Positively Positive

“Some people like to live with a bit of negativity.  I don’t rain on YOUR bubble!”

I’d never really thought my “Pollyanna” outlook could drive some people as crazy as a negative outlook drives me.  Until those words came were directed to me.  As much as I have a visceral reaction to people’s negativity, it just never occurred to me that my sunshine & rainbows outlook could be sending some people into a fit of fury.

My Grandmother always called me her Eternal Optimist.  Part of it is my inherent nature.  Part of it has been cultivated purposely.  I believe that if my bad experiences in life make me a bit more cautious, then I’ve learned from them.  But if they make me negative, then I’ve let them get the best of me.  I’ve let them win.

I’m not sure why I struggle with negativity so much, but it makes me physically uncomfortable.  I squirm in my seat.  It’s like nails on a chalkboard.  Maybe I’m scared that if I delve in to that pattern of thought, I’ll never dig my way out of it.  Or maybe I’m afraid of what thoughts might rear their ugly head.

Several years ago, I had the carpet pulled out from under me by someone I thought I knew.  Thought I could trust.  I was hellbent on making sure the experience didn’t make me jaded…make me lose my positive outlook on life.  In doing so, I just pushed it all under the proverbial carpet.  So much so that I couldn’t even bring myself to say the person’s name – for years.  It wasn’t until after I confronted that fear…finally acknowledged the hurt and anger laying there under that beautifully laid carpet…and allowed myself to simmer in some of that negativity, that I was able to move forward.  And really let it go.  For real.  So perhaps there’s a lesson there.  That perhaps I should acknowledge the negativity, examine it, then turn it around.  Rather than just refusing to give it a voice.  Perhaps in refusing to give it a voice I’m letting it linger in a different way.

I still maintain that there’s something to be said for being careful what we’re projecting in to our world.  A friend of mine, who rarely complains about things, once spoke to me about some of his work troubles.  When I asked him later about it to see how he was doing, he didn’t remember.  When I reminded him what he’d said, his response was “geez…I can’t believe I actually projected that out there!”  And that’s exactly what I try not to do.  I try not to project it – to give it life.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have negative thoughts.  Any of my close friends will definitely tell you otherwise – and I think it’s healthy to bring those things to life a bit, rather than not talking about them.  But there’s a difference between having negative thoughts and talking them through…and looking at life through a negative lens.  Just focusing on the negative bits.

Maybe it makes me naive or have the appearance of naivety.  I may not be innocent, but I have an innocent heart.  I don’t believe I’m naive, but I do choose to see the good in people – and situations.  There are always going to be things we don’t like – people we don’t like – people who don’t like us.  There are always going to be situations where we get hurt or someone lies to us or lets us down.  Isn’t it better though to choose to see the positive, even if it’s miniscule, than to focus on the negative?

I went to hear Dan Millman speak once, and he told everyone to not take notes because what you needed to take away, you would remember.  One of the things that I took away from his talk, that has stayed with me over the years, is that you cannot control your thoughts. You can only control what you do with those thoughts.

So when we have negative thoughts, we can either give them life – or we can acknowledge them but just let them be.  Which is what I consciously try to do.

I’d like to think I’m a bit more aware now of my Pollyanna tendencies – and over the years they’ve become tempered a bit in the sense that I’m still an optimist but I have some realism thrown in there for good measure.  Now when I’m faced with someone coming at life through the negativity lane, I try to stop and think about what is it that’s causing them to focus on that side of things.  Perhaps they’re not happy with themselves, perhaps they’re jealous of someone or something, or perhaps they just don’t see the whole picture.  It’s still like nails on a chalkboard for me, but I try to shut them down a bit more gently and try to understand what’s behind the words or attitude.

It doesn’t always make it easier, but it does let me just let them be them and not try to rain on their bubble.

 

 

10 Things About Life I Learned From My Garden

Moving from Manhattan to Sydney, I decided that what I needed was some space.  A little house…a little courtyard…a little…garden?  Never mind the fact that I’m known to have an extraordinarily brown thumb.  I forget to water…I over-water.  I’m either overly attentive, or completely neglectful.  I’m a Scorpio…middle ground is sometimes hard!

I wanted a place to relax…to find some peace.   And I mean, really…how hard could it be?!

Through some trial & tribulation, along with a few tutoring sessions from willing gardeners in the neighborhood; my courtyard went from a concrete block; to a haven of peaceful tranquility.  Zen!  My baby plants took over whole walls…my basil grew to massive proportions…my dwarf lemon tree produced it’s first lemon…and I learned a lot along the way.  Not just about gardening, but about life.

Here are 10 things my garden taught me about life, in no particular order:

  1.  Lots of water and sunlight are an incredibly potent combination.
  2. Sometimes, if you just let things go…and let life just happen…you’ll come back to something unexpected and amazing.
  3. There are times when you have to accept the fact that something is simply not going to work, no matter how hard you try.  And that’s okay – because something else will…and it will flourish.
  4. You can ignore things for awhile…and it’s healthy to do so.  But you still need to pay attention so you know when to step in if needed.
  5. There are times when you need to cut back – a lot – in order to set things up in a new direction and grow even more.
  6. Patience – it’s worth it in the end!
  7. Not everything responds the same way to the same things.  Everything has it’s own uniqueness.
  8. Even if something looks hopeless..don’t give up too soon.  It might just be waiting things out a season.
  9. Enjoy beauty while it’s there – it’s fleeting.  But don’t despair when it goes away, as it will come back.  Trust in that…
  10. If you don’t take care and trim and prune from time to time…things will get out of control.  You have to cull the old to make way for the new.

