Can You Learn to Be Positive during a Pandemic?

Some people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and I am definitely an old[er]…person. I’ve always thought of myself as a realist, in that I see the beauty and good in the world, but I don’t deny the sadness, sorrow, injustice and pain that’s around me, either. Life is suffering, after all, says the Buddha.

Top that off with a healthy dose of empathy and sensitivity to the moods of others around me, and I end up not being the biggest little ray of sunshine in Central Texas. I have even railed about “toxic positivity” and “non-toxic positivity” right here in this blog, not that long ago.

For me, there’s room for each.

However, in the last few months, life has been conspiring to teach me new ways of walking through life, thanks to some people who just sorta showed up, or I just started paying closer attention to them. And it’s not just reading all those Buddhist articles that help you see that living in the moment is key.

You see, I used to avoid the relentlessly optimistic if at all possible. Always seeing the bright side of things, ugh. “Oh, no, I have the flu.” “That’s great! You can catch up on your reading!” I also got tired of the relentlessly negative, too. I know people who can suck the life out of any conversation by pointing out the negative consequences of anything: “It’s such a pretty day!” “Yeah, but you’ll get skin cancer if you stand in the sun.”

Depending on how you look at life, this may well be true.

I probably have mentioned before that I loathe being told to smile when I am, at the moment, not actually happy. Sure, I’ve read that forcing yourself to smile can make you happier, but sometimes there’s good reason to be unhappy, at least temporarily. Okay, fine.

Look at that happy face!

I’ve been watching the positive people in my life more closely, though. Here’s one you can watch yourself: go follow Emma G on Facebook. That is one positive woman. I happen to know that she’s faced some challenges in the year I’ve been reading her posts, but she never fails to find something good, some way a challenge has helped her grow, or a way something she’s learned can help others. I look forward to that smiling face every day, as she shares how she’s working on her musical career while minimizing danger from COVID-19.

Here, wine is helping us stay positive.

Living with Kathleen the past few months has also been a lesson at looking on the positive side of things. I have never seen anyone post so many cheerful memes in my entire life. Sometimes I’m like, geez, you have insomnia and are sick to your stomach, but you’re still posting “everything’s GREAT” all over Facebook. I see, though, that she’s trying to draw in the good stuff by sharing it (guessing it’s the power of attraction or something). Whatever it is, even when it irritates me a little, I can’t HELP but be reminded to look at what’s good in my own life, which is leading me toward a more positive outlook. She’s another person who’s had some real challenges to deal with in the past year but is finding ways to see the good. She’s never afraid to go talk to someone about our business and get some sort of positive outcome, too. Also, she’s one amazing idea generator. Now she wants me to have a donkey ranch.

This was taken just after Pam gave me a positive pep talk.

Another beacon of positivity is my friend Pam B. from the Breakfast Club here in Cameron. She’s another person who just radiates happiness and works hard to cultivate good in the world. Every time I talk to her, she says something about wanting to “elevate the good” or find joy or something to that effect. She is amazing at bringing people together for the betterment of this small but quite vital community (and is really fun to watch in community theater). Seeing how she works so hard to bring happiness to her friends, neighbors, and families is a real inspiration.

Here’s Eva with the sun behind her, making her even sunnier.

A final source of positive vibes is my coworker, Eva. I’ve known her since I started working at Planview, so I’ve had plenty of time to soak in her attitude. Especially in the past few years, she has provided a great example of how to take feedback that might upset someone or get them down, and turn it into an opportunity to learn more, find a new way to present information, or create a better product. She’s confident in the skills she has, and doesn’t take it personally when I mess with her grammar, because she knows perfectly well that the actual ideas are great. But it’s not just about work, but all aspects of her life that she brings along a sunny attitude and a lot of gratitude. It’s rubbing off, slowly but surely.

Here’s one of Kathleen’s memes.

People like this have been in my life before, some for many years, but I must be in a position to be more open to their input and to learning from them (thanks to those Enneagram books, I guess). I’ve been told that people come into your life for a reason, which is hard for someone like me, who has mostly been convinced that life is random. But, maybe there’s something to it, and something to the idea that if you surround yourself with positive people, you’ll be more positive, even if there’s a pandemic going on.

Another thoughtful meme that I have taken to heart. Some people may wish I hadn’t.

Do you know a relentlessly positive person? If you do, THANK them, and see if you can let a bit of that attitude rub off on you. Things in the world won’t change, but you may be better able to cope with it. I am, thanks to Emma, Kathleen, Pam, and Eva (and all you others I didn’t mention).

Okay, let’s all be SUPER HAPPY! Be a ray of sunshine like Emma, Kathleen, Pam, and Eva!

Happy Salad, Happy Imbolc

The picture of health, for my age.

I’m a happy gal today. I went to the doctor for my checkup and was declared in “excellent health for a woman your age.” Thanks, I think. Some more lab tests got done and I have to get a mammogram tomorrow (making me wonder if she found something).

But, yay, I was so happy I got the happy salad for lunch!

It was happy, though I put on too much dressing.

