body the gift of time by acknowledging the truth that your situation is real, painful, uncomfortable and not at all what you had planned for your life. You are acknowledging that the road ahead may be challenging and uncertain and that you are scared.        

You are giving yourself a few valuable days to come to terms with the fact that you are human and the way forward out of the negative abyss is to make peace with your vulnerability, by acknowledging it and then allowing positivity to propel you forward.

But don’t let yourself wallow too long.  Say to yourself,

“ENOUGH! IT’S NOW TIME TO GET MYSELF UP,

PUT MYSELF BACK OUT THERE

AND LIVE MY LIFE!”

And my friends, that is a hard, hard thing.   Why?  Because we humans seem to be hardwired to handle stressful situations not by walking head first into the storm, but by sitting around and analyzing the “what if’s” and the “why me” until the negative of our situation becomes our security blanket.

The funny thing is negativity isn’t a warm and fuzzy thing.   Negativity is sterile and cold and lonely.

Kind of like concrete.  That’s why we feel so weighted down by negative thinking. The tighter we pull the negativity blanket around ourselves, the more we find ourselves feeling isolated, angry, frozen.  Heavy!

So, what can you do to stop being complacent, to feel confident that you can drop the negativity blanket and let positivity do its thing?

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First, it’s important to find good listeners.

You’ve allowed yourself to wallow in your misery for a day or so and now it’s time to get back out there.  But you have a lot on your mind.  A lot that needs sorted out.  A lot you have to say.  A lot you need help working through.   So, it’s time to find a good listener.

That person might be your spouse or partner or another loved one, a teacher, a counselor, a Pastor, a neighbor, a work colleague.  Approach them first with the fact that you are scared and feeling stressed and just need someone to listen.   Be honest, that you aren’t looking for them to solve your situation, only that you need to connect with another human being and share your thoughts.

If your negative journey is more than a quick fix, be prepared to be spend time cultivating multiple listeners.

Look, it’s natural that you may automatically think nothing of purging your soul to your husband, roommate, best friend.   They know you the best, have been with you through thick and thin and always seem a willing ear.  But, it’s important not to let your negative situation blind you to the fact that what you are about to share with your trusted companion, may impact them in an emotionally negative way.  Compassionate people tend to blame themselves for things they can’t control.  Gee, if I had only seen the signs, maybe I could have helped prevent my child’s divorce.  Maybe if I had cooked healthier meals my spouse wouldn’t have gotten cancer.  If I hadn’t insisted on renting that beach house this summer, we would have had a little extra cash to cover my husband’s job loss.

So, as you are purging your soul to your trusted listener, look for the signs that maybe, just maybe, it’s more than they can handle.   Ask them if it’s too much and do not be offended if they tell you it is.   Just thank them for listening and work on cultivating other listeners.   

Around the time I got cancer, my husband, my “go to listener” had to deal with not only my situation, but with the rapidly declining health of his father, who lived 90 miles away.  One of the best decisions I made was to ask others: my older children, my church family and some wonderful women in my friendship circle to help me through my cancer journey so that my husband didn’t have to be the “ears” all the time.   I found these people to be gracious listeners and in fact once that door was open, it was their warmth, support and kindness that not only energized me, but seemed to bring us all closer together, empowering us to listen to each other.  The wonderful thing is the lasting impact of that experience has made me a better listener as well.

I am convinced that there is tremendous holistic healing power in being a good listener, so seek them out and make it a point to be one yourself.          

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Second, it’s important to share your vulnerability.

When negativity strikes, it is so easy to pull the blinds closed and hide.  Don’t tell me you haven’t done it, because I won’t believe you.  We all have.

No one wants to see me like this, I’m imperfect!”

But if we are honest, curling up with that negativity blanket and squirreling ourselves away from human interaction doesn’t make us feel any better.  In fact, I know when I have done this, I find myself feeling really lonely and more depressed than ever.

The truth is, that old devil negativity would like nothing more than to have us all to themselves, alone, and miserable.  To be able to toy with our vulnerable self, day in and day out so that our problems take center stage and push positivity to the back burner.  So, it’s critical that you must cast aside those tendencies and put yourselves out there in all your vulnerable glory.   