I’m back to not having my own place – yet.  But when I do, you’d better believe there will be a garden…even if it’s a tiny one in the middle of a city.

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil  Purple Peace  Balmain Courtyard 1 Balmain Courtyard 2 Balmain Courtyard 3 Balmain Courtyard 9Balmain Courtyard 4     Balmain Courtyard 8

“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story…”

I read those words and they resonated with me so profoundly.

“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” (Brené Brown)

How intensely powerful is that one statement?

Just over seven months ago, I packed up everything I thought I might need for the next three months and sat in my little house in the suburbs of Sydney…waiting for the movers to come and do the rest.  My plan: go to the UK for Christmas, then travel for a couple months before heading back to New York. I never got there…

Let’s go back one year and just over seven months, shall we?

Christmas 2013, England.  Technically, I was on vacation…but my iPhone, an extension of my hand.  Sneaking upstairs for conference calls…working before my niece woke up or after she went to sleep.  Trying to maximise the minimal time I had with family – yet still keep on top of what had become an incredibly overwhelming career.  When I left to go back to Australia after that trip, it was the first time that I didn’t know when I would see my family next.  Although we’re spread around the world, we are a close family and manage to see each other often.  But my work was now more focused on Australia and I no longer had a way of tying a work trip to a way of seeing friends & family.  I cried on the bus when I left with my Mum…waving at my sister and my niece out the window.  I cried at the airport in Spain when I left my Mum after a quick New Years visit.

Normally when I came home to my little house in Sydney after being away, it felt like “home”. I would walk in the door…be hit by the familiar smell of the hardwood floors and old wood of the house…walk down the hall, into my cozy living room and feel like I was “home”.  I’d walk into my courtyard and take a look at how well my plants did without me…and then relax.  This time though…was different.  This time…I walked in…and I felt empty.  Something didn’t “feel” right.  It smelled the same…looked just how I left it…my little garden was thriving…but I felt empty.

I did a lot of thinking that week and I came to the conclusion that I had two choices.  I could either make the decision that I’d only be able to see my family once a year, maybe every other year, and I would need to finally start putting down some real roots in Australia and make a decision to be fully invested in the life I’d fallen into…..or I could leave.

I got a text message later that week from my best friend.  Her partner had been killed in a freak accident and naturally, she was distraught.  My strong, stoic friend who has been through more than her share of battles, couldn’t form a sentence.  And I have never felt so far away from everyone and everything I hold dear.  I got on a flight and went back home to Vancouver to be with her.  While I was there, I found out that my Dad was in the hospital.  After going to see him and talk to the doctors, I had to tell him he only had a few months to live.  That was the hardest, most horrible sentence to have to utter.  To have to tell him that what he thought was the flu, was actually aggressive, terminal cancer.

I realised then that the decision was a no-brainer.  My life wasn’t in Australia; it was wherever I could be close to my family.  Work did their best to help me…telling me to take whatever time I needed.  They let me work from Vancouver and Sydney…going back and forth every couple weeks for the next few months while I took care of Dad.

Once I had made the final decision that I was really leaving, although I’d given a years’ notice, it was like a light at the end of the tunnel.  I felt more comfortable knowing I’d be able to see my family and friends and be where my support network was.

Over that last year in Australia, work was a roller coaster of amazing highs and horrifying lows and the stress of everything was getting to me.  I originally planned to take three weeks off between leaving Oz and starting a new role in New York.  Thankfully, a couple very wise friends bluntly told me I was being stupid and should take a month off and travel.

The more I researched trips, the more I realised I had a lot I wanted to see.  I couldn’t possibly do it all in one month!  I needed two or three…  This, coming from a workaholic who’s never taken more than two weeks off at any given time.  But the travel ‘bug’ was coming back…and besides which, work would always be there.  ‘Between jobs’ was the only way I would get a real break.

So I packed up 3 months worth of clothes…and waited for the movers.  They came….they packed in a whirlwind…and I was there with my empty house.  I spent a few more weeks in Australia wrapping up work and seeing friends…then I got on the plane bound for London.  Walking into my sisters house and having a sleepy 4 year old wrap herself around me and welcome me home…I knew I’d made the right decision.

After Christmas 2014, I went traveling.  I traipsed across Vietnam with my Mum…and I went to Italy “for two weeks”….which turned into a month and a half.  At some point in that trip, I was sitting in a church on the side of the ocean, in a very tiny town.  It was raining that day…and the medieval church was beautiful with the wind swirling around it.  I don’t know what happened really, but suddenly I started to cry and I couldn’t stop.  I sat in that little church and wept, as people came in and out.  I realised that day that I had somehow lost myself.  And that there were parts of me I didn’t particularly like, let alone love.  I had to find a way to own my story….and love myself at the same time.

Easier said than done…but that day something changed in me.  I walked out of that church and my life started to unfold before me.  I’ve had to face a lot of things I’d hidden under the carpets of my mind…and find a way to love them.  To own them.  To acknowledge that they make me who I am.

It’s been just over seven months since I packed up my suitcases for that three month trip I was going on.  I still haven’t gone back to New York…I still haven’t gone back to work as I used to know it…but I have most definitely gone “home”.  And I love myself through the process of owning my own story more than I ever have in my life.