Thank You for All of It

Viewing the world through a lens of gratitude.

I know I said I’d only be posting blogs on even numbered days from now on, but I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion and felt the need to write it out. Consider this a bonus post.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because you can make of it what you want. It can be a gathering of loved ones from far and near, or it can be a quiet day at home by yourself or with your favorite person. It can be a fine spread of turkey and all the fixings, or it can be Chinese food and a good book.

Some people still buy into the story of the benevolent Pilgrims and the welcoming Indians, and they choose to commemorate that. This fable continues to harm indigenous people the world over, even as it makes us feel vindicated for all we did to get where we are. I’m willing to concede that this country became ours by theft and brutality and the fact that our guns shot further than their arrows, and our diseases did even more harm than our guns.

Because of those hard truths, Thanksgiving, for me, is not about a fictional past, it’s about being present. Sitting in that place of gratitude, and realizing how very lucky I am to be here and now. As I breathe in and out, I am experiencing pure joy for the gift that is my life. On this day in particular, I feel that gratitude with every fiber of my being.

I want to be mindful of this gratitude all year long. I genuinely do believe that attitude is everything, and I am forever working on mine. As I learn to set healthier boundaries in my life, those boundaries have created a space for me to focus on my gratitude, and that allows me to write about it.

Please know these things: there are so many opportunities to reframe the way you look at the world. There are so many occasions that can lead you to that joyful place within you. It has always been there. You just have to nurture it and let it come out to play.

If you are looking for ways to view the world through a lens of gratitude, I hope you’ll read my book, because that’s what it’s about. But even if you don’t, dear reader, I want you to know that the mere fact that you are reading my words right here, right now, is a precious gift to me. I am grateful for the very fact of your existence. Thank you for being the miracle that you are.

Making the Most of Florida

Doing my best to reign in my attitude.

Recently Dear Husband and I took a trip that we are calling “Autumn Back East 2021”. Our goal was to visit friends and family, and I wanted to show DH what autumn leaves really look like in a region that isn’t primarily covered in evergreen trees, and introduce him to our nation’s capital.

We flew to Atlanta, picked up a rental car, then drove to Alabama, North Florida, Georgia, Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and then drove to Washington DC by way of Virginia. Then we flew back home.

It was an amazing trip which lasted 15 days, and since I’m now only blogging every other day, if I gave you a day to day account like I have on trips past, it would take a month, and you’d be heartily sick of the subject before we even left peach country. So I’ve decided to focus on highlights, which I’ll do my best to keep in order. You can find the first post in the series here and a link to the next post in the series, when it becomes available, below.

I had spent 40 years trying to get away from Florida, with its backward politics, its unrelenting heat, and its cockroaches and snakes and fire ants. And yet, here I was, crossing the state line once again. To say I was triggered is putting it mildly. I was fighting a panic attack.

For most of my time in this particular state, I had been lonely, scared, depressed, and desperately poor. I always felt like I didn’t fit in. I was beat up a lot in school, unsupported at home, and underpaid at work. I didn’t want to feel that way again. Not ever. Even worse, I didn’t want Dear Husband to see the person I was back then. It would scare anyone but the most loyal and devoted human on earth, which, fortunately, he is.

Forgive the awful picture. I was freaking out.

We were here to visit friends and family, so I was doing my best to reign in my attitude and look at the positive things. We had only been back in the South for a few days, and already I had noticed a few of those positives that I had forgotten all about.

There were squirrels. Oh, how I miss those. I’ve only seen about 5 in Washington in the past 7 years. I was also looking forward to seeing lizards (actually, anoles, but nobody calls them that). Some of the roads are sparkly. There’s different and familiar signage. The trees are different. The birdsong is different. The stores are familiar and don’t feel foreign. The parking spaces are actually wide enough to park your car in! There seems to be more space in general. The streets are wider. The highways have wider medians and shoulders. There’s more space between businesses.

There’s kudzu everywhere, and most Americans don’t realize that it’s edible, if not sprayed with pesticides. (Here’s how.) That’s a shame, because no one in the South would ever go hungry again. On the other hand, for some reason Florida DOT seems to delight in using Oleanders in their landscaping. I get it: low maintenance, pretty flowers. But they’re also toxic to the point where you shouldn’t even breathe the air if you burn them, let alone touch the sap or ingest any part of them. And please don’t let your dogs near them, either.

