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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
mood: thoughtful
music: Hoobastank—So Close So Far

From Megsie

I heard an interview with the author of Bright Sided yesterday on National Public Radio. Her context (from what I heard in my limited car ride) was with cancer patients feeling that they MUST always be positive. Many felt as though they didn't have the freedom to feel sadness or anger at their diagnosis, or how rotten they felt during treatment. Most of the callers that called in thanked her for permission to feel bad about a bad situation. I think it is a very interesting concept as well. I remember not grieving my miscarriage because I felt like it was my job to put everyone else at ease. I think it prolonged my grieving. Love your delightful are right it is much easier to focus on the negative. I have been trying to have gratitude even in the face of a bad situation. So when I am feeling overwhelmed I begin, "Thank you for..." and it is amazing how something always comes to mind.

Re: From Megsie

I heard this same interview, and I was so glad to hear from her. In nursing school we're taught to honor a patient's feelings, no matter what they are in a given situation, but on the floor we see seasoned staff nurses telling people getting an IV, "it's not so bad!" or telling someone with an painful surgical wound, "oh, I've seen much worse." I've even heard them say, "You're not in that much pain." By trying to encourage the patient or trying to get them to "put it in perspective" (who's perspective? Not the patient's!) they make their job easier and they don't have to deal with that particular patient's specific problems. And it negates what the patient is feeling or experiencing.

I've seen it a lot in the infertility world, too--people getting encouraged to focus on the positive or to just change their expectations. It is a frustrating thing.

Anyway, like you, I find that it's way too easy to focus on the negative in one's own life, to get sucked into a defensive self-pity in which I reason that there's nothing I can do. But in the end, trying to laugh it off often helps ME get it off my back and move on. I'm glad you wrote this, and I hope you like the book. (Btw, off topic, but I think you'd like Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson.)

Re: From Megsie

I can't even imagine what nurses and doctors must go through, but it certainly seems patronizing to come out with those kinds of remarks. You're right about perspective, it's all relative.

I'll check out the book, thanks for the rec. :)

Re: From Megsie

I think the book will be a fascinating read, whether or not it turns out that I agree with her. I know that cancer is one of the subjects, though not, by any means, the sole focus of the book.

It's terrible that you didn't feel you had the "permission" or whatever to grieve over your miscarriage, and terrible that people suffering from illness or whatever are constantly being told to keep their spirits up and put on a happy face.

I suspect nurses must have to build some kind of defense mechanism in order to be able to handle their jobs, but it does seem a shame that it backfires so easily. :(

I'm not so much for gratitude, but I DO try to find something to pull my pessimism around when it starts to overwhelm.

I know what you're thinking: how can I purport to be both a positive thinker AND a skeptic at the same time?

Skeptic = critical thinker.

:) Precisely! *nods*

I get the positive-thinking-skeptic explanation completely. It sounds like you may be like I am -- a natural pessimist who realizes the value of optimism and makes an effort to work on it. Seeing the bad in a situation first, but then working to see the good. I agree that positive thinking shouldn't be forced; there's a place for all perspectives and certainly all emotions. All the same, I'm going to try to remember to smile unprovoked at someone today.

I don't know that I am a NATURAL pessimist, but I surely have tendencies that way. :) I don't know if I've always tried to consciously focus on the positive sides of things but certainly as an adult, it has become habit.

It drives me crazy when I can't live up to my own expectations, though.



You're welcome.


I'm holding this post close and squeezing it with huggy gratitude!

~ sherry

Hugs are a good thing! :)

Thanks for reminding us that 3 delights is enough. I have been such a lurker this last couple of weeks! (and kinda down)
I like your philosophizing. Very much! Keep it up Liz! (Well, the sharing of ideas. I wasn't suggesting up attitude in face of "bad things" *heehee* Balance to you in all...)

Even one delight is enough! And there's always one, isn't there? I find most of the time, after I've thought of three, I can think of one more. And one more after that. Etc.

Wish you were upper. HUG!

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lizardek's obiter photos
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Feeling generous? Be my guest!

I can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.

Abraham Lincoln

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