Cultivate Positivity

How do you cultivate positivity in your life?

I sometimes feel like I have an eternally pessimistic attitude. I like to think I am being positive, but deep down I think I fail at that. I feel like I am constantly on the defence – like something bad is always going to happen to me. Or like people’s actions against me are always “bad” when really they are just neutral and I see them as negative. Or maybe I’m not looking for the good in most situations.

I know that the lack of exercise in my life lately may be somewhat to blame for my more pessimistic attitude. But there has to be more! What do those eternally positive people do or think that makes them so upbeat and ambitious?  I really wish I knew what was needed to stay on the upslope all the time. I don’t like appearing negative all the time. 

I need to change. Any suggestions?

Reflections for a New Year

 Many of these types of inspirational pictures and messages have been floating around on my Facebook feed over the past few days. Given that I’ve been in a rather introspective mindset and contemplating changes in my life, they have really been hitting a chord for me. I know that I’ve been rather absent from the blogosphere lately and I think that has actually been a bad thing. This is a great place for me to come and let out my thoughts, fears, questions, and frustrations. While I’ve been very busy with work and home, I feel like the winter blues have been making me lazy and unmotivated to blog. The truth is,  though, I really miss it and I think my mental health is suffering because of it.  I really need o work harder on making blogging a priority – not because I want to promote my blog or anything, but because I know it contributes to my mental sanity. 

On a similar note, I have been reflecting on some goals for the new year. Last year on the old blog, I set 11 goals for myself over the year. I met most of them by half way through the year, and a few of them fell to the wayside. In July, right before I closed down the old blog and started anew, I revised and reset some goals but with the blogging fiasco, I never kept up with them. I really want to start some new goals for 2016 here on this blog, much like I did last year. I have been reflecting on  some reasonable goals given that I’m struggling with decisions surrounding my career, I am 4.5 months pregnant, and I feel like I am starting from “zero” most days.  I’m hoping that by the end of this weekend I will have delineated some reasonable goals and will have posted them here for accountability. 

In the meanime, in will make a shot-term “pseudo goal” to get back into the blogging world.   
    
 

I Almost Forgot

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
~Johnathan Safran Foer

I almost forgot that this day, November 27, used to be meaningful to me.  On this day, I guess 6 years ago now, I met the person who became one of my closest friends for a short time.  Last year I was sort of “celebrating” this milestone.  But up until I re-read the post from this day last year, I ha forgotten the importance of this date.

I admired her so much.  She embodied everything I thought I wanted to have in a role model and a friend.  She embodied everything I thought I wanted to be.  We became good friends for a short while, but then she pulled away.  I was hurt so badly.  Sometimes I still miss her, but most times I wish I could just stop thinking about her.  I catch myself wondering if there is still a “what if?” But then I bring myself back to reality.

I let myself be happy for a brief time by taking risks, living authentically, and being vulnerable.  Unfortunately, this happiness didn’t last and the loss of that friendship caused me a great amount of sadness.  The question then becomes, what that brief moment of happiness worth the sadness?  It is really hard to know for sure.

Some Things Never Change

“Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, ‘where have I gone wrong?’  Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.”
~Charles M. Schultz

*this was supposed to be automatically published yesterday for NanoPoblano, but the new publisher doesn’t seem to like pre-scheduling my posts. Please accept my late post*

Yet another accurate post from Last year on The Old Blog:

I know what you mean, Charlie. I go through this on most nights. Despite realizing that it will take more than one night to recount all my mistakes, I just stay awake for most of the night thinking about everything. I must eventually get bored because I finally do fall asleep.
The worst nights are those when I’m on call; I get woken up multiple times and then have to try to fall asleep again multiple times. Each time it’s time to fall asleep again, I pick right back up where I left off when I fell asleep the last time. It’s usually quite a torturous night…
It’s always hard to know what are “mistakes” in life and what are just “the natural progression” of life events. Sometimes I can’t. Decide what’s worse between the two. If it’s just the way things were supposed to go, then it’s disheartening to know that there is no control and there is nothing you can do to change things. If something was a mistake, however, you feel bad about making a mistake but at least there is the possibility that you can make up for it…. Maybe.
Oh Charlie Brown, I wish I had the answers. If I did, I would be getting much more sleep at night. I would also feel like I was learning something about my life. Everything would be worth it, because I would become a better person, eventually. Hopefully it would also mean is make less mistakes in life.