Kudzu

I’d forgotten how many billboards there are. You can’t get away from the ugly things. And there are more junk food chain restaurants than you’d see in the Seattle area in a million years. There’s plenty of opportunity to eat unhealthy food in Florida. Oops. There I go, being negative again.

One of the first things we did was buy bananas. I wanted DH to understand why I find the ones we get in Washington State such a crashing disappointment. They must pick them when they’re dark green to travel to Washington, and the result is that they barely have any flavor at all. When DH ate his first Southern banana, he exclaimed that it tasted like banana candy. We ate a lot of bananas on this trip.

North Florida was bringing back a lot of memories. We passed Blackwater River State Park, where I spent a week in summer camp the one and only time I got to go. We passed Eglin Air Force Base, where my oldest sister was once stationed, and where I saw my first burning cross after Cubans were housed here during the Mariel Boatlift. Scary.

Eglin is also where I worked on the Youth Conservation Corps, which I wrote about here. I couldn’t remember where any of my work sites were, and that’s probably for the best. I was really proud of the work I did, and seeing it after 40 years of wear and tear would most likely be heartbreaking.

The Gulf of Mexico is beautiful. I’d forgotten how nice it is to gaze on a body of water and know it will be warm enough to swim in. I wish we had spent more time doing so. Our hotel was in Destin, and a friend of mine says Destin is the place God goes when God goes to the beach. But we didn’t see her anywhere.

We spent our first evening in Florida having dinner with my dear friend Vicky. It was so good to see her after 9 years! I wanted to introduce DH to grouper cheeks, but sadly that restaurant that serves them had gotten taken out by a hurricane. In fact, a lot had changed on this coast. Nature is never kind to Florida. Instead, we ate at Schooners in Panama City Beach. It was wide open, and we had an excellent view of the sunset over the water. We didn’t warn DH until the last possible moment about the cannon they fire off every night at sunset. We did want him to have the opportunity to brace himself and cover his ears, though.

We visited Seaside, Florida, where The Truman Show was filmed. That’s something I had always been meaning to do but never quite did. Like Celebration, Florida (which I wrote about here), it is a community based on the New Urbanism philosophy. Extremely planned, to the point of feeling a bit Stepford Wife-y. Multi-million dollar homes, immaculate shops with cute names like the Blue Giraffe, the Badass Coffee Company, The Surfing Deer, The Perfect Pig, and Pizza by the Sea. Everywhere you looked there were over-privileged teenagers wandering around with nothing to do. The real world will probably hit these kids hard, if they ever see it. Now there’s another overpriced town adjacent to Seaside called Watercolor. More of the same. Cool name, though.

The next day we visited the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. Think SeaWorld, only smaller. And with an albino alligator! We saw a sea lion show and a dolphin show. It was actually quite crowded, and few people were wearing masks. But it was the ultimate Florida tourism experience.

Then we did something that I’d really been looking forward to for months. We went parasailing! I had done this twice before, once in this very location, and once in Acapulco, so I knew what to expect. It was DH’s first time. We got towed out to the boat on one of those banana boat things. The water was choppy, so I had to cling onto it for dear life with my messed up wrists. That was the only part that scared me.

I highly recommend parasailing. Yes, you’re high up, but you don’t feel like you are. It’s like sitting on a swing. A swing that’s tied to a parachute and 800 feet of line, that’s being towed behind a motor boat, but yeah, a swing. It’s quite peaceful. And of course the views were beautiful. It was wonderful to enjoy the sunshine knowing that we were avoiding two weeks of crappy winter weather in the Pacific Northwest. As he was reeling us in, the captain playfully dunked us in the water as we were nearing the boat. That’s a traditional part of the experience. Refreshing!

We also visited some of the kitschy tourist shops full of plastic sharks and seashells from China. They kind of made me nostalgic, too, oddly enough. Except for the Trump bumper stickers for sale. I could have done without seeing those.

On this Florida leg of our journey, we also got to visit DH’s sisters, who both live in the area with their husbands. It was a pleasure to break bread with them and see their lovely homes. We spent the bulk of our time outside, because we didn’t want to expose anyone to any virus we might have picked up on the airplane.

