It’s time to push the pause button on our online anger!

PositivelyAnne explores an alternative to engaging in angry online content.

A beautiful hike in nature feels so much better than posting an angry emoji!

Recently, I had a friend tell me that they were feeling like there was no place in America where people weren’t angry, outraged, ready to explode about everything, sound off on anyone, especially on social media.  Does this sound familiar to you, too?  They told me that every time they looked at their social media feed, it felt as if our nation was in the midst of one massive meltdown and it was causing them to be anxious. Sound familiar? They went on to say that because of all of the anger online, they found themselves scrolling through negative post after negative post and after a while, after literally absorbing all that anger, angry comments began to feel deeply personal, and they started commenting angrily back, posting angry emojis on all sorts of things for which they really didn’t know anything about, didn’t really care and didn’t understand why they were even commenting. It just felt to them like someone had to say something.

“But is that someone supposed to be you?”, I asked them.

My friend went on to say, “Anne, what does it mean when I now spend the majority of my online experience engaging with people who post angry emojis…that isn’t me…I’m not an angry person, what is happening to me, to all of us, to make America so angry?”

I agree that it does seem like America is in the middle of a cultural madfest at least online, but as I told my friend, we would have to agree on a few things for online anger to remain America’s reality.

IF we agree that our online experience should be determined by what Meta (Facebook) and the Twitterverse deem important for us to know and that primarily is posts rooted in anger, then yes, America will remain angry. IF we blindly accept that the computer algorithms of media giants have our best interest at heart and that media companies who continue to pushing negative posts in our feed really do care about the mental health of our citizens, then yes, America will remain angry. IF we accept that the seedier side of our American political system is more important for us to read about than the hundreds of thousands of untold positive stories found all across this nation of people who fight for our rights and freedoms without using anger and vitriol, then yes, America will remain angry. IF we rubber stamp as valid every social media post and poster in our feed, because we aren’t one of “those people!”, then yes, America will remain angry. IF we ignore the fact that tabloid journalism is a very different kind of reporting, intentionally designed to provoke and incite, whereas factual journalism is designed to inform and insight, then yes America will remain ANGRY because there is a difference, a big difference between  Incite and Insight!

Yes, I told my friend, I can see why America is angry, IF we blindly follow our social media feeds (as they are today) into the abyss and do nothing to change course.

But there is another way.  An idea that is not new to us as Americans, in fact it was still being employed all over America (as recently as twenty years ago), both in email and in person, before social media became the dominant way Americans communicate with each other. 

What was this magic anti-anger miracle?  Well, it was simply this:

Americans used to push the PAUSE button before expressing anger with each other. 

What is PAUSE you ask?

There was a time when it was the norm for Americans to take a deep breath, a PAUSE if you will, before outwardly expressing their anger when communicating in an email or in-person. 

To PAUSE, even for a few moments, meant that we had taken the time to consider the people involved and the actions necessary to resolve a situation positively before getting angry.  We were encouraged to choose the most useful communication tools/words that would result in a workable solution, and that was rarely, if ever, anger and we were all encouraged to remember to keep our egos in check to avoid unnecessary and unproductive angry confrontations.

Anger, except in the most egregious of situations, used to be seen as the communication strategy of last resort.  People who were angry all the time were not viewed as icons or people we wanted to emulate and we most certainly weren’t filming people being angry, or promoting our anger in a reel or a video or a meme and assigning labels to it (Karen and Ken) or retweeting it around the world. 

Anger was not taken lightly in America, it was something we respected, or at least we used to respect the power of it and used it sparingly in our communications.  

And back then America faced a lot of the same problems we do today, like corruption, poverty and housing insecurity, economic and social injustices, war and famine, gender and racial inequality, dogs who bark all night long, spouses who cheat, kids who died by violence, it wasn’t a happy emoji world by any means. But instead of angry responses, we were encouraged to consider the lasting impact and value of our words and when having spirited debates, anger was not considered a constructive means of communication. Also, there wasn’t an angry emoji at our fingertips or algorithms that rewarded anger by pushing angry comments and posts into our lives 24/7, enticing us to join the angry fray.   

Charles Speilberger, PHD, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger, defines anger in his article, The Nature of Anger as “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.” He goes on to say that like other emotions, anger is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. (Source: Speilberger, PHD, The Nature of Anger, apa.org)

So what happens when Americans skip past the irritation phase Dr. Speilberger defines and every situation online becomes a match point for our collective fury? It’s as if we’ve run the outrage race, without running it.

It is no wonder my friend feels like she has woken up to a country intent on being disgruntled and tuned out to compromise.   When we spend all of our online lives angry, when our online platforms encourage that behavior and reward us for it, it’s bound to spill over into other aspects of our daily lives, make us question our own sanity and leave us worn to a nub by being thrown unwittingly into this fast and most definitely furious, American dream.

But I believe each of us can change that narrative IF we adopt the PAUSE approach to anger, especially in our online interactions.   

Look, you can’t solve America’s problems by yourself and most definitely not online.   We need each other and we can’t build a coalition if we are angry with each other on social media.   So, the first thing you need to do is cull your social media feed to what is mentally healthy for you.   If websites and posts of friends and family you have in your feed make you angry, pull the plug on those sites.  Trust me, nothing will happen to you.  No one will come to your door wondering why you aren’t subscribing to those sites or posting to them. And truly, is it good for your mental health to be engaging angry family, friends and strangers, all day long?

The second thing you need to do is to let go of this idea that YOU are important online.  You aren’t very important at all online, few people are.  Check your ego and maybe pick one or two topics you are versed in, or want to learn about and that make you happy, and then remember to PAUSE before you comment on any post and try and keep your messaging positive and constructive when you must disagree. No one listens to someone who is yelling at them constantly and anger online is akin to yelling.

When you read posts that upset you, if you PAUSE and allow the anger process to do its thing, I can pretty much guarantee you that what used to make you angry will probably not even be on your radar, or might cause nothing more than a slight irritation. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s that you are training yourself to care about what is important in your life and what you can impact in a positive way. Be a light, not contribute to the darkness.

Lastly, most of us wouldn’t walk into a room demanding that everyone in it think like us and openly express anger at those who don’t.  So why do you think it will work online? I mean has anyone ever truly changed their opinion because you called them a buffoon online? Anyone? I’m waiting….

Don’t be fooled into thinking that online anger is a powerful tool of change or that likes and follows of your angry posts are actually people who care about what you are angry about.  Don’t believe me, just sit with any social media influencer and watch them scroll their online feeds, watch their thumbs clicking over and over and over again and then ask them what they are doing.  They will tell you, “Oh, I’m reading and commenting on posts!”  But it’s impossible to read hundreds of posts and truly engage with the subject matter…and they smile and say, “Yeah, but if I don’t “like” a certain number of posts, or post some sort of emoji, then my own profile falls victim to the algorithms and I find my content buried in the bowels of the internet and trust me, angry posts are the most commented on, so I’m clicking away!”

And there you have it my friends, what you are seeing in your social media feed is not this huge call to action for you to be angry, you are merely a pawn, feeding the social media algorithm beast, we all are and thus the reason we all need to push that PAUSE button on our anger online, cull our social media feeds of negative content and find sites and follow people who bring us joy.  

Anger doesn’t look good on you, my friend.  It doesn’t look good on me and it certainly doesn’t look good online. So let’s change that for America in 2022 and who knows, we might change the METAVERSE!

P.S. I am 100 percent fine if you like, follow and repost this blog, without the angry emoji, of course!

Positivelyannesworld.com

 

 

Finding your way back to your inner light

PositivelyAnne explores the value of understanding positive toxicity in trauma.

In 2020, a movement called positive toxicity paraded across my social media feed, a sort of a counter culture narrative to those of us sharing positive messaging online.   It didn’t surprise me given social media’s courting of anti-everything platforms, but what took me by surprise was that the anti-positivity movement began to resonate with me, a positivity blogger.       

If you haven’t heard of positivity toxicity and I hadn’t until last year, the good folks at Merriam-Webster.com define positive toxicity as “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation.”

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think the word positive would be equated with toxicity, let alone with death or serious debilitation, nor would I have ever imagined myself nodding my head in agreement with anyone who claimed such a thing.  But I spent most of 2021 coming to the realization that since my initial breast cancer diagnosis in 2016, I had been so focused on the positive physical aspects of my recovery and sharing those blessings, that I had not allowed myself the grace to examine my negative feelings about the entire experience.

I had forgotten an important reality that it takes both positive and negative energy to power a battery.  The human battery is no different.  One without the other leaves us feeling out of balance, adrift, disconnected and in my case, it took me to a place in my head I didn’t understand.  This place was sometimes dark, unhappy and yes, it did scare me to death.

I have a wonderful husband and three amazing adult children, extended family and friends and an incredible church family who have always been loving and incredibly supportive of me throughout my journey; and I have been blessed the past several years to have the opportunity to work from home, to write and expand my creative side, leaving me pretty much shielded from any job-related COVID pandemic concerns that might have impacted my health. 