My Backstory

“We are all special cases.”
~Albert Camus

From The Old Blog, November 21, 2014

We all have a story that makes us who we are.  I would argue that these stories are not always fun to tell or easy to accept.  It is these stories, however, that make us “special.”  My story is far from great, but I know it could have been worse.  I am the grown up child of a messy divorce, and this simple fact has made the “special case” that I am today:

My parents were newly divorced and were too busy hating each other and making each other miserable to really realize what they were doing to their children.  They provided the necessities and we never wanted for anything physical – we were clothed and fed, we went to school and we did well.  Emotionally, they gave us nothing.  I never felt special or like I mattered to my parents.  My accomplishments always seemed to fall on deaf ears and land in front of blind eyes.  I was a 12 year old girl with nothing to motivate me and no one to encourage me.
~From The Old Blog

Some days I go back to being that 12 year old girl, and I get angry at myself every time I do it.  I am embarrassed that this so heavily defines who I am and how I interact with people.  I fear that I will never be able to escape from that 12 year old me.  And, that right there is the problem: I should not want to escape from her.  Rather, I should want to open up my arms to her and give her that which she never had.  I should be the one to support her, motivate her, cheer her along, giver her advice, and be her best friend.  That is exactly what she has spent the last 20 years trying to find.  Now I can be that for her, I just need to believe it.

We all have stories that make us special cases but many of us are too afraid to go back and read those stories.  Those stories are what make up who we are and we need to understand them to really understand ourselves.  Going back to the beginning can also tell us how far we’ve come and, hopefully, allow us to realize how much we can help ourselves.

I an not a special case because I am the grown up child of divorced parents.  I am a special case because of what I have become as a result:
I am sensitive, kind, and loving.
I work hard, seek perfection, and achieve my goals.
I put others before myself and passionately give everything I can.
I am a loving mom, a sincere wife, and a good friend.

I am all of those things, even if I don’t always believe it… even if other people don’t always believe it.

Biggest Change Yet

“Life is just one damn thing after another.”
~Elbert Hubbard

Wow.  That’s all I have to say, really.

Last year’s post was probably the most depressing one I have come across so far in November.  I was so sad and I was lamenting over how my friendship was beginning to fall apart.  I commented on how literal this quote felt at the time.

Ironically, this quote feels comical to me today… The way it was intended to be, I think.  Life is really just one damned thing after another.  And, it’s kind of funny, really.  Maybe it’s not always funny when you’re in the midst of the crap (like I was at this time last year), but it does’t get kind of humorous after a while, I think.  and, maybe that’s what keeps us going… that funny thought that “something else” just happened when we were least expecting it.  I don’t know if that makes any sense.

Life would be pretty boring if everything that happened was predictable and expected.  At least I think it would be…

Maybe that’s what I tell myself to make me feel better about my crazy, crazy life…

Shakespearean Comedy

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”
~Charlie Chaplin

From The Old Blog, November 19, 2014

Can we define “Comedy” and “Tragedy” here?  Because based on what I remember from my Shakespeare class, a tragedy means everyone dies and a comedy means that everyone falls in love and gets married…  I don’t know how they convert.  Oh wait, except usually in those comedies there is some huge mix-up or screw up, or miscommunication that eventually gets sorted out.  Maybe that’s it…

Regardless of the definitions and whether or not you read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at some point in your life, I think this quotation offers some hope that in the end, it will all work out one way or another.  I’d like to think that in 10 or 20 years (I will most definitely need that much time) I’ll look back on this time and laugh at how “silly” I was for making such a big deal out of everything that’s happening.  Maybe not.  Or maybe I’ll just need to add more wine to life and then it will become a comedy… or maybe a tragic comedy…?  Either way, I’m pretty sure I’m in Act III, and maybe even Act III.II of some unknown number of sub-acts.