From there, we went to see one of my oldest, dearest friends, Steve, along with his wife and grandson. I had arranged to meet them at my very favorite place in Florida, Ichetucknee Springs State Park. I wanted to show DH the most beautiful place in the state. That, and I wanted to avoid Jacksonville. I had lived there for 30 years, and for 30 years I struggled to leave. It would be entirely too triggering to go there. Not now. Not yet.

About two hours into our journey, our last hotel called to say that DH had left his laptop behind. Fortunately, his sister was able to pick it up and ship it ahead of us to a FedEx store in Asheville, North Carolina, where we’d be several days later. Crisis averted, but it gives me the opportunity to hit you with a Public Service Announcement: ALWAYS check all the nooks and crannies of your hotel room, even those you think no reasonable person would store stuff in, before checking out!

DH got to meet Steve for the first time as we rafted down the river, past turtles and cranes and cypress knees. The water is not as turquoise blue as it once was, but it did not disappoint. It was a quiet, lazy float. Some of my fondest Florida memories are from this place. Since Ichetucknee is far from the tourist trail, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. (That’s not the case in summer, though, trust me.) Toward the end of our float we punctured our raft on a cypress knee, and I spent the rest of the time trying to hold the hole closed as we slowly sank into the cool spring water. But that, too, is part of the Ichetucknee experience. It kind of made me smile.

Since this bit of paradise is in the middle of nowhere, there weren’t any hotels, so we rented cabins in a campground. Had I known that Steve’s wife is deathly afraid of bugs, I would have made another plan. Not that the cabins were infested, but we were, after all, in the woods. It kind of felt like I was the architect of her torture, and I still feel bad about that. But it was good to have some heart to heart talks with Steve, who gave DH some very high praise, so that made me feel good. His wife liked him, too, and I think that surprised her. Like she herself said, though, she’s seen some of the guys I used to date.

It was sweet, watching DH play with Steve’s 3-year-old grandson. But I’m still glad we don’t have children of our own. It wore me out just watching the little cutie. I don’t know how parents do it. Truly, I don’t.

One of the cool things about my Pokemon Go app is that it shows me nearby points of interest that might otherwise be overlooked. That’s how we came across the very old and neglected Ichetucknee Memorial Cemetery that is right next to the campground, lost in the underbrush. DH and I wandered there, looking at the tragic headstones from the 1800’s. One guy’s tombstone, below, says he was murdered, but I can’t seem to find anything online that describes the circumstances. And there were a lot of babies there who didn’t make it to their first birthday. It was kind of sad, tucking into our cozy cabin for the night, knowing that there were dozens of dead babies out there in the woods. To live in this swampy area of North Florida back then, without air conditioning or medical care, meant you were prone to endless numbers of diseases and viruses. Thank God for vaccinations, sanitation, and civilization.

We slept relatively well, despite the dead babies and the murdered guy and the squeaky, plastic-covered mattresses. We all went to the Waffle House for breakfast the next morning, and then parted ways. I hate saying goodbye to people I care about when I have no idea when I’ll see them again. It chokes me up just thinking about it.

And then, just like that, we left Florida. So simple. Has it always been that simple to leave Florida? No.

And I survived. Well, except for the chigger bites. Weeks later, I’m still trying to heal from them. I definitely do not miss chiggers. That’s what I get for wandering around untended graveyards.

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Toxic Positivity

“This dude is about 45 seconds away from forming a cult.”

Recently I overheard a friend listening to some sort of motivational speaker on Zoom. It gave me the creeps. The man actually said that Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” was his personal hero. Ugh.

This speaker was a living, breathing business pep talk. Hearing his over-the-top enthusiasm and encouragement and his assurance that if you think positively, you’ll definitely get what you’re after, made me think, “This dude is about 45 seconds away from forming a cult.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think Covey’s 7 habits have their place, but he is no hero. I think enthusiasm and motivation are wonderful, as long as they don’t turn into a form of criticism or a way to not listen to what others have to say. I’ve even been known to say “An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along” on this blog, and my first book is about gratitude. But these things should be part of the overall balance.

If you’re an unrelenting Pollyanna who sees sunshine and lollipops wherever you go, then you are, frankly, delusional. There are negative aspects of life. These negative things have a need to be acknowledged, too. They, too, shouldn’t be the only things you focus on, but there’s nothing wrong with having mixed emotions, or feeling sad or angry sometimes. It’s perfectly natural.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. I was really happy to see this article in Bloomberg entitled, “Trying to Stay Optimistic Is Doing More Harm Than Good.” It makes several interesting points.