Now before you go and argue that you are an introvert and that sharing your negative side with others is impossible, let me share a secret with you. I’m an introvert too!  I am so much more at ease with the written word than the spoken one, so opening myself up to people, especially when I’m going through something negative, isn’t something that comes naturally to me.   I have to tamp down the jitters and just go for it.   But it pays off.

One day I was killing a bit of time browsing the aisles at Marshall’s before a doctor’s appointment that I was dreading.  I was standing there absently looking at a display of hand lotions and thinking,

“God, I am so tired of all of this health business.    Why does my life have to be so hard?”  

Suddenly this woman materialized by my side.  She looked wide eyed and she had two small children’s books in her hands that she held out to me.    She said in a rather frazzled voice, “I have never, ever approached a stranger like this before, but can you please help me?”

I have to admit my first thought wasn’t about helping her, but that maybe she was up to something no good.  But there was something about the anxiety in her eyes that resonated with me and I said, “I see you have two children’s books?”

The woman sighed heavily and said, “Yes, I do and I do not know what to do. We have a new grandchild, our first and I want to send her a book, but I don’t know what to send her.  I am so worried I will make a mistake and disappoint my daughter.  You looked like someone who might be able to help me, so I took a chance on asking you.”

What?  I certainly wasn’t wearing a label that identified me as a mom of three, a former preschool teacher, former preschool director, former Sunday school program coordinator, former youth director.   Although I am all of those things.

So how did she know I could help her?  Truth be told, she didn’t.

What she did do was take a chance on being vulnerable with a stranger.   And in doing so, I had my answer to my question of God.

Life is hard because it’s hard.  But when we share our vulnerability with others, our burden lightens and positivity takes hold.

In the scheme of things, the vulnerability this woman was feeling about picking out the perfect children’s book for her first grandchild, was equal to the vulnerability I was feeling about my doctor’s appointment.

I remember looking at both books and one was clearly for a child much older than a newborn.  I said, “Choose this one…it’s perfect.”  That’s literally all I said.  I didn’t tell her my back story as an educator, I didn’t share anything about me.   I said, “Your grandchild is so lucky to have you” and her face lit up and she said “Thank you, I can breathe again!” and she gave me the biggest hug.

Then without another word, she walked away.

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On the way to my doctor’s appointment, that hug kept playing over and over in my mind. I felt happy, light, joyful.  I could breathe again too.

Whatever your negative burdens right now, make sure to take a little time to acknowledge them.  Find yourself some good listeners who can provide support and comfort and open yourself up to letting others help you through your vulnerable moments.   

PositivelyAnne

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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!

Life is a Puzzle, We are the Pieces

The elderly woman with the walker said, “Yes, we know that honey, the gal opens up at 8am, come and sit with us and help us figure out this damn puzzle!”

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I entered the waiting area of the radiation oncology department a half hour early, anxiousness after all of my pre-appointments with the oncology team, and ready to get the actual radiation started.  The receptionist area was still closed, a sign taped to the wire cage that the office opened at 8am, but I was surprised to see three women already seated, their heads huddled together around what appeared to be a large puzzle.  

One woman was definitely in her eighties. She had a walker perched to one side of her, a cup of coffee in her hand and she was wearing a bulky, ill- fitting cable knit sweater that dwarfed her petite frame.  Around her neck was a patterned wool scarf that literally swallowed her chin, and on her head of silver, was a knit cap of the same pattern. Her ensemble struck me as really odd given it was mid-October in San Diego, our Indian summer, and despite the air- conditioned waiting room, once outside it was hovering in the low 90’s.   Her face was deeply lined and her skin, an ashen shade of grey.

“Wow, she must really have cancer pretty bad”, I thought.

The woman to the left of her was probably in her fifties and she was wearing a pastel pink headscarf with a beautiful jewel pin on the front.  In contrast to the woman in the bulky sweater, this woman looked very elegant in a tailored crème pantsuit with a silky blouse of jade and matching jade pumps.   She was leaning forward over the puzzle, a piece of it in her hand, and her face registered intense concentration.

