October 14th, 2009

cocked and loaded


Mia gave me a good dose of motivation the other day. She is trying to list three delights every day. This reminds me of the reason why the blog One Good Thing was baptized thusly. Even in the worst day, there is always at least one good thing. Most days, there are many. And too many days, we ignore them. Maybe we notice them, but we let the bad things take precedence. We push aside the things that matter for the things that also matter, and that often take priority. No matter what there will alway be both, so maybe it's worth the effort to try, as often as possible, to focus on the delightful and the sunny and the cheery and the good. Or?

I ran across an interesting-sounding book the other day, and am curious to read it. It's by an author whose book, Nickel and Dimed, I read many years ago, which also gave me, and many others, much food for thought. Her newest book is titled Bright-sided, but it's the sub-title that makes you pause and go back: How the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America.


As a proponent myself of positive thinking or, at least, as-positive-as-possible thinking, and being a confirmed skeptic, I find this both highly amusing and timely. I know what you're thinking: how can I purport to be both a positive thinker AND a skeptic at the same time? I don't think one precludes the other. I think both of them can be applied, if not always at the same time. You knew I was good at multi-tasking but you had NO IDEA!

Positive thinking is used in all kinds of ways. And you hear it as an admonishment, more and more. It's no longer a gentle reminder, but too often a duty, an obligation, and a subtle guilt trip warning. Sometimes, maybe, positive thinking is a kind of sheep's clothing that some sneaky wolf has donned.

I'm not saying that positive thinking doesn't or can't work. But I think it must be used with a good dose of common sense and a constant reality check. It's not the answer or the secret or 42. It's just an outlook that can make you feel better, that can motivate you, and that can give you and others around you hope in times of great need. Yes, of course, it can change behavior, but it isn't a cure-all.

Personally, I find it much healthier than focusing on the negative. I believe that if you behave as if things were a certain way, as long as you temper it with reality, then things will BE that way. If I smile at you, for instance, you will probably smile back and chances are pretty good that you will smile at the next person you see. If I growl and snap at you, you will be startled and hurt and later will be much more likely to growl and snap at someone else. Snowball, meet effect.

For the most part, I try to stay focused on the positive here in this journal. I try to stay focused on the positive in my life, too, though I often have to forcibly drag my mind out of a slowly descending spiral, pick it up by the scruff of its neck as it were, and gently turn it around so that it is facing in, if not the right, at least a BETTER direction.

My life is not perfect, though it's certainly full of blessings. I am reminded daily that things can, and do, change in the blink of an eye. A friend whose husband can't kick a draggy cold which turns out to be aggressive leukemia. Another friend whose cancer treatment turns out to have come too late to save her. Yet another friend whose complication-free pregnancy doesn't reveal the brain damage her child is born with. The news, oh man, the news: every damn day, all over the world.

If I were you, holding the world right in my hands, the first thing I'd do, is thank the stars above, tell the ones I love that I do...**

There is a difference between positive thinking and Positive Thinking, the kind with capitals and a marketing plan and an agenda. All we can do is try to focus on the good things, while acknowledging and fighting the bad to the best of our abilities. All we can do is share the joy we find in our lives with each other, and share the sorrows, too, for only then will the balance of our souls be complete.

Three delights from today:
  • Dragonbreath on a cold and sunny late afternoon walk with the kids during which we talked about the books they are reading (dragons & Napoleon! Vampires & pirates!), kicked fallen pears along the allé, and admired the fall foliage
  • Yummy yummy buried treasure lunch salad with the freshest ingredients, including little yellow tomatoes, baby kohlrabi, sugar snap peas, romaine & ruccola, hearts of palm, a sprinkle of feta cheese and a dash of Green Goddess
  • Fixing something complicated quickly and easily for a colleague who stood there in awe and then declared, "That would have taken me all day and you did it in 2 minutes!" (my reply: "That's why they pay me the big bucks" and then a howl of ironic laughter)
*Title from a quote by Albert Camus
**from If I Were You by Hoobastank