If you know someone who is living on the financial razor’s edge due to this pandemic and is telling you his or her story, for example, then perhaps you shouldn’t respond with a sentence that starts with, “Well, at least…” That sentence shows you are not hearing that person, and you’re not willing to hear them. You’re not letting them vent their anxiety. You’re not acknowledging something that is hugely impacting their lives. (And frankly, you’re being rude.)

If you are a toxically optimistic boss, you pretty much make it impossible for your team to speak up and point out issues that need fixing. If you insist that all your zoom meetings start off with some positive bit of news in the midst of a pandemic with a heaping side order of political and financial unrest, you are not acknowledging entirely legitimate sides of your staff. You’re making them cut themselves in half to feel like they’re team players.

Sometimes things suck. Sometimes people are discouraged and depressed. That’s okay as long as it isn’t the only thing they ever are. Well rounded, mature individuals know that the emotional pendulum tends to swing back and forth. Personally, I take comfort in that. If I don’t like how I’m feeling at the moment, I know from repeated experience that it will eventually change. This, too, shall pass.

Further, if you make people feel as though there’s something wrong with them if they’re not positive 100 percent of the time, then they will seek relief in all the wrong places. They may fall into depression or abuse substances. They may become victims of Ponzi schemes in an effort to gain instant success. They may fall victim to Prosperity Theology, thinking that if their attempts to think positively won’t help, then maybe if they just donate more to religion, the money will come back to them tenfold. That’s magical thinking at its worst. At a minimum, they’ll think they’re not good enough.

People who insist you always have to have a gung-ho, can-do spirit are setting you up for failure. You really are allowed to have a whole host of emotions. Most of those emotions will be relatively fleeting. If not, it’s time to seek help.

According to the article mentioned above, people feel more sad, not less, when they’re expected to hide those emotions. Yes, do your best to look at things in a positive light. Be grateful for the good in your life. Count those blessings as often as you like. But know that it’s okay to get frustrated or annoyed or stressed out or upset sometimes. It wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t have those feelings every once in a while.

Give your cloudy side a great big hug, knowing it has a place within you, too. The full spectrum of your emotions should be allowed to come out and play as needed. If not, they’ll manifest themselves one way or another. They don’t go away. They insist on being heard.

Namaste.

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Gratitude, Not Optimism

To hell with optimism.

I happen to love someone who is the most positive person I have ever met. It’s a delight to be around most of the time, but it’s also a hard yardstick to be measured by. Anyone standing next to this guy will automatically look like Eeyore by comparison.

Fortunately, I’m secure in the knowledge that I’m not, in fact, Eeyore, because I used to live with an Eeyore. An Eeyore can suck the life out of any room he enters. An Eeyore is convinced that the world is out to get him.

My Eeyore refused to smile in photographs because he thinks it’s unnatural. Because of that, everyone assumes he is constantly miserable. I think he wears this like some kind a suit of armor. Then he accessorizes this suit of armor with every negative experience he has ever had in his life. He glues those things to his exterior like some twisted decorator crab. All this stuff weighs him down. This makes people avoid him, which, in turn, makes him more miserable.

An Eeyore likes to insult himself out loud, and is under the mistaken impression that others will find this funny or charming. In fact, it makes people extremely uncomfortable. It also makes them feel sorry for him. It’s very hard to like someone whom you feel sorry for, at least for long stretches of time. It’s exhausting.

When I tried to address this negativity in my Eeyore, he would get very defensive, and accuse me of trying to force him to put a plastic smile on his face. I could never understand that. I was trying to say that your attitude, the lens through which you view the world, impacts your emotions. Attitude is everything.

But now I realize he extrapolated a false conclusion from that. He believed that I was trying to force him toward optimism, which is nearly impossible to achieve if you don’t come by it naturally (speaking from personal experience).

Actually, that was not my intention at all. Optimism is about expectations for the future. I don’t think you can predict the future, and therefore optimism kind of feels like magical thinking to me. I hope for the best, yes, but no one knows what will happen down the road. As we’ve learned from all the false election fraud claims, wishing doesn’t make it so.