Seated next to her was another woman, she was much younger, maybe mid-twenties. She had on yoga pants and an off the shoulder sweatshirt that said, “#cancersucks”, her hair was little nubs like grass seed that is just beginning to sprout.  She greeted me with a big smile and said, “Welcome to the Club” and motioned me to come sit next to her.    

I looked at her confused, what club?   “Well, um, I need to check in, I’m starting my radiation treatments today.”

The elderly woman with the walker said, “Yes, we know that honey, the gal opens up at 8am, come and sit with us and help us figure out this damn puzzle!”

I was taken aback.  I just stared at them.  Puzzle?  What in the world, are they nuts?  I’m here for radiation.  This is serious you idiots.  I HAVE CANCER!   I have no time for the trivialities of a puzzle!

I turned towards the registration counter, and read the sign again. “Open at 8am!”  I turned back towards the waiting area and the elegant woman, puzzle piece in hand, motioned towards the open seat next to her.   “C’mon over here and help me find where this sucker goes!

Again, I just stared.

This time my voice was a little firmer.

“Um, thanks, but I’m here for my first radiation treatment today, I don’t think I could work on a puzzle.”

The elderly woman said, “We’ve all been there honey, but trust us, together is how we beat this thing.  I’m back for the fourth time, not much left to radiate, but I’m going to beat it like I’ve beaten cancer all the other times.  My friend here (pointing to the elegant woman) is almost finished with her radiation treatments for breast cancer, she gets to ring the bell tomorrow.  And the youngster there (pointing at the woman in the yoga pants) is a newbie, like you, but she started a couple weeks ago.”  

I’ve blanked out what happened next because I certainly don’t remember the elderly woman getting up and coming to stand beside me. But suddenly she was just there, walker and all, right next to me gripping my hand.  I have a fuzzy memory of her saying something like, “C’mon, it’s ok, come join us!”

I remember her hand was like ice.  Cold… so very, very cold.   The bones of her fingers had a gnarled appearance, blue veins standing out like cracked porcelain against the grey of her skin.  Two of her fingernails were black.  I tried to recoil my hand, but she held on tighter.  “C’mon, we need you!

Despite her cold hand, I felt a trickle of sweat drip down my back.   Fear???

The elderly woman drew me over to the puzzle area, “Sweetie, fighting cancer is like this puzzle.  It takes us apart and we have to put ourselves back together one piece at a time.  Sometimes we need help to complete our puzzle…lots of help.  C’mon and sit a minute with us while you wait for your radiation appointment and help put “US” back together.”

Did I hear her right? Did she just say, “Help put “US” back together?” 

What is this “US” business?  Poor thing, she must be delusional.  I’ve never seen her or the other two women before in my life.  I’m here for my radiation treatment, not to work on a puzzle. Again, I tried to pull away, but the elderly woman patted my hand and softly said, “Help us.”

Something about this elderly woman fascinated me, but also scared me. It was silly.   I was towering over her and she looked as if a gust of wind could topple her without the security of her walker. Something about what she said made me want to run, to hide. The sweat was now rolling down my back.  She tugged on my hand harder. 

I took a seat next to her like she had asked me to. I was too afraid not to.

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I was 52 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mom had breast cancer in her 50’s and so the possibility that I might someday have it was always lurking in the shadows of my mind.   But my mom had beaten the disease for over twenty years and in all honesty, I really didn’t spend any measurable time worrying about cancer or any other sort of life altering disease.  If I got cancer, or any of the millions of other illnesses that were possible to ravage the human body, I’d deal with it as I’ve dealt with every other drama in my life.

On my own terms, head up, and with my usual can-do spirit.   

But here it was, this cancer demon not only on my doorstep, but taking over my entire house.  Every room.

It was overwhelming.   The neat and tidy box I imagined my cancer journey to be, was not so neat and tidy in real life.   I had complications, lots and lots of complications. I felt torn apart, like pieces of a puzzle waiting to be put back together. 

It was unsettling, disconcerting, humbling and frankly, the scariest thing I had ever dealt with in my entire life.

 I stared down at the puzzle in front of me and back up at the women.

The elegant woman said, “We were just saying to each other that figuring out the puzzle of life is hard enough, add cancer or any other major trauma and sometimes things don’t fit like they used to because cancer changes us, not only physically, but in all ways.”  She talked a bit about how she had to rethink her life priorities, particularly when her cancer returned in a new, more aggressive way.