Yet, 2021 came around and talking about positivity began to ring hollow and the more I tried to write about its benefits, the more it felt like a stranger to me.  It was a scary time and I remember thinking last February, “What in the world happened to PositivelyAnne?” when I just couldn’t bring myself to post what I had written. If I didn’t know, then how could I expect my readers to know?

I found my answer when I began to explore a bit more about positive toxicity.

Tabitha Kirkland, a psychologist and associate teaching professor at University of Washington School of Medicine says: “Toxic positivity involves dismissing negative emotions and responding to distress with false reassurances rather than empathy.”  (https://rightasrain.uwmedicineorg). 

Self-described radical psychotherapist, Whitney Goodman (@sitwithwit), whose best seller, Toxic Positivity, markets itself as a powerful guide to owning our emotions-even difficult ones-in order to show up authentically in the world, says that being bombarded by “good vibes only” and “life is good” memes is actually silencing negativity.

Now full disclosure, I am not a psychologist, a physician or a therapist and can’t evaluate any of the work of these two individuals on a scientific level, but it’s important to me to give credit where credit is due as both Dr. Kirkland and Ms. Goodman’s writings about positive toxicity really caused me to pause and examine the role of positivity in my life.

From the outset of 2021, I thought I had all the positivity tools I needed in life; family, friends, a beautiful home, a loving relationship with God and best of all, I had survived nineteen health setbacks and came out swinging every time, ready to get back in the game of life.   I was THE POSITIVITY CHAMPION! 

But I couldn’t ignore the fact that what Tabitha Kirkland and Whitney Goodman said was partially ringing true for me after almost six years of ignoring my own negative elephant in the room.  Positivity was now a vibe I was searching for, not an experience I was living. The more I dismissed my negative feelings out of some crazy notion that to acknowledge them would be akin to giving up on positivity, the more I became like a positivity meme, a feel-good reality star of my own making praying I could live up to the smiling image I had created for myself. It all felt fake and wrong on so many levels.

The interesting thing is that at the end of the day, I figured out that I was the only one stopping myself from addressing the negative things about my trauma, and that is where I disagree with Kirkland and Goodman about the root cause of positive toxicity. If you read more of their work they talk a lot about positive toxicity as something that comes at you via the actions of other people. People whose intentions, good or otherwise, seemingly discredit and devalue the negatives in one’s situation, thereby creating a positive environment that seemingly lacks empathy. That may be true on some level, but, in my experience, most people attempt to comfort others not for selfish reasons or a desire to erase/erode our traumatic experiences, but out of sense of compassion and love for us.

I just can’t critique anyone for attempting to comfort me the past six years, even if it is true that sometimes I wasn’t in the mood for it. God bless them for trying to take away my pain, more often than not they succeeded!

But maybe that’s because I see life through the lens of God’s grace which I believe should be afforded to those who “try”. I know if I had been open and honest with my own negative emotions since my ordeal first began, an innocuous comment from a dear friend like, “Anne, you look fabulous, no one would ever know all you’ve been through!” would never have felt like nails on the chalkboard of my psyche, and instead felt like the kindness of a person who only wanted the best for me. I wish I had come to this realization sooner…oh the joy I missed out on.

Empathy can’t only be an expectation of others, we must expect it of ourselves and practice self-empathy regularly by dealing with our own negative feelings with complete honesty and candor.

The honest truth is that I didn’t feel fabulous inside and it was my own fault for ignoring that part of me. It was a self-inflicted wound and I didn’t know how to tell anyone about it or how to stop it because I had let it go on for so long.   I was so grateful to God for sparing my life so many times and so ashamed that I didn’t know what to do with this new self. I was a master at bouncing back from surgery, the picture of vitality and health, but internally I was angry, so very angry, that breast cancer had robbed me of the life I was living pre-cancer and I felt so incredibly guilty for feeling angry at all.  

I didn’t understand this new me I saw in the mirror, the woman whose upper torso was disfigured, who was missing multiple internal organs, the woman who had been sliced and diced in the surgery room year after year and then suddenly it was over and I was just expected to get back to life.

With every passing day I found myself more bewildered by it all and unworthy of such a wonderful gift as a second, third, fourth, fifth…chance at life.  Why me Lord, when I don’t know what to do with it?

So, I took 2021 to explore all of this, positive toxicity, the negativity, the dark feelings.  Oh, not every day.  Not every moment, but for the first time in forever, I allowed myself entire days to acknowledge the rough patches I’d been through.  I discovered that by allowing the negativity of my trauma to wash over me and through me, I began to understand it and me.   

I’ll be honest with you, there were scary days, still are, and I do understand why people do not want to make time to explore their darker side.  For there are times where I feel like I am being pulled into the abyss of my own sense of unworthiness.  I truly have to thank my husband and adult children and some terrific friends and health care providers for getting me through this difficult time.   They have been there unconditionally to offer comfort and a kind word when I need it and more importantly to get tough with me when I needed to hear some tough things. It’s nice to know others understand how to clean my dirty windshield when I am blinded by my own vanity.   HA HA!

But the bottom line is that this is a process and what I am realizing is that the more I allow myself the time to acknowledge and grieve my trauma, to lean into exploring the negative feelings, instead of glossing over them, the more centered I feel.  In balance.  The more positivity and all the blessings in my life make sense.

I can’t stress this enough, whatever trauma you are going through, don’t gloss over it, give yourself the time and gift of acknowledging the bad stuff. It isn’t an instant fix, but…

Grief is an important tool in finding your way back to the light.  Your inner light.  

So, I’ve decided to reboot the blog as positivelyannesworld.com and spend 2022 year exploring this idea of light and dark in the human experience and how to find balance. 

Won’t you join me? Please like, subscribe and share with anyone you feel would benefit.

Positivelyannesworld.com

Saying “Good-bye” to the year of fearing everything

PositivelyAnne discovers letting go of fear is the key to ending 2020 on a positive note.

Hello, can you hear me? I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be, when we were younger and free. I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet.”

These haunting lyrics from the song “Hello”, by English singer-songwriter Adele, and her producer Greg Kurstin, were originally thought to be about the nostalgia and angst of a failed relationship. But just as quickly as we, the listener, latched on to that narrative, Adele set the record straight and said, “No my friends, the song is simply about reconnecting with my family. I was missing my little boy while I’ve been away making a record across the pond, you know, “Hello from the other side!”  (HuffPost 12/7/2015).”

But we didn’t like Adele’s explanation.  Why? Because we were afraid! “Hello” was OUR SONG!  OURS! A song that spoke directly to the core of an America that found itself crumbling under the weight of divergent opinions on everything from terrorism to gun violence, racism to immigration, religious expression, national symbols, taking a knee, gender equality, gender identity, same sex marital rights and oh yeah, we even came to internet blows that year over whether or not a dress was actually black or white.

God help the individual who was bold enough to post on his social media feed…

“Um, I think the dress is….(drum roll please)… GOLD!”

“GOLD??? GOLD??? DID YOU SAY FREAKING GOLD!!!?”  I’m surprised we didn’t yell a collective, “STONE HIM.  STONE HIM!”  

Poor guy, I think he had to change his identity and move to Siberia.   But no one likes a trouble maker, right?   

“Hmmm…Bet he didn’t even know what Adele’s song was about either!!! What a Loser!”

Forgive them father for they know not what they are doing! Luke 23:34

It’s now been five years since “Hello” and “The Dress” and does it surprise you that all of those issues that permeated our divide that year are still with us in 2020?  That is one thousand-eight hundred and twenty-five days and we are still drowning in a pool of our own inability to compromise on any of it and to compound things, we’ve iced the cake with a polarizing election and a global pandemic called Covid 19!  

No one would believe this isn’t the fictional tale of a James Patterson novel if we weren’t living it. But then again this is the era of “fake news”…maybe it isn’t our reality after all. I mean Hallmark movies are pretty realistic, right?

Still…. fifty years after Lucy Van Pelt explained “Pantophobia” to Charlie Brown and he exclaimed “THAT’S IT!”,  we have emerged an America steeped in fear, unwilling to accept that Adele wrote a song about something important in HER life, not OURS; unwilling to believe a dress can be black and white and gold; and questioning the integrity and patriotism of the M.D. in charge of the COVID 19 response, who kept us safe from AIDS, SARS, Ebola and Zika all because he’s asked us to wear a mask and social distance so we don’t have to spend Christmas with a ventilator.

Yep, Charlie Brown, America is officially now AFRAID OF EVERYTHING when we fear Dr. Fauci!

Afraid to look our neighbor in the eye.  Afraid to accept others who might think differently than ourselves. Afraid of being wrong. Afraid to take risks. Afraid to trust science and data. Afraid to trust people with years of experience and degrees. Afraid to be kind, considerate, empathetic. Afraid to speak out against injustices. Afraid of the immigrant, the stranger, the cop on the beat. Afraid to tone down the rhetoric. Afraid to stand up for what is right. Afraid to lose.

Afraid of admitting we are in over our heads and need help.

God’s Help. Anyone’s help. Anyone??? Hello???

Why?  Because we’ve bought into the narrative we’ve been spoon fed that it’s THOSE PEOPLE who are deplorable. THOSE PEOPLE who are snowflakes. THOSE PEOPLE who are ruining our lives, mine and yours.