I also couldn’t help but be cheered up by the weather today. In this part of Texas, February 1 is when you start to see the sweet-smelling flowers blooming. When I stepped out of the work building for my daily walk, I was hit by the smell of these little power-houses of smell.

Then, just around the corner I smelled grape Kool-Aid! The Texas mountain laurels have started to bloom!

While the knockout roses were pretty, they didn’t smell, but that’s okay, the sweet alyssum and phlox made up for it.

They remind me of me, perhaps a bit too colorful.

No wonder Imbolc (celebrated on February 1 in the Celtic festivals) is my favorite holiday. It symbolizes light arising from the darkness, and here that means flowers! I’ll give some to my Brighid statue today (it’s St. Bridget’s Day on February 1, too). (Note that Anita’s favorite holiday is Groundhog Day, so we have two days in a row to celebrate.)

Anyway, remember to take care of yourself, turn off the news, and look around you. There’s always something out that that will lift your spirits.

Great Little Things in a Little Texas Town

Happy Lunar New Year!

Like I was talking about yesterday, I’m trying to take notice of little things that bring joy. I think it’s important, even when you know perfectly well that the bigger things require attention. I just don’t want the scary stuff consuming me, because that would paralyze me and I’d get nothing done.

So, here are a few things that have sparked joy in me over the last day or so.

Lee’s future office. Ahh.

Of course the Pope Residence renovation is bringing joy! We have master masons working to shore up the brick on the interior, and the rest of the walls have been revealed. Want more pictures? I put some up on the Hearts Homes and Hands blog.

There are a couple of small town signs that I enjoyed yesterday, too. One was put out by the local bank. It’s so smart of them! And still, it has small-town charm. I edited it to say “office” and deleted “drive-thru” and hung it on our office door.

Keep our town healthy!

This one has to be my favorite. Kathleen and I walked to the Bistro to get our Friday wine, and I glanced over at the Italian restaurant. I thought, hmm, someone must be hanging out there and annoying people. Then I looked on the bench. I had to take THAT picture!

Bad kitty. Can’t you read?

It’s Ricky, the town cat, owned communally by all the downtown merchants. According to my friend Jean, he’s not only loitering, but soliciting pats! There’s a happy Cameron kind of thing, right?

Other things that have kept me perky are just things. We got new sticky notes and magnetic clips to give to clients at Hearts Homes and Hands. I think they came out great, which is always a relief when you pay money for things.

I didn’t make any typos!
There’s a hand that’s been working on stuff.

And the last thing is I got my nails done and honored Imbolc, my favorite time of the Celtic calendar. I put Brighid’s sacred flame on them. That will make me smile for the next couple of weeks. It wasn’t easy for Tina to do this, so I appreciate the effort, even if I’m the only one who really knows what it’s about.

And what else?

What the heck! From @stephenrx7 via Twenty20

We are going to go get CHICKENS for the new coop today! And food for the old chickens, who get to stay right where they are. As you can guess, the ladies in my family are pretty darned excited.

Let’s hope they get along with the dogs. There will be some training involved!

Why MUST I Blind People with My Brightness?

Today I’m a vision in yellow and pink, with sparkly shoes, a shiny necklace and earrings and my crazy sunglasses. At least I washed my hair, so it’s not mega-coral/pink.

Since I hit the big 6-0 with a splat in 2018, I’ve gotten brighter and shinier. My hair has been flaming red, orange, pink, and all colors in between. I have quite a collection of sparkly shoes. I have shiny nails, shiny jewelry, bling-y tops, and some pretty interesting glasses. In some photos, I stick out like a heavily bruised sore thumb.

The response, at least to my face, has been surprisingly positive. Random people at work tell me I always cheer them up, or that I’m their outfit coordination role model. I get shouts of, “Love Your Hair” from people I’d never have suspected would love my hair, based on their appearance.

Why, Suna, Why?

I have always enjoyed choosing clothing and putting together outfits, which conflicts mightily with my urge to wear a t-shirt and jeans every day (I just coordinate accessories, I guess). I’ve found that looking at my happy clothing cheers me up when I’m in long meetings, dwelling on how ill all my friends seem to be, or listening to the news.

No doubt my love of fire, hearth and home and my attraction to the Celtic goddes/saint Brigid has something to do with my love of shiny.

If I look deep in my heart, I’m sure a part of it is enjoying the positive attention, because, let’s face it, short, chubby, mousy women with graying hair and a tendency toward sarcasm tend to not get a lot of it. But, I’m inevitably surprised by attention, because really, the brightness is to help ME keep positive, look on the bright side of life, and share my internal peace and joy with the outside world.

My bright yet windowless office.

My Austin home is also really colorful, and it makes me happy to be there. My book club members and friends who see my photos often comment on how the bright colors reflect me and Anita and make the Bobcat Lair house feel so homey. All the color in the ranch house is in my office, but I make up for it at my office. I like to be around things that are bright. They remind me of how much inner light I feel shining within.