I’m happy to say that I have emerged from the worst part of this Shakespearean Comedy that I call my life.  As I’ve seen in this little month-long exercise of going back and re-reading, re-posting, and responding to my posts from last November, I am much better off now than I was a year ago.  I feel like I can start to see the end of this chapter of my life (likely known as the medical education chapter) coming to a happy, or at least amicable, ending.  I still have a long way to go, so I’ll assume I still at the end of act III, or maybe just beginning act IV, but at least things are going in the right direction.

Looking at the Stars

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
~Oscar Wilde

From The Old Blog, November 18, 2015:

This quotation makes me think of the scene in “Forrest Gump” where Forrest asks Bubba to lean up against him so they could support each other while they slept: “you lean against me and I’ll lean right back up against you and that way we don’t have to sleep with our heads in the mud.” After a few of these nights of sleeping upright against each other, the rain suddenly stopped, the sky cleared, and the stars came out… And Forrest thought of Jenny.
I couldn’t find a great image of that scene, but I found this small collage of pictures from the torrential rain during movie’s rendition of the Vietnam War. One day it just started raining and it never ever stopped. There was sideways rain, and downwards rain, and rain that even seemed to come from below. But no matter how much it rained, it did finally stop and since his head wasn’t stuck in the mud, Forrest was able to see the stars.

Last year I wrote about how I was stuck in the gutter – not necessarily looking into it, but stuck in it.  As a result, I was not seeing, or even looking for, the stars.  This year I am happy to say that I am not in the gutter.  I don’t even feel like my feet are dragging in the gutter.  I may not always be looking at the stars, but at least I am closer to them this year than I was last year.

On additional difference from last year, as well, is that I focussed much of this post on telling my friend that I admired her for always being the one looking at the stars.  Knowing what I know now, I don’t know if I would say that is always true.  I’m not sure exactly what I mean by saying that; perhaps I just don’t necessarily think that this old friend was always doing the right things or making the right choices.  That could just be my hurt conscious talking after she decided to delete me from her life, but I think it’s more than that.  I think I used to admire her and set her on a pedestal that was unrealistic.  After having time to reflect on everything that has happened and what her role was in my life, I realize that I had many ideas about her that were unrealistic.  Anyhow, this is again, a digression from the point.

The most important fact here is that I have spent much more time in the past year out of the gutter and looking at the stars.

Singing While You Work

“He started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done,
and he did it”

~Edgar A. Guest

I have to say, I’m surprised that this is a quotation that made the cut in this project last year.  It seems less “inspiring” than most of the others.  Perhaps my interpretation of the quote is just another difference between what I was feeling last year and what I’m feeling now.

I am still on the bottom end of getting through this “beast” known as residency.  However, I am a year closer to being finished than I was before!  Some days it still feels like this task ahead of me is an insurmountable challege, even when I know it can be accomplished if I just put my mind to it.  So, that must be what I’m doing – putting my head dow, singing a song, and getting the job done.  It’s not as easy as I’d like it to be, but the most important thing is that it’s getting done.

The sentiment in this quotation, I guess, is that you need to take your time, stay relaxed and finish one small step at a time.  Eventually, with this approach, you will get to the place you never thought possible. Here’s to hoping that in another year I can say I’ve gotten even more of the task completed (thought maybe not a full year since I’ll be taking a maternity leave), and this will be looking even brighter!

Mindfulness In The Rain

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining, is to let it rain.”