THOSE PEOPLE who are plotting, plotting, PLOTTING our demise!!!

Did I mention plotting?!!!

Wow, with all of that plotting going on it’s amazing how we can still find the time to order a gourmet pizza, keep our Twitter feeds fed, watch the entire Netflix catalog, grab the last blow-up Minion from Home Depot to decorate our lawn for Christmas and order a growler from our favorite brew pub to be delivered right to our doorstep.

We are, if nothing else, an America resourceful in our fear.

But our fear is real and palatable and its’ impacting our ability to fix our brokenness because we have lost our ability to trust anyone or anything. We scream all day long, “We want proof” and yet we don’t even know what proof we need.

“I want proof, I tell you. PROOF!”

To quote Robert L. Short from “The Gospel according to Charlie Brown,” “If we require some kind of sign, or “proof” for our belief in God, then we believe, or place our trust, not in God, but in the sign of proof.”

Lucy Van Pelt had it right, We are Blockheads!  Blockheads that require a sign of proof for everything and anything these days in order to not be afraid, not just not afraid of God as Short pointed out, but not afraid of each other.

“Yeah Jesus, that turning water into wine thing is pretty amazing…but…what else you got buddy?” seems to have become our defacto motto.

My God what has happened to us? What has happened to me?

You see, I’m part of the problem. I don’t push a positive narrative enough myself. If I’m honest with you, I cast stones your way much too often.

IF THOSE PEOPLE WOULD CHANGE, THEN….life would….life would what? Go back to normal?

Do I even want the normal that has been our last 5 years? Our last fifty? Oh don’t get me wrong. I love life, my life. But this fear thing that has become the normal American response to anything new and different or challenging of the norms…it’s just not working for me.

Before she died earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, tried to tell America that there was great value in looking at the complex issues that face us from multiple angles. She encouraged us to cultivate friendships, like the one she had with fellow Supreme Court Justice Antonine Scalia, a conservative Republican, with whom she often disagreed, but enjoyed not only a wonderful professional relationship, but her most treasured personal relationship outside of her husband and child.

“We are different, yet, we are one.”

Sweet words, from a sweet lady, but well, Ruth, here we sit, an America divided and full of fear. A fear that has kept me from fully enjoying our life together. Enjoying all that WE had together.    You and me, America.

And the truth is, this being right all the time isn’t what I thought it would be. Especially now, when a pandemic prevents me from seeing your smile, from giving you a hug, from arguing while we pass the turkey and gravy, from welcoming you, the stranger into my life.

I’m hungry for my America again.  I’m hungry for you.

I miss thinking of you as my friend, my neighbor, my relative, the stranger on the street without fear. I miss our connection, our arguments, our making up.

I’m so very tired of thinking of you as THOSE PEOPLE.  I am ashamed of that.

I last blogged back in April.  I had just survived COVID 19 and was coming off 4 years where I beat breast cancer and survived a total of 17 other surgeries. In my blog I pointed out all of the things my COVID 19 experience taught me; the things we needed to do to come together, to heal as a nation, to get through this pandemic challenge with a positive outlook.   I hit send and felt proud of my words.  I meant them, or so I thought.  I was ready to step positively into a pandemic with you.

But one month went by, then two, three, and I found myself wallowing in my own fear, playing the nightly game of spin the dial with cable news jockey’s, and courting internet saviors whose only job it is is to peddle “division” and cater to my anxiety.   

THOSE PEOPLE!  THOSE PEOPLE!  THOSE PEOPLE!!!

I put the blog aside.  I put positivity aside and I began to swallow the Kool-Aid of those intent on making big money off my fear, your fear.  Channel surfing for validation that my way is the ultimate truth.  The gospel according to Anne!

For eight months, I blinded myself to the fact that division, not truth, sells advertising and advertising brings in big money. Big money funds lavish lifestyles and we humans look at this and say, “I want that too!” and we keep consuming it, over and over and over again, until we believe division is our only path forward to the riches we so rightly deserve. Mine, mine…all mine!  

I tried to tell myself that what I was watching, what I was consuming had my best interest at heart. But…

Thou shall have no other God’s before ME! Exodus 20:2

Oh, how easy it is to forget dear Lord and elevate the language of hate when the riches of division are raining down on our heads. How easy it is to succumb to the f’bombs dropping on every crevice of American society, digging ourselves a tunnel into the mountainside of our pride, where sweeping generalizations, about who and what we are, rage like thunder through the vast canyons of our different so that we don’t hear anyone’s cry for help, but our own.

I am guilty of this, I admit it and it saddens me. I know better and I know you know better too. Maybe my excuse is the past four years of health issues has been a lot for me to process. I don’t like division, confrontation, and unpleasantness. I know the joy of being given a new lease on life time and again and I wanted the time to relish that. To wallow in my happy place.

But instead I sat, in my lounge chair gorging on cable fodder, sitting on the sidelines quietly waiting for “someone else” to make the first move.  The humane move.  The “What would Jesus Do” move. 

Know this, my beloved: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19

Still my thoughts, your thoughts, our ideas, our ability to express those ideas in a free and open society can be a hard pill to swallow and I’ve become bitter to a lot of it. Angry, resentful in fact.  I have hated seeing people tear each other apart on social media, especially strangers. I’ve wanted to shout at them,

“I know what it’s like to lay naked, prostrate on a hospital bed, my living or dying at the mercy of a single human who controls my oxygen source and to know with every fiber of my being that we aren’t given an indefinite opportunity to get it right!”

Folks, we only have this merry- go-round to live in the light. To bathe in our possible and to welcome the stranger.

But I forget too. I find myself yelling at the television set, ranting and raving about things that I have no control over. Wasting time depressed in the muck of all I can’t fix and hating every moment of it.  Maybe social media and cable news has made it easier to wrap ourselves in hate and fear.  I don’t know.  But regardless, we humans are still responsible for what we input into the machine and what we filter, myself included, and if I’ve become “woke” to anything this year, it’s that fearing my fellow citizens is not the key to my happiness and certainly isn’t good for my positivity.

For when we put our individual viewpoints into a box and say, “Only open if you agree,” we’ve ignored the very tenants of freedom and the power that the free exchange of ideas has on our ability to move the needle of change and propel our nation forward positively.   Each of us forward positively.

Maybe it’s because it’s hard?  Change is not easy.  Freedom isn’t easy.  Change is messy.  Freedom is messy. And messiness can be ugly at times, very ugly.

But looking at life through different lenses is our privilege for living in a free America and one I no longer want to take for granted.

The reality of life is we don’t ride the teetertotter of this great American freedom experiment by ourselves.  We share our air with each other.  Thus, the importance of masks (but I digress!). 

We need each other to go up and down.   

That’s America.  It takes two.  It takes us!  It takes you and me and he and she and it and they and whatever the heck pronouns you use to make it work. 

It takes all of us.  All 328.2 million of us working together to keep it pumping.  To keep it going across 3000 miles of sea to shining sea.  

So, how to fix it. Maybe it’s not that hard.

It’s time to do as Mark 12:31 says so simply:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I like the sound of that and the challenge in it.

To share our differences so that I open my eyes, my ears to your story, your injustice and pain and heartache, so that I may see the real you, no filter and without fear.

So, this Christmas, as I hang my box of treasured ornaments on my tree, I will think of you.

Some of you are old, wise and careworn; some of you are shiny and new and just beginning your stories.  Some of you are slightly broken, bent, misshapen, but in need of the same love and appreciation that we all crave. Some merely are here, there and everywhere, all searching for their voice, their place in the crowd. But all, equally important to the beauty of my tree.

God has told me to give you a seat at my table and do not fear. I need to listen to God. There is still time in 2020 for me to do that. For even thinking about it, giving up my fear, fills my heart with love and gratitude.

Love for you and gratitude for another chance to get life right.

America,  I love you. And I can’t think of a better Christmas gift to myself then to stop being afraid of you. What better way to salvage the memory of what has been a dismal 2020 then to give it a new and positive purpose!

Who’s ready to join me?

PositivelyAnne

A New Kind of Freedom

PositivelyAnne shares her perspective on how to stay positive and find a new kind of freedom during this time of corona virus isolation.

Forty days of self-isolation due to COVID-19 and I am slowly coming to terms with this redefining of our freedom and I suspect, for many of my fellow Americans, it may turn out to be the one civics lesson that sticks with all of us, that is, once we emerge from hibernation.

For one cannot look away from the terrible pandemic images gracing our televisions, our phones and computer screens night after night, of brave souls putting their lives on the line in hospitals and towns in every corner of this country; bodies lined up in hallways, and empty offices and mass graves awaiting funerals that will be devoid of family and friends; and not feel some sort of gut wrenching horror as to how the hell we got to this place of thinking ourselves, this Great American Experiment, infallible?

For although there is much mystery about this virus, it has wasted no time exposing our naiveté. Our America the Beautiful. A place I love so very much and proudly fly the flag and pray for every day.