Instead of optimism, what I was trying to get across, rather ham-handedly, it seems, is the notion of gratitude. Gratitude focuses on the present. It’s about appreciating the good you currently have in life, rather than focusing on the negative aspects. This is more realistic, but it also seems a bit magical in the best sense of the word, because when you give more energy to the good that is around you now, somehow more of your future tends to become positive as a result.

I wish I had tried harder to get this point across to my Eeyore. But in retrospect I realize that he was too heavily invested in his own unhappiness to hear me. I’m sure he’s still unhappy to this day, and that makes me sad to contemplate.

To hell with optimism, frankly. But gratitude is an extremely valuable commodity. It might take some practice, but it’s a state of mind that is available to all of us. I may not always be Little Mary Sunshine, but I am grateful for so many things that it has been known to bring tears of joy to my eyes. That’s a gift I keep being given.

Gratitude, like negativity, tends to perpetuate itself. And gratitude allows you to smile in photographs. Which is another thing to be grateful for. See how that works?

This may be great camouflage, but in the end, you’re having
to carry a bunch of crap everywhere you go.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

þetta reddast

Everything will turn out okay.

It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to live in Iceland. Harsh winter weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, severe storms, avalanches, isolation from the rest of the world, and days with only 4 hours of sunlight are just a few of the challenges that Icelanders have faced. According to this article, the country’s founders arrived in open boats in the 9th century, fleeing Norwegian slavery. With no maps or navigational devices, they braved the harsh North Atlantic, and their descendants have thrived.

After enduring so much, it’s really impressive that their unofficial motto is þetta reddast, (pronounced thet-ta red-ust), which means, basically, everything will turn out okay.

Are they foolish, cock-eyed optimists? Not exactly. They just have confidence that they can fix things, combined with a capitulation to the fact that so much is out of their control. It’s a comforting phrase that helps them get through the harshest conditions. Perhaps we all need to adopt this attitude during these trying times.

Once we realized that our trip to Italy had to be cancelled, we considered Iceland. That was in the early days. But at the time of this writing, Iceland had reported 890 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. I’m sure by the time you read this, those numbers will have increased. May their positive attitude see them through.

thetta-reddast-filosofia-de-vida-dos-islandeses

My motto is “An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along.” Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

You Just Can’t Satisfy Some People

“All I saw was a lake, mountains, and some trees.”

Over the years I’ve blogged numerous times about my love of the National Parks here in the United States. And what’s not to love? Every American owns 84 million acres of land that gets maintained by the government for our enjoyment and education.

I’ve visited, and subsequently blogged about:

I look forward to every visit.

So when my husband sent me this link entitled “I Illustrated National Parks In America Based On Their Worst Review And I Hope They Will Make You Laugh (16 Pics)” I did have to laugh. It’s an artist who illustrated posters for each of the national parks with a hilarious twist. The posters are based on one star reviews that the parks have received.

Yes, there will always be people who can be put into the most gorgeous places on earth and still find something to complain about. I suggest you check out the link to really get a feel for these beautiful and comical posters, but here are some of the one star reviews that she used.

  • “There are bugs and they will bite you on your face.”

  • “Trees block the view and there are too many gray rocks.”

  • “No cell service and terrible wifi.”

  • “All I saw was a lake, mountains, and some trees.”

  • “Nothing specific to do.”

  • “Scenery is distant and impersonal.”

All I can say to the above is… wow. I’m so glad I am not these people! I can’t imagine being presented with such natural beauty and still managing to find fault with it. I can’t imagine being so full of negativity that I couldn’t see the closest things to paradise that we have on earth for the priceless thing that they are. You just can’t satisfy some people.

Subpar-Parks-8x1011-5e5ae820dde2b__880

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

“What’s Your Problem?”

Healthy relationships thrive on communication.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. I’ve learned a great deal about communication from my healthy relationship with my husband. It makes me realize how messed up all my past relationships have been.

Years ago, pre-husband, when I had something that (I thought) was interesting to share, I’d say, “Hey Bob!” (Name changed because, to be honest, I really don’t care.)

He’d respond, “What’s your problem?”

That would take the wind out of my sails. Here, I wanted to tell him this cool thing I’d heard on NPR. I wanted to share a moment. A laugh. A smile. Instead of responding with enthusiasm, he’d come at me with his typical negativity.