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I love the story I told in this post from last year.  For that reason, I decided to again share the entire, unedited post.  This past year I have spent a significant amount of time “letting it rain.”  Perhaps not with the same thrill and intensity that I describe below, but I have allowed myself to be there in the rain.  I have felt the wetness soak into my hair and my clothes.  I have wrapped my arms around myself and tried to calm the shivers.  I let the beauty, often lost in the storm, come through: the sweet smell of the shattered and broken atmosphere, the sun attempting to shine through the clouds where they are thin, the edges of the rainbow as it starts to form and take shape…  I am learning to be present with the moment, especially when it is stressful and anxiety provoking, and this has made me realize that my experience of those storms will pass faster that they otherwise would if I tried to prevent them from soaking me.  My exercises in mindfulness, I know, have made a difference and re-reading this post made me realize that I need to get back into practicing my mindfulness on a more regular basis.

I may not be at that final endpoint of “finding what I had lost” as I describe in the post below.  However, I’ve come to realize that the endpoint may just be different.  I will never be able to experience I storm like I did when I was 13 years old, but I can experience them in a different way than I used to and that makes them so much more tolerable.

From The Old Blog, November 7, 2014:

When I was a kid, I loved the rain.  I remember a particularly gloomy day when I was in grade 7 or 8.  You could tell from the look of the clouds in the sky that it was going to rain at some point that day.  During class (maybe it was Language Arts, or Social Studies) we could hear the thunder off in the distance.  An electricity was starting to build, both in the air and in the classroom.  I was always drawn in by the energy of a storm – and it seems that my classmates were as well.  We gathered around the windows as the thunder became louder.  Bursts of lightening began to fill the sky and we started counting the mississippis between the light and the sound.

The quality of the air changed as the storm moved closer: It was chillier, but not cold, and it had that smell that only ever comes with a thunder storm (is it true that the smell is actually a result of lightening splitting atoms of ozone?).  The excitement intensified, and even the teacher didn’t seem to mind that we weren’t working anymore.

And then the rain came.

It pelted hard against the window panes and flooded the uneven tarmac of the school yard next to where our portable classroom sat.  I was high on the frenzy that was mounting within me and I had an insatiable urge to run outside and feel the rain against my skin.  We asked the teacher, who didn’t seem to care anymore, if some of us could go out in the rain.  He dared us.  And we did.

I ran outside into the storm with nothing to protect me.  The rain was thick and heavy, cool and unforgiving.  It hit hard on my skin, but I liked it.  It didn’t take a minute before my clothing was soaked and my hair was pasted down on my face.  Still, I looked up into the sky and spread out my arms.  There were no more mississippis left and the lightening and thunder came together.  For a moment it felt like the earth was shaking below me.  In that moment I loved the rain more than I loved anything else: I was wild, I was refreshed, I was cleansed, and I was at peace.  All of this, amidst the chaos of the storm.

Now when it rains, I still feel that little electrical surge of excitement, but I would never run out into the street to take it all in.  I don’t want to get soaking wet – I don’t want my hair to get frizzy. There is usually so much going on that it would seem odd – if not, inappropriate – to just stop everything and frivolously frolic in a rain storm.  And, what if I have no choice but to go out in the rain? Where is my umbrella, or my rain coat, or my rain boots?  Why, as adults, do we try so hard to avoid the rain?

The storms are going to come; there is no way to avoid them.  We expend so much energy and effort on staying in control. We are satisfied if we can prevent the rain from ruining our plans.  But what if we just stop for a moment and feel that electricity again – experience it like we did when we were children?  It seems as though we lost something along the way into adulthood and instead of finding the beauty in the storm, all we feel is the mess.

The rain will stop eventually.  The clouds will clear, the sun will shine, and our wet hair and clothing will dry.  So why not enjoy the rain? Rather than fight it, we should experience it’s fullness and feel it’s power.  We should emerge from the storm refreshed and transformed, not exhausted and defeated.

There was a reason I used to love the rain: it is something that I must re-discover.  When I can freely let the rain come down on me again, I will know that I have found what I have lost.