But a place, just the same, that has buried it’s collective head in the sand when it comes to fixing what is broken, focused more on Vegas odds and clever memes, than scientific data or just plain common sense, because, well, it’s not as fun to talk about at the dinner table.

1)A nation that assumed freedom was an absolute, defended by our guns, our constitution and our military might, and yet, has been humbly brought to its’ knees by a communicable disease; an invisible, equal opportunity offender, for which statistics are proving that privilege plays a role in whether you live or die.

2)A nation who’s financial markets have thrived on making collective love to power and money and courting the vulnerable into believing the have-nots can play the game equally; the claustrophobic stench of their deception now revealed by unemployment figures that rival the Great Depression.

3)A nation of talented minimum wage workers, tradespersons, and the non-college educated, who modern society has systematically demeaned and relegated to the dustbin of professional choices, and for whom there is now no argument as to the high value they contribute to our very survival.

4)A nation of family, friends and strangers where the word hate would roll freely from lips, as we laughingly chose to social distance because they looked, thought or behaved differently; oh how we long to hug them close, just once, just once more.

5)A nation of teachers, coaches and mentors who we consistently underpaid and undervalued and for whom we now join our children in praying for each night, as we come to recognize just how big a role they have played in raising our children.

6)A nation of wanna be food critics, where our food supply was never gourmet enough for our palates, and for which we now have a new found appreciation of the magic of a seed, the immigrant in the field, and what farm to table truly means.  

7)A nation of leaders of all faiths that for the past thirty years, we’ve abandoned in droves, their buildings unappreciated shells, their sermons unappreciated truth, but for whom we now readily turn to for answers that make sense of all this madness.

8)A nation of caregivers of our elderly and infirm, whose names we barely took the time to learn before all of this, but who now act as our stand-ins with our loved ones, their careworn hands a lifeline of hope.

9)A nation who freely polluted the air, trampled the landscape and soiled the seas and now marvels with surprise at the blueness of the sky, the animals emerging from the shadows and the clarity of the oceans.  

10)A nation of first responders: doctors, nurses, police and firefighters, whose oath to save lives was something we took for granted, but whose willingness to continue to fight for us,at great risk to their families, has us believing in the possibility that God really has returned to earth in human form.

Its’ humbling isn’t it?   All the things we thought we knew about America, about each other.   Thought important.  Thought we valued. Thought we got right before this pandemic business.

It’s taken a viral pandemic to cause us to look in the mirror and understand that for all of its’ bravado, all of its’ bluster, all of its’ grandeur, America is first and foremost a nation of human beings, human beings that are not all equally blessed. Freedom is not available to all…not yet. And so sometimes, it requires others to give more. To expend more time and talent and energy to get the job done.

And I know that makes some people angry.   Some protest because it’s too painful to think about things not going back to the way things were, to a time where we could all ignore what the virus has revealed to us. Some shout the end is near, doom and gloom around the corner. Some could care less about any of it. Give me my normal.

I’m not worried. Messiness has always been a part of the American way and it’s from this diversity of choices, and thinking, that some of our greatest moments as a nation emerge.

But no matter our fears, I encourage you not to focus on the anger and to not look away from what the mirror has revealed. For to look away and not truly see what this virus is teaching us, is a missed opportunity. 

For the question being asked of us now is pretty simple:

When all this is over, will I be ready to listen, to change, to do what is needed for the benefit of all of America, this new freedom? Or am  I going to go back to the same old, same old and only listen to what I want to hear, what is easiest to hear, and what suits my own selfish narrative?   

Because while this virus has revealed an America that has some work to do, it has also revealed an America where there is much to be hopeful.  An America where love and kindness, compassion and caring for each define the character of many of it’s citizens. Where leaders and mentors come from all walks of life and step up to help. Where the hero is not always the most obvious person in the room and where the importance of human contact is valued more than the size of our wallets or the size of our egos.

It’s exciting.  It’s positive. It’s a new kind of freedom and it’s ours for the taking.

What will you do? How will you respond?

PositivelyAnne

In trauma, it is there we find gratitude!

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Last Monday began like any other day, except it wasn’t.  I woke up achy, a feeling in my sinus and chest like no other.  A slight cough.  A slight temperature.

Warning bells went off in my head.   “Oh, hell no!  No…No…No…No…NO!”   My mind began to shout, “Haven’t I been through enough?  Isn’t breast cancer, infection after infection, surgery after surgery, for 3 plus years, enough?”

But the virus, this strange animal called Covid-19,  had other ideas and decided to play games with me.   For seven days I let it.  I let it invade, I let it mess with my head, I let it run my life.

And then…I decided enough with the doom and gloom.  It was time to be grateful.

Not grateful for the virus.  Certainly not grateful for the strain it has put on my body and the stress it is causing my family, the pain it is currently causing the collective world.  But grateful, that gratitude is not beholden to a virus, but instead a gift that I could give myself and to all who know me, while I battled this microscopic beast.

So here it is, from my heart to yours.  Something to change perspective, to wipe the dirt from our weary souls.  To remove the fear and doubt and make me believe.  You believe.

Things I am grateful for this past week:

I am grateful for a house with creaky floors and the dryer that vibrates the ceiling.

I am grateful for two cats who, despite always finding a clean rug to hack up a hairball,  quietly curl up next to me, their deep vibrato purr a balm to this endless restlessness.

I am grateful for a bedroom with a picture widow where, between naps,  I can look upon the birds gathered at the fountain for a drink, fighting over the seeds that drip from the feeder onto the pink flowers entangled below it.

I am grateful for my older son who has taken to dressing up in silly costumes for his video conferences with his San Diego State work colleagues.  “It’s alright.  It’s alright.  We may not be able to be together, but we will get through this together!”

I am grateful for teachers who have found new ways to stay connected with their students on line through reading stories, singing songs, and reminding them that each day is a beautiful gift.

I am grateful to the friend from church who messaged me she wanted to bake me something to cheer me up and made me laugh when she prefaced the message by saying,  “I promise I’m really not that terrible a baker.”

I am grateful for my husband, a shy man, the love of my life, who quietly rises to the occasion each day to lead with a normalcy that wraps itself around me, “like the feeling of warm blanket on a cold and frosty morning.”  Cue Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk! Wink. Wink.

I am grateful for my mom and dad, who know I worry about them and text me often to let me know that the grocery store line was orderly, that they are managing o.k. and that they love me.   I can feel their resilience propel me forward across the miles.

I am grateful for my Pastors,  who long before this crises, trusted the people in their care to tend and nurture the mustard seeds, so that the church was and is so much more than the sum of it’s walls.

I am grateful for my daughter, whose artistry and vision somehow seem effortless in these troubled times and yet, this mother knows she is struggling to find a way to make sense of it all.  I wish I had the answer.

I am grateful for my dear friend who opens her door every week so that the notes of her piano ring out through her complex to all who are lonely and frightened.  “I see you.  I care” her piano sings.

I am grateful for Clorox wipes, and lavender hand soap and the Bergamot lotion that soothes my chaffed hands and reminds me of Paris.

I am grateful for my brother and his wife and their dogs.  Knowing Zeus and Athena are underfoot with their humans somehow brings me comfort.

I am grateful for my younger son, who accepted his sudden return to the nest from college much better than I would have, and figured out how to carve out a semi-normal existence while managing to keep both his school and engineering internship intact.   I know he’s suffering privately and it’s hard.

I am grateful for my book club and bible study and my dear friends who have texted and Facebooked and called to check up on me.  I love all of you.

I am grateful for my online garden community, once strangers, now friends,  connected by the marvel of God’s amazing creation and a belief that we will need it more than ever once this storm passes.

I am grateful for my brother in law and sister in law, that their cruise ship was not one of disease, but one that was able to find a safe port and a plane to carry them home.

I am grateful for all of the medical professionals and first responders and military who answered the call to serve something greater than themselves.  I owe you my life.

I am grateful for the bee that buzzes in my orange tree, reminding me that we do not always control our destiny, but we must work at it never the less.

I am grateful for my sponsor child Emmy, in Uganda, that he has a place to rest his head, a warm meal in his tummy, an education, and that he loves Jesus.

I am grateful for water that runs freely from my faucet, and toilet paper to wipe my bottom, and a toilet to flush it in.

I am grateful to the homeless, the impoverished, the less fortunate,  who remind me of all that I have to give.

I am grateful to all the caregivers, their masked faces in this new world order embody a strength and sense of purpose that I must learn from and  aspire.

I am grateful to the workers in the fields, the grocery and stockroom clerks, the truckers and warehouse helpers, the delivery drivers and all those who never asked to be first responders, but are responding to the call just the same.

I am grateful to the sound of the distant buzz of a lawn mower that reminds me of something normal.  I need normal right now.

I am grateful I can still curl up on the couch and find Lucille Ball and Andy Griffith still the same after sixty odd years and remember what life used to be like before all of this.

I am grateful for my God.  For in Him I find my rock.  My compass, my acceptor of all of my imperfections.  The one who time and again is willing to give me another chance to get it right.  To appreciate what I have not tomorrow, but today.

Finally, I am grateful for the P that calls to me from the mountain top that positivity is always a choice and well worth the climb.   I will keep trying.