For Bob, everything was a problem. Being alive was a problem. You’ve never met a sadder sack in your entire life. It made people uncomfortable. They wanted to avoid him. I didn’t realize how much his horrible attitude weighed me down until I got out from under it.

Who wants to be in a relationship where everything you say is interpreted as some sort of problem? I certainly didn’t. And even more insidious is the fact that clearly there was a lot under the surface that he was failing to say. He’d much rather be a martyr than assertively communicate and work out issues. No positive growth to be had there. Instead, I got the passive aggressive, “What’s your problem?”

Oh, I tried to talk to him about it on multiple occasions. He didn’t seem to think that any changes were needed, so I was left to realize that the problem was, in fact, his. I hope he hasn’t carried that on to future relationships. I would wish rather more for him than that.

But his Facebook page indicates that he’s still unhappy with life. It’s an endless litany of complaints, negativity, bitter humor, deep cynicism, and depression. Every once in a while there will be something pleasant in there, but if you count each post as positive or negative, the negative stuff outweighs those things ten to one, and half the time the positive things were posted to his page by someone else. It makes me sad just to look at it. It also makes me relieved that I’m no longer breathing that toxic air.

Now I’m married to someone who is interested in what I have to say. He also happens to have a lot of interesting things to say himself. I look forward to talking to him. It isn’t a chore for either of us. I save up stuff to tell him at that happy moment when I finally get home, and we communicate positively throughout the day. And now I realize that’s how it should be. How lucky am I?

Yes, life will throw its fair share of problems at you. There’s no denying that. But that’s not the lens through which I choose to view the world. It’s not my automatic assumption. I also happen to think that negativity is learned, and can be unlearned, but some people would rather wallow. I have no idea why. Clearly wallowing hasn’t made them happy or they wouldn’t feel the need to wallow.

I have this theory that people like this think that their attitude is something that they are helpless victims of, rather than it being a conscious choice. I would hate to feel that helpless. Yes, I struggle with depression, and there are days when I feel like crying, but for the most part, I spin my world rather than letting it spin me.

Your existence should not be a problem to overcome. There is so much to see and do and learn and be inspired by! There’s so much beauty and wonder! Life is such a gift and such an opportunity. It shouldn’t be squandered.

It’s delightful to be in a relationship that isn’t covered with a wet wool blanket of despair. My husband can put a positive spin on just about anything. If he sees dog poop in the road, he’ll say, “Thank goodness the dog wasn’t run over!”

I love that about him. So, so much. Life is good.

communication-pattern

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It’s All about the Spin

There are several angles from which to view the world.

I know several extremely negative people. Naturally, they’re all miserable. But the funny thing is, I don’t think they even realize how negative they are. I can practically see the storm clouds over their heads that follow them everywhere they go, but to them, that’s just the typical weather. It makes me feel sorry for them. It also makes me avoid them.

I used to know one guy who would always say that he refused to paint a plastic smile on his face. He liked to wear all black. There’s no photograph of him on earth in which he’s smiling. That’s the legacy he will leave behind: the message that he was never, ever happy. It’s much more important to him to make sure that everyone knows he’s miserable. It doesn’t occur to him that that’s why people sidestep his invitations. Who wants to be around that?

Sad sacks seem to be under the impression that if people feel sorry for them, those people will befriend them. In reality, the opposite happens, and that feeds into their negative outlook, which then feeds into their becoming social pariahs, and so on, and so on. An extremely vicious cycle. More like a downward spiral of one’s own making. Friendships born of pity never last. And why on earth would anyone want that type of relationship in the first place?

I know one woman who can read a positive news article (which is hard to come by, even I have to admit) and she’ll say, “Yes, but…” and throw a huge bucket of ice water all over your warm fuzzy, making you feel all wet and soggy instead. I swear, she could sandblast the cute right off a kitten video.

Why is that necessary? It’s not as if we aren’t pelted with bad news most of the time as it is. She’s not performing a public service. She isn’t changing the situation. She’s basically saying, “Come on down and wallow in this mire of depression with me.”

There are certain people in this world who make me tense up the moment their fingers hit the keyboard. I mean, it’s one thing if you’re an activist pushing for change, or an educator attempting to enlighten. At least you’re trying for a positive outcome. But if you’re just gratuitously pooping in everyone’s punchbowl, that’s just selfish.