I found myself opening up.  I told these strangers about my breast cancer, the complications, the surgery I was facing after radiation to fix my colon and after that a very probable hysterectomy.  I told them I was so scared.

The elegant woman handed me the puzzle piece that was in her hand.  “Honey, sometimes we need a little teamwork to get us through the darkness.”

I looked down at the puzzle before me.  It was one of those thousand-piece deals, of a very famous Thomas Kinkade painting.  A cobble stone street stood in the foreground of a white cottage.  Yellow lights winked happily from the cottage windows and the street lanterns along the cobble stone street showcased an abundant garden, flora of every color, wrapping itself around the sides of the cottage like a hug.    It was a happy looking picture and I smiled, until I looked down at the puzzle piece in my hand.

The piece was not pristine white, or cheery yellow, or even red or green or blue, no, it was midnight black.

The reality of the entire puzzle came into focus then.  All that was left to finish of the happy scene was one corner, one dark corner.   Every piece that was left to place was midnight black and indistinguishable from each other except for the individual intricacies of their jagged edges.

Why these women wanted me to help them because this is the hardest part of the puzzle!

A solid field of darkness that requires a keen eye, patience and sheer determination in order to solve.  I didn’t think I had any of that left in me.  

I held up the puzzle piece to the light above me.   It was unremarkable.  One of those typical puzzle pieces that look like two hands sticking out from a horseshoe.  Common, except one of the hands was a little longer than the other.   

The woman in the yoga pants said, “These two ladies come a half hour early for radiation to work on the puzzle together.”  “I thought that was ridiculous! Why would anyone come early to radiation? Then I went home that first night after treatment and the fear crept in and ever since that day,  I am here early, with these amazing ladies and one of these crazy, silly puzzles.”

“We are often surprised when we arrive each day that all that is left to finish of the puzzle is the darker, solid pieces”, said the elegant woman.

“We often need the assistance of a new person to help us solve where those darker pieces go, “said the elderly woman, that’s how we met our friend here”, she said pointing to the woman in the yoga pants. “In fact, she finished this tricky corner over here yesterday.” 

I looked back down at the puzzle. The dark space that was yet to be completed. Suddenly, the puzzle dissolved before my eyes and in its place  I imagined myself prostrate on the table with these three women hovering over me.

“I think it might go here,” the elderly woman said trying to put a piece of me back together.  “No, can’t you see that edge there is a bit jagged?”, the elegant woman said.  “Keep trying”, the younger woman said, “Together we can do this!”

“Help me”, I said.  “Help me to be whole again.”

I was suddenly back in front of the puzzle, the three women at my side, their eyes on me with a clarity and a knowing that was palpable. I took the puzzle piece in my hand and pressed it in place.

Click.

“You did it!”, the elderly woman said.  “We needed you and you did it.”

My name was called for my appointment and I got up and hugged each of them.  The radiation tech smiled and as she walked me to the back area she said, “It’s funny how a silly puzzle has a way of helping us see just what we need.”

I lay on the radiation table, bare from the waist up, hands above my head, while the radiation tech maneuvered my body into place.  I was told not to move as gears began to grind and my body slowly, very slowly was placed inside a large tube.

“Are you ready”, the radiation tech said.  For a split second I felt a pang of fear.

Then a warmth enveloped me and I was laying there, my three new friends hovering over me in my mind, reassuring me that they would pick me up and put me back together, no matter how hard the puzzle.

“Life is a Puzzle, We are the Pieces” 

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Cancer is indeed a part of my life puzzle and it has certainly changed the physical me. However, cancer also gave me the opportunity to understand that the puzzle of my life is not mine alone to solve.   When it comes to the hard parts of my puzzle, the pieces that don’t seem to fit, the dark spaces where it’s almost impossible to see the light, I can rely on the kindness of my family, my friends and yes, even strangers, to bless me, to put me back together in a way that is better and stronger than anything I could do on my own.

I hope I can be that for you too!   PositivelyAnne

Please “like” and “follow” my blog for weekly positive inspiration and for a daily positivity boost you can follow me on FB at PositivelyAnne or Instagram at #positivelyanne

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