So many I want to thank.  So many who came before me I wish I could thank.  I hope you know, I notice you in the shadows, all of you each and every week, and I am so grateful.  Stepping out of your comfort zones, to comfort me and the countless others who need to know, in this time of trial, that the world had not gone mad, but is very much alive with the vibrancy of the human spirit.  It isn’t by chance that the Easter story is before us.

We too will rise again.

 

Let gratitude lift you up and out of this dark place.  Practice it.  Practice it.  Practice it.

Thanks for reading.  I am getting better every day and looking forward to new beginnings with all of you.

PositivelyAnne

Reflecting on “my positive” in the New Year

A new year, a new decade is upon us and you know the drill. Grab a piece of notebook paper, or better yet a brand new journal of blank pages, a few pencils or a favorite pen and jot down all of the things that are wrong with you that need fixing in 2020.

NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS 2020!

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Underlined. O.k. GO! Sounds simple right?

Well, I’m going to share a secret with you all. This year, I’ve decided that I’m not going to make any New Years resolutions. Any lists of what I’m lacking. Why? I’ve discovered that focusing on lists of what I haven’t accomplished, what I am deficient in, blinds me to what is positive about me in the present.

I’m so focused on the negativity in the lists, that I become joyless and miserable.

It’s overwhelming and self-defeating. How am I ever going to accomplish anything on my list this year, if I haven’t accomplished everything on my list last year?

The answer is simple. I’m not. I’m setting myself up for failure on day one of the New Year by acknowledging that I’m a failure on day one of the New Year!

And I’m convinced that lists of what I’m lacking is one messed up way to start a new year, let alone approach life.

I’m mean it’s no stretch of the imagination that most of us can probably recite every single thing that is wrong with us without writing it down. I know I can.

Maybe we are still out of work, or going through a messy divorce, or fumbling through a relationship or we can’t breathe in our size 10 jeans any longer. In fact, some of us are not only fine tuned in the art of making lists as to what is wrong with our own selves, but we can list every single thing wrong with our spouse, our kids, our parents, our jobs, our homes, our community, our churches, our world.

Lists of negative thinking are not in short supply, trust me.

But is this any way to embrace positivity, starting the year off by making lists of all the things that we aren’t doing right, everything we aren’t? Seems to me that is a rather depressing way to accept the gift of another year and at least for me, it’s actually shortchanging what my imperfect self is truly capable of.

I have faced a lot in the past year and come out the other side stronger, better and wiser.

My positive is so much stronger than my negative. I know this with absolute certainty. If only I’d stop making lists that tell me otherwise.

So yesterday, day one of 2020, instead of a litany of negativity, I chose to fill my journal with four reflections on some of the challenges I faced in 2019 by paying less attention to the detail of what went wrong, and instead rejoicing in what went right. I share them here so that you can see the difference in approaching life as a positive reflection:

Anne’s Journal 2020 Day 1

What a blessing it is to be alive another year. A New Year of happiness and joy and love. My heart is full of these things to give, to share, and for that I am grateful. I am also grateful for so many things that God and others have provided in my life this past year. New paths, new relationships, a deepening faith and a family whom I treasure. Challenges continue, but so do solutions.

The side effects from surgically induced menopause continue to challenge me. I need to lose more weight and it isn’t easy with my changed metabolism. But I’m down ten pounds from last year and my Fit Bit says I walked 500 miles in 2019. Five hundred miles! That’s no small feat given I had major surgery in April and in September. Hell, that’s no small feat period! I can now hike and swim in the ocean and dance and sing and garden and paint and play the piano with minimal pain and fatigue and best of all the hot flashes that kept me up at night are gone!

Yes, it’s true that I am anxious to get back into the work force outside the home and utilize my skill set with the right employer, and it’s scary and a bit intimidating to be starting over career wise in my mid-50’s. But, I was not complacent in 2019, having begun a side career as a successful blogger, created an on-line following for my photography on a gardening website and completed the final draft of a children’s book with a good friend. I am writing daily and the ideas are over flowing.

Over the summer, I was disappointed that the romantic summer vacation to the North East that I had been looking forward to with my husband had to be postponed due to another surgery. However, in 2019, I enjoyed so many wonderful excursions with my husband to the local mountains, the beach, zoo, new restaurants, theater and plays, movies, art exhibits, street fairs, farmers markets, antiquing, sports events, concerts of all sorts and enjoyed a wonderful mother-daughter trip to Chicago exploring all of my favorite Chi-town haunts. My husband and I still share a love for exploring this great planet and I am so grateful to be able to enjoy so many wonderful adventures with him.

The past year was a bit of an adjustment for me (and my husband) fully stepping into the life of empty nesters and embracing adult children with minds and goals and dreams of their own. At times it can be confusing and there are moments when I miss the sweet faces that idolized my every word without question and I’m still learning when to curtail the parenting. But it has been a relief to watch each of our three children fly from the nest, fully capable of handling whatever life hands them. Each child has sought out positive friends and mentors and relationships that facilitate their possible and all three wanting to remain in the area, not because I, or my husband demand it, but because it is something they want to do, has filled me with so much joy. They genuinely love our little family, want to spend time together and that is about the best gift a parent could ask for.

Till next time journal…

So as you can read, the New Year for me is not without it’s challenges, but I’m not lacking for positive things to focus on and I bet you aren’t either. In fact, when I re-read my journal I was amazed at how much it lifted my spirits to write about all of the positive things. To take the time to let my mind and heart reflect on all of the good. I’m going to lean into that even more in 2020 and I hope you will join me in this journey.

For I can’t think of a better gift we can give ourselves this New Year, then to approach it with a positive outlook and that includes seeing ourselves in a positive light from day one.

PositivelyAnne

Moving your life story from “I Can’t” to “I Can Do It!”

I sat in the car for a few moments before starting the engine, gathering my thoughts. I could literally feel my mind racing, like it actually had a heart beat and I started to laugh. I laughed and laughed. I must have looked like a loon to anyone driving by.

You see I was laughing at the fact that despite my intentional focus on positivity, it remains my truth that there are going to be things in my life that are beyond my control to change. Things I’m not necessarily meant to understand fully because, well, it’s pretty simple, I’m not meant to.

Lymphedema is one of those things.

Lymphedema has been on my radar since I underwent a bilateral mastectomy for breast cancer and was informed that there was a risk, a life-long risk, of my lymphatic system becoming painfully blocked in my arm, breast and/or hand due to the removal of lymph nodes from my under arm to test for rogue cancer cells.  When and if, that happened, I would face the possibility of an unknown level of swelling, pain and risk of infection for the rest of my life. Whoopee! 😦

Last week my hubby and I were looking forward to packing our bags for a much needed New England getaway when I began to notice that my right breast hurt, was red and was very swollen. I knew exactly what it was. Lymphedema had arrived in my life.

I’d like to say I took immediate action, but I didn’t. I waited.

You see this trip to New England was a celebration of the completion of three years of surgeries, a delayed 30th anniversary trip and birthday celebrations for my hubby and I all rolled into one. Nothing, nothing was going to get in the way of our special time together, least of all lymphedema.

The God I love could not be that cruel.

But, as I said there are things that are beyond my control. Things I am not meant to fully understand and I knew deep down that God was in no way responsible for this latest health issue, so I set aside my pride, my need to control things and made the phone call to my surgeon.

He took one look at me and I just knew. No words needed to be exchanged.

After a moment of awkward silence I said, “Um, so my husband and I have a plane to catch and a romantic adventure awaiting, so I’ll deal with this little lymphedema issue when I get back, o.k.?”

“Sorry, no flying…not until you get fitted for a compression sleeve and see a physical therapist who specializes in lymphatic drainage. Oh, and by the way, it looks like you have an infection in the lymphatic fluid surrounding your new implant, thus the reason you are not feeling well, so we need to put you on strong antibiotics, remind me what you are allergic to again?”

“Allergic, me? How well do you know the good folks at the Center for Disease Control, cause they pretty much have me on speed dial!”

So, instead of cycling around Long Island with my favorite guy; or cheering on the Red Sox at Fenway while drinking one too many beers; or learning how to make cheese in Vermont, I sat there in the parking lot of my doctors office laughing like a loon and thinking how in the hell was I going to make this wonderful new game plan sound as fun and exciting to my husband as the vacation we had planned.

But I needn’t have worried.

Oh, I’m not going to lie to you.  A few tears were shed, a few choice curse words, some I’m ashamed to say aimed directly at God and my husband was sad. I was sad. Everyone in my family was sad.

Yet in this moment of sadness, I’m choosing to see this whole lymphedema thing through a positive lens. This set back is no different than every other hiccup I have been through health wise and I know it to be true that blessings are often not what we have planned, but what is revealed to us in our journey.

I have discovered that God has provided me with an amazing opportunity to define my life not by all the things I can’t do, all the things, for example, that lymphedema will temporarily impact, like travel plans. Instead my life can be powered into infinity by the “I Can Do It!” moments.

And there is so much comfort and joy in that revelation.

Four simple words…

“I Can Do It!” 