Really. The last two years I have felt so much more at peace with myself, at home in my body, and secure in my place in life, that I just want to show it. Sure, I get upset occasionally by world events or situations beyond my control, but I’m doing a lot better at focusing on things I CAN control, surrounding myself with people who DO care about me, and letting other things sort themselves out. Not trying to save the world, help others fix themselves (unless requested), or sending all my energy OUT has helped me find a lot of inner peace.

It shines through.

What Helps You Shine?

You don’t have to dress like Elton John on a worldwide tour to project a blinding shininess to the world. Just taking the time to notice what makes you happy, and perhaps sharing it with the world is a good start.

For example, today I woke up to more sparkles in the world, as the sun shone on heavily dewed fields. As I was driving out of my driveway, my breath was taken away by the color of the bare river willow trees along the arroyo. Everything looked shining and orange (like one of my outfits, ha). I didn’t get a picture of it, but I found this one that really evokes how I felt:

Peace among the orange willows, by @loreke76 via Twenty20.

Share how you shine, how you would like to shine, and what makes you happy. Give me a comment here or on Facebook, share on Twitter, Instagram, or email. Just walk around and be your shiny self. THAT is something we can all do to make the world better, inside and out.

Love, Peace, Happiness. The Big Letdown

Many times, I write about how the passage of time and the learning opportunities I’ve taken advantage of have led me to be more content. And it’s true. I’m handling life’s ups and downs fairly well right now. That doesn’t mean I don’t notice what’s wrong in the world, though.

Frosty sunrise.

All day today, I’ve been reading about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the things he said and did. (His actual birthday was last week, but the US loves Monday holidays.) I also listened to a lovely song imploring us to listen to what John Lennon said, give peace a chance and all that. Today, I’m reminded that King said:

“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”

 Speech to the Negro American Labor Council, 1961.

I came of age in the 1970s. It wasn’t a perfect time, but to me it seemed like things were going in the right direction. Women were working toward equal rights in all ways. Black people could marry white people. Gay friends were emerging hesitantly from their closets. People talked so much about peace, love, and equality.

Now that I’m over here, looking back from over 60 years wandering our poor beleaguered planet, I think I was quite wrong. By surrounding myself with my “tribe” of people like me, I was blissfully ignorant of much of US society, and certainly VERY naive about how businesses and capitalism worked.

I know there are still people out there like me, working to improve the environment, feed the hungry, bring peace and understanding among our fellow humans, and all that. I see that in my volunteer work every day. But, I no longer have confidence that we have the numbers or the strength to accomplish much. (I’ll still keep doing my part.)

Really, stop reading if rants bore you like they do me.

Here’s Why (Or Stop Reading Now)

The heart of my sadness is this: I once believed people were basically good and kind, just sometimes they were confused or misled. I now see too many people taking pleasure out of harming others, spurred on by their own “tribes.”

Continue reading “Love, Peace, Happiness. The Big Letdown”

Book Report: Can We, Should We, Be “Happier Now?”

They started a book club at work, where everyone is to read some self help book. Even though I had to miss the first meeting, I have been dutifully reading Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones), by Nataly Kogan. Kogan is a Russian immigrant who founded the “Happier” app, which I used for a little while then got nothing out of, because no one else I knew was using it and I probably didn’t quite “get it” at the time. Still, I figured this lady would know something about happiness, since it was her job.

It’s certainly a cheerful-looking book!

I was dubious about this book, to start out with. After all, I’ve read plenty of self help books about learning to love myself as I am, embrace my imperfections, and be kind to myself. I have said more than once that Brené Brown saved my life and that I should re-read The Gifts of Imperfection annually. Her books are how I became the much-less neurotic Suna who writes these blogs.

I told myself that, since I have already turned around my negative self-talk (I scare myself sometimes when I find my inner voice saying stuff like, “I feel great!” or “I’m happy today.”), I really don’t need another book on this topic. Of course, I conveniently forgot that I vowed to read books on this kind of thing yearly, to remind myself of how I want to be in the world.

Continue reading “Book Report: Can We, Should We, Be “Happier Now?””

Horses Heal Hearts

I feel so good right now. Sara and I just went on a long ride on Apache and Spice. Due to our schedules, we hadn’t been out for a while.

Look what we did! We put the bowl in the trough! Hee haw!

I was a little worried that Apache would be hard to ride after so long, but he seemed as glad to go explore as I was. We had a blast.

It’s so pretty.

The light and foliage were spectacular, and because we went way to the edge of the property, we got to see some longhorns next door.

Shining ranch. We love it here.
Scenic longhorns.

Spice started getting antsy when we saw some deer in the distance, and had trouble settling down. Fiona was too busy eating to notice the deer at first, so when they ran across the field, she ran all over.

There is a deer in the picture.

Going home was a challenge for Sara, but she handled Spice really well. She went round and round in circles a lot.

I was here!

I enjoyed myself so much. I wished the ride would never end. I feel so calm and serene, like I have no problems. I feel healed. And I think the horse is as happy as me.

Our newest calf, Grazzi. Sort of like thanks.