From personal experience, I know that the world can be a very harsh place. I know that there are plenty of justifications for feeling gloomy. But when it becomes a lifestyle, when your only purpose in life is to slather your crappy attitude over the world like peanut butter on Wonder Bread, you are wasting the precious gift of being alive.

I genuinely believe that negativity isn’t a character trait. It’s an extremely bad habit that can be broken. It just takes practice. It’s a matter of identifying a thought as negative, and then trying to reframe it. If you see dog poop in the road, instead of focusing on how disgusting it is, or how irresponsible the dog’s owner is, instead try thinking, “Thank goodness the dog wasn’t hit by a car!”

There are several angles from which to view the world. It’s all about the spin.

Looking at the storm

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Extra Gratitude for Thanksgiving

The way you frame things matters.

One of the recurring themes in this blog is gratitude. I write about this topic so often because I genuinely believe that attitude is everything. I think that even in our darkest hours, there are things to appreciate if you look hard enough. Even bitter lessons are worthy of gratitude because they help you grow and survive.

There is so much in this world that we take for granted. Sometimes it’s worth stopping and taking a breath and appreciating the sun on your face and the wind in the trees. It’s such a gift to be alive and able to think and reason and exercise free will and create beauty and give and receive love.

I think the unhappiest people are those who focus on the negative in their lives. They may be unhappy because of their negative focus, or negative experiences may have made them unhappy, but either way, until that cycle is broken, nothing will change. It makes me sad to see people trapped in that way.

I’m not saying we should all wander around like Stepford Wives. And yes, bad things happen to us all. It’s just that the way you frame things matters. It takes practice. Some days will be a lot harder than others. But there’s good out there, if you only look.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and it’s fast approaching. I wish we didn’t need a holiday to remember to give thanks. I think gratitude should be part of our daily lives.

I feel so strongly about this topic that I published an anthology of my essays on gratitude. It’s called A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude. I’m really proud of it. I think it would make a great Thanksgiving gift, or, for that matter, a gift any time of the year for a loved one who could use a little positivity. And can’t we all use some of that? Think about it.

As always, I’m grateful that you take the time to read my blog. As a little bonus, below is one of the short and to the point essays that you can find in the book. This one was originally posted on this blog on November 29, 2015.

Gratitude

Ever since I moved to Seattle, I’ve sort of felt as if my heart has come to reside outside of my rib cage. Vulnerable. Exposed. Sensitive. It’s kind of a crazy feeling. I need to develop a thicker skin.

I’ve just been through so much in the past couple years. I’ve given up so much, sacrificed so much. I’ve taken some insane risks, some of which have paid off, and some of which have blown up in my face.

But on a positive note, this has caused me to appreciate all the good in life so much more deeply. When I think of my friends and loved ones, near and far and old and new, I often well up with tears of joy. A good sunrise can take my breath away. I can be walking down the street and suddenly it hits me how lucky I am to be where I am, and I have to stop dead in my tracks for a second and gather myself.

In essence, I’ve become a sentimental old fool. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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News Blackout

Aliens could have invaded the planet and I wouldn’t have known.

The entire two weeks of my Alaskan vacation, I did not access the news. Not once. No newspapers, no radio, no streaming media. Nothing. Aliens could have invaded the planet and I wouldn’t have known. Cheeto-head had to fend for himself. The human moral compass no doubt continued to spin erratically in search of true North. I was not subjected to the vertigo that that can cause.

It was pure bliss.

Oh, I was already aware of the stress that news causes me. I knew that not a day goes by without my feeling frustrated, helpless, and outraged because of the things going on in the world. I knew I needed a break.

But as they say, a fish doesn’t know the quality of the water it is in until it jumps out of it. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t expect to feel my blood pressure drop. I felt physically better. More rested. My attitude improved. People didn’t seem to suck nearly as much as they normally do. (Well, most of them, anyway.) It was cleansing.

I’m not saying that we should bury our heads in the sand as a general rule. Our leaders must be held accountable. We must bear witness. We have to strive for change or else society will sink to its lowest common denominator.

But every now and then, it’s nice to be reminded that the earth is going to continue to revolve around the sun with or without my help. It’s good to take time to reassess and revitalize. It’s important to live to fight another day.

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An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5