Words that are considered high frequency use words and are a part of the first 100 words we learn as young children.  Words that young children are quick to embrace and use often, without prompting and adults quickly forget.   

“I can do it myself mommy!”  “Let me try that daddy, I can do it!”  

You see the older we get, we lose sight of the value and power those words “I Can Do It!” can have in propelling us forward through all the negative trials we face in our adult lives because we are constantly taken aback that adult hood doesn’t include morphing into a super-hero capable of keeping the “I Can’t” in our lives at bay.

Thus the reason I sat in my car, after my doctors appointment, laughing at the irony of being a positivity blogger and yet, this one stupid thing, this lymphedema thing, I couldn’t fix even with all of my positivity efforts.

I know it’s wrong to beat myself up, but I guess the older we get, the more seasoned we become at choosing the “I Can’t!” in our lives first, until it is on autopilot.   I’m a grown-up damn it, this all should be so simple!

Maybe it’s not all our fault tho.

You only have to turn on the television, radio, your computer and promoting “I Can’t!” is nothing short of a global phenomenon, with billions and billions of dollars changing hands each day at the expense of our vulnerabilites.

Tell us whats wrong with us enough and we begin to believe it and we will pay to hear it over and over and over again.

Seriously, have you ever stopped to think just flipping through the cable channels how much messaging is geared to the “I Can’t” in us, then the “I Can?” Multiply that exponentially over the course of a life time and well, that’s a lot of “I Can’t!” At some point, we stop trying to think positively and focus on all the bad because it’s what we are conditioned to believe is of value. We promote it in our selves, we promote it in each other.

The irony is we are all banging the same drum.  “I can’t!” “You can’t” “We can’t” and the song is so stale and old and tired we’ve become numb to it.

I get it.  I’m ashamed to say that I’ve embraced the negative more times in my fifty six years than I can count. Honestly, the past three years it has been so tempting to just bathe in all of that negative vibe.   I’m tired, I’m broken and done with all of the chaos my health issues have caused me and damn it, I wanted to go to New England with my husband, is that too much to ask?

There seems to be an unspoken kinship in us grown-ups, wrapping ourselves in that blanket of pain and sorrow and all that is lost?   We take one for the team of “I Can’t!” time and time again because frankly it’s pretty easy to explain all that we can’t do and so damn hard to explain our possible, especially, if we haven’t a freakin clue what it all means.

But I’m discovering that if I/we wallow in our own pool of what is wrong with us, we totally miss out on the joys of what we are truly capable of.

We all have within us the ability to move the needle from “I Can’t!” to “I Can Do It!” and all we need to do is stop complicating it and remember the child in us.

When my children were small and the years I spent as an early childhood educator, I discovered that, “I Can Do It!” flowed freely from the lips of young children, but not so much from adults.  

You see the difference between young children and adults when it comes to the eight simple letters of “I-C-A-N-D-O-I-T” is that young children don’t automatically reach for the “I Can’t” when things get tough.  They haven’t been tainted by advertisers and media and the collective security blanket of negative images and thinking.

When they face a physical or mental challenge, you will hear words like, “I want to try again”, “I would like another turn to try”, “I want another chance.”  All implying their possible.  

When they don’t feel well, once recovered, they have little recollection that they were ever sick and instead quickly get back to all they can do.

Thinking back to when I was a kid, I remember I got a bad case of chicken pox and learned to tie my shoes and ride a bike in the backyard while I was recovering. What the heck happened to that drive and motivation of that little girl? What happened to that kid, who despite being covered in itchy chicken pox, saw only her possible?

When did what I am incapable of become of greater value in my life than what I am capable of?

It’s interesting that failure is an every day thing in the life of a young child and yet, it just isn’t innate in them to automatically go to the dark side.

In fact, it is often during those really difficult moments when their “I Can’t!” seems to be the only possible outcome, that young children rally around each other, lifting each other up.  

“I can do it” becomes “We can do it” and it’s a marvel to witness.

You see, what we adults interpret as loss: of our health, our person, our God given right to control our destiny in every aspect; young children see as a forever opportunity to GET IT RIGHT! Whether that is by themselves or in a group, there is no negative drum beat, only:

“I can do it!”   “You can do!”  “We can do it!”   

Sounds like a pretty wonderful way to live, right?

Imagine a world where adults are no longer fearful of the inevitable obstacles, forks in the road, and jaw dropping cliff dives of life for which we have no control.

“I CAN DO IT!”

Imagine a world where adults are no longer vulnerable to the advertisers and media and the “I Can’t” of their reality and instead dream, imagine, cultivate all of their possible in themselves and in each other.

“I CAN DO IT!”

Imagine a world where we no longer table our child like wonder and the blanket we wrap around ourselves is warm with love, hope and all of the possibilities of our together.

“I CAN DO IT!”

We don’t have to wait. We have the tools in each of us to make it so and we only have to look to our childhood for a reminder.

I am going to work hard in the coming months to make that my reality. I know with the help of God, my family and friends, medical team and yes, even you, my fellow positivity seekers, that I do not have to give lymphedema any more of an audience in my life story then it needs to be. 

I truly am looking forward to discovering all of the “I Can Do It’s!” that have yet to be revealed in my life and share those wonderful stories with you.

I am excited.  I am hopeful.  I am blessed.

And I’m going to New England with my favorite guy as soon as I’m cleared to do so. My bags are still packed!

PositivelyAnne

I hope you will Like and Follow me as we journey together to figure this positivity thing out. PositivelyAnne.com on WP and FB and PositivelyAnne on Instagram and Linked In.

Rejoice and be Glad!

Willis Tower 103 stories above Chicago

One of my favorite verses from the bible is from Psalm 118:24

This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

In my humble opinion, the implications of this verse are powerful, less in the literally interpretation of creation and more in the subtext of opportunity…human opportunity.

As the sun rises and sets, we are given another chance to get it right.  To appreciate ourselves, our lives and to be joyful and glad for who and what we are.   

Now I’d like to ask you two simple questions and I am going to guess how you might answer them.

Are you glad, You, are you?   YES OR NO?    Do you rejoice in the You that is?  YES or NO?

  • “What do you mean by glad exactly?”  “I mean there are so many levels of gladness from extreme happiness to mild contentment and everything in between, so, can you further define the word “glad” for me?”
  • “What is there to be glad about, my life is in turmoil, period! “
  • “Of course, I’m glad! BUT there are hundreds of things I’m working on, so um, it’s hard to let others see the real me.  I’d rather envision the images of the “me” I want to be.  The perfect “me” I imagine myself to be.  The “me”, I’d be glad to know, not this mess of a person that I see in the mirror before me.  I can’t rejoice until I’m that person.”
  • “It’s selfish to be glad for ourselves when so many others are hurting.”
  • “People who are glad, are fake.  No one is glad.  Everyone is just going through the motions of life.  Anyone who posts “glad” things about themselves, happy pictures, happy stories, IS just catering to the fakeness that is life on this planet.     
  • If we say we are “glad” with ourselves, then we ignore all that is possible for us to be. We become stagnate, unable to move forward, past our own self-importance.

You may find my answers surprising, a bit bold, maybe even brash. Maybe you are even uncomfortable with my cynicism.   Isn’t this a positivity blog????

Well, if any or all of the above answers resonates with you, then I’m doing my job as a positivity blogger because we can’t move forward in our positivity journey until we accept the fact that we live in a world that makes money off the fact that we don’t like ourselves.   Lots and lots of money.  And we are being conditioned to think this way about gladness, about joy, about life because it lines the pockets of the few who don’t care whether we are glad or not as long as the money keeps rolling in.   

We’ve been led to believe that joy and gladness are counter culture to what the world wants for us.   So instead of rejoicing in the day the Lord hath made, we spend our days “oohing and ahhing” over our foibles to the degree that we give power to our own degradation.

We strip ourselves bare of any chance at happiness because it’s cooler to keep our happiness hidden, and more profitable if we are downright miserable.  

Hate of ourselves is a profitable business, it has been for a long time and we, the people, are its’ willing fuel. 

Countless advertising dollars are spent pumping our brains full of round the clock negativity.   Social media sites programmed to “push” our vulnerability to the forefront.   

Seriously, I can tell you it is nothing short of an uphill battle to be a positivity blogger in a world where likes and follows are freely given for negative content and positivity has become a pay per view proposition.

Those of us attempting to stoke the fires of glad tidings are left with the crumbs.  Crumbs that are readily available to multiply, but for which we are conditioned to think ourselves unworthy of the fight.  

Life’s algorithm seems to favor an economy where gladness is a four- letter word.  We are constantly looking in the mirror, both literally and figuratively, impressed not by what is good about ourselves, but by what is flawed. 

Now before I lose you to the doom and gloom, I have a quick fix for all of this.  The answer is simple. 

WE DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY.   I repeat.   WE DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY.   For those of you who do not like contractions, here it is again:

WE DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY.

Nope, WE DO NOT.   We can choose to be glad for ourselves.  We can choose to post our gladness.  We can choose to promote positivity, in all its forms.  We can choose to say “HELL NO!” to the negativity machine.

But to do that we have to arm ourselves with a new attitude.  An attitude that stops expecting the world to change for us and instead we change ourselves.   

As I stated, we do live in a world where we are rewarded for being negative and that world encourages us to push gladness, true gladness in our human selves, to the back burner.   Now the way this succeeds is it plays into our vulnerability that true gladness in ourselves is all about perfection. 

And guess what people.  None of us is perfect.  Nope, not me, not you, not anyone.  

So, first things first.  Say to yourself: 

I AM NOT PERFECT and THAT IS 100 PERCENT OK.

Simply put, Let Perfection Go!  

O.k., so none of us is perfect. What’s next?

Well now we need to open our eyes to what we like about ourselves internally.   Notice, I’m not talking about physical beauty.  

I hate to burst your ego, but physical beauty is truly subjective and it’s virtually impossible to get consensus on what is physically beautiful and it’s the reason companies and their advertisers, since time immortal, have spent billions of dollars trying to convince us that physical beauty is important because no one can agree on exactly what that benchmark is.   

So, forget your outside and focus on your inner beauty.  Most everyone has something they like about themselves internally.   Are you kind, considerate, compassionate, a quick study, a good listener, a good speaker, a motivator, focused, driven, energetic, positive, creative, romantic, resourceful, thoughtful, gentle, quiet, reserved, introvert, extrovert, comedic, entertaining…you get the idea!

Pick something, one thing.   My inner beauty is my intuition.   I can read a situation, a room, pretty quickly.   I wasn’t always aware I had this skill or aware of how valuable it would be in my life.   When I was an intern in my first job after college, a colleague of mine pointed out the importance of learning how to read the dynamics of a situation before jumping in with both feet to resolve it.  She told me intuition was an important skill.  I quickly realized it was a skill that came naturally to me, intuitively, and it is a skill that has served me well in every aspect of my life.

My intuition has enabled me to see the blessings in almost every situation.  I quickly understand that “drama” in my life can also be the stepping stone to something even better.  Be it tools to help me manage the situation or critical information that keeps me moving forward.   So, I’m less reactive to change and more proactive about looking for the blessings.

So, let your inner beauty have a voice and rejoice in it!

Third, we live in a world where we have access to “the world” in real time.  Anything we want to see and anywhere we want to experience is pretty much at our fingertips.  But, as I stated before, life’s algorithms push us to seek out the negative and feel guilty when we don’t.  

A couple examples:  How many of you spend time looking at all the negative comments about a movie, a concert, a place you want to visit or eat at before you decide to go there?  How many of you stress about all the negative things that can happen when visiting family and friends, instead of focusing on all the joyful possibilities?

Again, the push for us to choose the negative has us automatically second guessing everything.  Maybe the restaurant isn’t as good as we imagine.  Maybe travelling to Europe isn’t as safe as we hope it would be.  Maybe my dream job isn’t going to be so dreamy if what I’m reading on-line is true. Maybe my grandma will be crabby or my cousins boring.

And…maybe you will get cancer or divorced or struck by lightning.   Yep, bad stuff happens to all of us.  That is a fact.   So, rewire yourself to seek out the positive without hesitation.  Don’t let the advertisers, the influencers, the negativity peddlers rob you of your joy.  And forget the guilt.  We can’t predict every negative thing in life.  And to be honest, if we could, life would be boring. 

I recently planned a trip to Chicago with my daughter and when planning for the trip, instead of just entering into the internet search engine, “Things to do in Chicago”, where I was guaranteed to see a plethora of negative feedback, I instead input the following:

“Fun and Positive Only” things to Do in Chicago.

Sounds silly I know, but…

Over 100 different activities popped up, all FUN and AFFORDABLE and there was not a single negative comment on any of the activities! The exciting thing was that these activities led us to discover other positive experiences (impromptu salsa dancing in Millennium Park comes to mind) and all told, it was one of the best vacations I have ever had.

So, my point is this, you can be glad.  You really can.  You can ignore the negative and seek out the positive EVERY SINGLE TIME!    See that movie you want.  Enjoy new restaurants.  Visit family and friends without worry.  

Let the world see the real you…your inner gladness.

Do not hesitate to post to your Facebook or Instagram the fun you are having.  So, what if someone thinks:  

What an ego!  What a self-absorbed narcissist!  What a phony!

Who cares what they think, because you will know the positive truth because you are living it!!!

You are the living embodiment of gladness and what Psalm 118:24 is all about.   

REJOICE.  OWN IT. SHARE IT.  Life is too short not to SHOUT IT TO THE WORLD!

I AM GLAD!!!

PositivelyAnne.com

This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

All are welcome to like and follow PositivelyAnne. Let me know what brings you joy and gladness? How do you push back on the negative in life?

“Que Sera, Sera, what will be, will be!”

Dear Doris Day,

I heard that you died today at the age of 97.   A long life by any stretch of the imagination.   

They say you will be cremated, as you wished, without any fanfare.  I’m sorry if I’m intruding on your final wishes, but I can’t let you go like that.

Doris Day, you were an amazing actress, singer and advocate.  You were a complicated woman whose existence deserves to be more than a footnote gracing the pages of a dust covered history book or an inaccurate page in Wikipedia.  You deserve more than an annual birthday celebration on Turner Classic Movies, a birthdate that my daughter proudly shares with you by the way, or the occasional chuckle I get when I’m  in the mood to wear one of my many hats and remember that it was you who taught me how a silly hat could take the stuffiness out of a room full of business suits.

Although we never met, you have been this unwavering role model of positivity in the recesses of my existence for over half my life. 

Why? 

Well, for one thing, you never let tragedy, heartbreak, or disappointments stop you from moving forward.   You were this picture-perfect screen image of the all-American woman and yet, your private life was a complicated series of twists and turns and more than the occasional cliff dive.   You could have shouted from the roof tops how unfair it all was and no one would have blamed you.  Wolves in sheep’s clothing and all of that.   Instead you chose to see the good in people.  Find the blessings, the positive lessons to be learned and without insulting your fans, you enlightened them that “perfect” is not at all what we ultimately should strive for as human beings.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

You were born Doris Mary Kappelhoff of Cincinatti, but Hollywood changed your name to “Doris Day” after the song “Day after Day” became a hit.  The name Doris Day sounded so much sunnier and happier, less German (remember we were heading into WWII) than Doris Kappelhoff.     I imagine it might have been a relief for you to discard your heritage, after all your father discarded his family for another woman and left your mom to care for you and your brother at a time when divorce was a four-letter word. Then you had to quickly reinvent yourself to the public after a car accident cut short your meteoric rise as part of a dancing duo.  Set-backs, always set-backs.

But just like the song, Que Sera, Sera, and your new name, you took whatever life had to offer you day by day.   The twists and turns and complications a minor roadblock to all life had in store.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, you had these twinkly blue eyes that ignited with mischief and knowing, above a spray of freckles that started on one cheekbone, paraded across your nose and landed on the other side of your face.  In an era of glamorous leading ladies, you stood out like a country girl at a picnic.  

I have always had freckles, I can relate.

The movie and television executives didn’t much care for your freckles and would layer pancake make up on your face to try to hide them.  But somehow, some way, those freckles would make an appearance in each and every movie and television program you made, blinking brightly as if to say, “Hey America, this is me!”  ‘

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

My connection to you began when I first heard you sing, “Que Sera Sera.”   I think it was the theme song to your television show, but I might have heard it from one of your movies.  I don’t remember which, but the lyrics always resonated with me.

“When I was just a little girl, I ask my mother what will I be?”   “Will I be pretty, will I be rich, here’s what she said to me.  Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be, the futures not ours to see, Que Sera, Sera…what will be will be.”

I read that you didn’t really like the song.  You thought it a children’s song compared to the other songs you were blessed to sing in your lifetime and figured it would fade quickly if you ignored it.  But over time, the song took on a life of its own.  Representing women, men, all those seeking acceptance.  You understood the song stood for our need as human beings to be loved and wanted and appreciated.  But more than that, you understood that despite your own personal dislike of the tune, the song served as a reminder that the human narrative isn’t necessarily all our own doing.   We can all make a difference.  So, you unselfishly let your musical legacy be defined by this song.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, you had this voice that took on a lyric and drew us in. It would start soft as a whisper. Notes melodically floating through air over mind and skin and then building, carefully building until those beautiful notes would be set free to soar magnificently into the great beyond.

But it was how you learned to sing that way that impressed me the most.  At a time when segregation was common place in America, you proudly stated to all that your vocal inspiration was the great African American jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald.   You said Ella had a keen understanding of how to master not only the melody, but create clean, relatable connections to the lyric and that you would practice singing to her over and over to get the nuances of a song just right.

At the time of those comments, it would be thirty years until the Civil Rights Movement, but here you were a white girl from Ohio openly promoting a person of color as their singing inspiration.   America didn’t blink because you didn’t.   

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

In the movies Doris, you were (and are) one of the few actors, man or woman, to show that human beings are multi-dimensional and capable of shape shifting between the silly absurdities of day to day life and corresponding gut punches of chaotic drama.  You also proved that women could hold their own with a man in a script and on-screen.

Never once did I think you were miscast in any of the thirty-nine films you made.  Some I liked better than others, some I can quote every line, but you owned every scene you were in.  

Silly musical comedies that provided a welcome respite from a war weary nation; satirical movies that made fun of gender stereotypes and romance in a way that allowed us to laugh at the absurdity of the mating dance, and powerful dramas that showcased the physical and emotional abuse of women in a way that shed light on the complexities of human relationships. 

Each role you played left a footprint on celluloid that resonates today because you got that life on film wasn’t much different than real life.  Your own life. Our lives.  My life.  We watched you not so much to escape, as to be reminded that if Doris Day can handle all the silly, absurd and horrible crap of life, then so can we!

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.    

You made three iconic movies with Rock Hudson. America believed you as a couple. You even had pet names for each other, Ernie and Eunice. Years after your movie career ended, you invited Rock to be the first guest on your new television show for the Christian Broadcast Network called, “Doris Day’s Friends”. Rock was quietly suffering in silence from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and for which the public had been subjected to endless rumors as to how you could “catch AIDS”. You somehow knew your interview with Rock would be your last time together and on camera, you gave him a big hug and planted a huge kiss on him. A simple and kind gesture friend to friend. But when it became known that Rock had AIDS, the media went nuts.

“Aren’t you afraid of getting AIDS?” the reporters asked.  “Did you swap spit?”

“No, my friend is sick and what he needed from me was kindness and empathy. I gave my dear friend a hug and a kiss, end of story.”  The public response was immediate.  If America’s sweetheart said AIDS was something to fight, not to fear, then so be it.   Funding for research came pouring in, and compassion became the order of the day for victims.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, when your small dog was run over by a car, out of your sorrow you were inspired to create the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL)to reduce pain, suffering and cruelty to all animals.   When the DDAL merged in 2006 with the Humane Society of the United States it became the single biggest advocate for animal rights in the nation.

One of your first major national initiatives, that continues to this day, was to create an annual “Spay and Neuter your Pets Day” to prevent shelters filling up with unwanted animals.  You then created one of the first “pet friendly” inn’s in America in Carmel, California that has served as a role model for the integration of humans and people in recreational and entertainment spaces.

I wonder if you ever comprehended how your simple act of compassion for your own pet set a course for this country to appreciate and value all of God’s creatures?

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, how you lived your life taught me that every individual has the power to be a positive role model.  We must remember that the song each of us sings is of value, but is not something everyone appreciates.  We must cultivate that understanding by modeling empathy and love. We need not fear our different, or the different in others. It’s ok. to disagree, to fight, even to argue, but in a way that promotes dialogue, diversity of opinion and not discord.   

We must invite others to our table.

For in the end, Doris your legacy is that our journey on this planet is going to be paved with a whole lot of “Que Sera, Sera’s” and it is up to each of us as individuals what we do with it.

Thank you for your positive example of a life well lived.

PositivelyAnne

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Getting Lost in the Blessings

Snow in May. Idyllwild, CA

Have you ever spent an entire day analyzing the one thing that went wrong, instead of praising the hundreds of little things that went right?   Do you feel like positivity is always something you are constantly chasing, instead of embracing?  

If you answered, “Yes”, then let me reassure you, first and foremost, I’m right there with you and second, you are one hundred percent normal!

This pattern of negative self-absorption we are inclined to embrace seems as natural as breathing, but I am convinced that with dedicated mindfulness to think differently, it doesn’t have to be. For almost three years now, I have been training myself to get lost in the blessings and while it’s been one tough go, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

The journey to recognize I needed to do this was not an easy one and in fact, a bit humbling, because it involved deflating an ego, I didn’t even know I had.

I began to see this aspect of my personality reveal itself during the first few weeks after my cancer diagnosis in early 2016.   I’m a solution minded person.  I don’t like unsolved problems. Resolution without solution, in my world, leaves too many carrots dangling.  It didn’t take long after I started talking to cancer specialists to realize that cancer was not going to be a quick fix and no one, absolutely no one, was going to give me any guarantees.  

Well my solution-oriented mind just wouldn’t accept that.  So before work, after work and into the wee hours of the morning, I would click and scroll my way through negative LALA land (aka, the internet) to find a solution to my health issues that would prove all the experts wrong.   My world didn’t have to change.  Cancer did.  That was all there was to it, period, end of story!

I was going to be the miracle of all miracles. 

I began to feel resentful waiting around for test results.  Didn’t the labs know I had cancer?  Why were my doctors making me wait for things when I could be dying?   How inconsiderate everyone was to keep acting like everything was normal, when my world was crumbling and falling apart.

For weeks, I aggressively gave the front page of my world over to negative thinking.  My outward face to the public was a frozen mask of happiness, but inside I was truly frozen in a wasteland of negative thinking. 

That is until one day, about a week before my surgery to remove my cancer tumor, I had an encounter with a woman standing in front of me in the check-out line at the grocery store that would change my life.

This woman was hard not to notice.  She was very pale, completely bald and her cheeks were distorted like a chipmunk, the rest of her face completely round like the moon. 

She was slowly loading all of her purchases onto the grocery conveyor.  Each peach, one at a time.  Each tomato, one at a time.   The line behind me was two people long.  The look of impatience on their faces was evident.  The woman continued, one potato, two potato, three potato, four.  I’m not trying to be funny, but I literally remember that children’s game popping into my head as she methodically stacked potatoes on the conveyor.   

Was this woman a nut?   Couldn’t she see the line was getting longer?   Hurry it up!  Hurry it up!

I turned around to look behind me again and now there were at least three more people in line.   

I started to ask her if I could help her.   She wobbly loaded a jug of ice tea onto the conveyor, turned to look at me and said:

“Before cancer, I would never have understood the blessing in a peach or a tomato or a banana.   I would come to the grocery store and rush to load my cart, rush home and put it all away and I’m ashamed to admit, sometimes I would forget about the things I had bought, things I absolutely had to have in the moment, until I would find them rotting on the kitchen counter or spoiled in the refrigerator.  You know how it is? But I don’t do that anymore.  Each peach, each tomato, each banana is a blessing to me.   I am lucky I can enjoy these things.  Their different tastes and the smells (I remember she held a peach out for me to sniff), the ability to afford them and share them with my family.  Before cancer I never understood the blessings in being able to pick up a jug of ice tea.   I have bone cancer and the chemo makes me a little loopy, so I count out my fruit and veggies to make sure I have what I need and I am grateful for each thing.  I hate that it makes you and all the others in line uncomfortable.  But I decided it was time to let my ego go…the part of me that had to control everything and just accept the blessings.”

I honestly didn’t know what to say to her.  How did she know what I was feeling inside, what I needed to hear that day, in that very moment?  Was she psychic?  I remember turning and looking at the man behind me and he had tears in his eyes.  He reached over and squeezed my elbow and in almost a whisper he said, “My wife died last year of bone cancer.”  

I blurted out, “I have breast cancer.”   The cashier stood there, a young girl, and she said, “my grandma is doing chemo now.”

The woman reached over to grab my hand.   “Train yourself to look for the blessings.  It’s not easy, but maybe we were all meant to meet today so that we could bless each other.  How cool is that?!”  

It sounds so dramatic, but it really was just a conversation.   Over in a matter of a couple minutes.  But it was a couple minutes of clarity that was life changing for me.

I had to deflate my ego, the thing that was so huge it was blocking my ability to see the blessings in the every day and had been letting my cancer diagnosis control my life.    My ego that had such a tight grip on my happiness that it was pushing negativity to the forefront.   My ego that thought it knew best, knew better, knew more than the doctors and specialists and trained medical professionals who were charged with saving my life.   My ego who sought out internet sites to verify my negativity and verify that “I was right!” 

I had to deflate my ego that said I can fix all things.  I can do it alone.  I don’t need anyone.

But I do. I need the blessings.

My wonderful husband who understands my rollercoaster of emotions better than anyone, and still loves me going on thirty-five years together.   

My two sons and my daughter who get my sense of humor, my quirky love of collecting chicken art and my drive to create, motivate and be the best I can be.  They make me proud to be their mama every day of my life.

My parents, brother, brother and sisters in-law, aunts and uncles and cousins, niece and nephew whose love and support have touched my heart and who have made me hungry and curious to know more about my ancestry.

My diverse group of friends who challenge me to think, to ponder, to wonder, to laugh and have fun.

My animals who have shown me the face of unconditional love.

My Pastors and church family who have inspired me to move my faith from something I practice to something I live.    

My medical team who believe in me, even when I do not believe in myself.

And especially the thousands of strangers I have met along the way, in person and in cyber-space, especially in the last three years, who’s kind words, wisdom, laughter and strength have sustained me in my darkest hours.  Some have become dear friends and I am so very grateful for how they continue to bless my life.

Although I still have my negative days and still carry around a few pounds I’d like to get rid of, both literally and emotionally, the weight of negativity on my shoulders has been lightened. 

The more I train myself to look for the blessings, my burden is less and less each day.   I am happier, grateful and much more positive.   

I hope you try it.   What have you got to lose, except a few pounds of negativity?!

PositivelyAnne

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