Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Pea Picklin’ Positive Diary, or: How Positive Thinking Put Me in a Funk (But don’t worry! I’m OK, are you OK?)

Monday & Tuesday
Feeling fine, going about work and play and evenings on the porch. This soft air has moved in, I’ll call it August air, and it is delightful. The way it feels on the skin. Warm, slightly moist, everything slow, a slight breeze stirs it around, wraps it around, just sit. Listen to the buzz and chirp and chirra-chirra of insects hovering around the flowers, crawling through the deep grass, and the hummingbirds are coming by are whizzing by and Josie and Elliott rest.

Day One ...
1. I was nominated to share three positive things a day for seven days on Facebook.
2. This nomination stirred a few thoughts.
3. Eventually, we arrived here.

I should talk about that word “nomination,” but I won’t.

On the porch again this evening and Elliott slips into the garden, stretches out beneath the slim, green, arching leaves of the day lilies. Josie wanders off across the yard, circles back, discovers Elliott in the garden, loses interest, sits on a step, sniffs the air. That soft, August air.

Tom shows up to mow the lawn. All hell breaks loose. Josie bounds, jumps, leaps, barks. Elliott freaks, hides in that dark place far back under the back stoop.

Day Two of what I am now calling FB Positivity. I have been assured it’s just for fun. But, honestly, I don’t get it. What’s the point? There are so many questions. I have explored some of them, thought about them, written down ideas and thoughts, and the most obvious question is: Why am I doing this? Later in the day I will google “research on positive thinking” (links below), but for now I post:
1. Woke up.
2. Stretched.
3. Josie licked my face.
4. We went outside. The grass is freshly mowed and covered with dew. I noticed Josie kicking his feet out to the side as he danced across the lawn.
5. It is 42 degrees.
6. Made Irish Breakfast tea.
7. Played with Resurrection Hedgie.*
8. Broke the rules.
* Meanwhile, Josie pulled all the stuffing out of
Hedgie the Squeaky Hedgehog so I had to restuff Hedgie and
sew him up. Needle + Thread = Resurrection.

Mid-afternoon, Josie and I walk to the river. Tom mowed the path to the river so it is now a boulevard. In the river I walk to the old island. Josie follows along on shore and eventually skips through shallow water to reach the quasi island. The water is colder, clearer, swifter than it was two weeks or so ago, when we last did this, when I carried Josie upriver. This time, it seems clear he prefers to do it his way.

I sit on a log under which water flows over a bed of multi-colored pebbles. Just in front of me the bed is banked by another log, creating a step down. The water there is about eight inches deep. Then another log and a drop into the deep pool, maybe six or eight feet down. Water flows by, swirls a bit, releases negative ions, or so I suppose because you can’t see negative ions, but I had just been reading about them, and this spot here seems like their milieu. It is pleasant, but I feel increasingly troubled.

Later, I prepare my FB Positivity post for the next day, Day Three.
So two days ago someone tagged me into this FB Positivity game and by late yesterday it had me in a funk because I found myself judging everything I was doing or thinking, or thinking of doing. Is this positive? Hmmm. Would that be negative? Hmmm. And since the norm seems to be to use the words “positive” and “negative” as if they were synonyms for “good” and “bad,” well, there you go. To spend all day consciously judging one’s self really kind of sucks. Or, maybe I should be judging others? So

1. I drove to the corner store and got a bottle of wine and an ice cream bar. Back home I poured myself a glass of wine with two ice cubes and sat down to write about how thinking about positive thinking was messing me up.
2. Josie went with me.
3. I realized how I really prefer to be non-judgmental about most things, if I can, and it’s hard work, being non-judgmental. And now I’d just gone and let this thing on Facebook play foolish games with me. I’d spent the day looking at most everything through this positive/negative lens. Nothing was allowed to just be. Everything was judged. And it was a horrible, horrible drag.
4. But, you know what? I ain’t gonna stop playing this game. Here are three positive things:
1. Breakfast.
2. Lunch.
3. Dinner.
4. Ice cream! (Yep, that’s the bonus.)
But that’s not what I posted. I posted something similar, but not that. And now I’m thinking of the eye doctor I had as a kid. I’ve got terrible eyesight. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was eight. And our family eye doctor was German. As you sat in the chair peering at the eye chart through that gargantuan black metal thing with the two little portholes and all the lenses, she would change a lens with a little click-click and ask, “Is this better or vorse?” Even now I can feel the slight stress of having to decide: Is this better or vorse?

Before I started judging every little thing I was doing and thinking, and then stopped, realizing what a dangerous folly it was, I came up with a bunch of “positive things” lists, just in case I went dry somewhere along the way to seven days. The very first list that came to mind was
1. Ten years ago I moved to the U.P.
2. In a few weeks I will be moving (temporarily) to California.
3. I remain relatively the same.
And there was a list that ended with the word “dictionary” and a picture.

Making up lists of positive things was incredibly easy. Here’s my favorite:
1. Me. (Most of the time.)
2. You. (Maybe.)
3. The rest of ’em? Bah. Who cares?
But thinking about it all, and thinking about how words and concepts are so often treated as all-important but then bandied about as if they were meaningless, and considering that the dictionary instructs one to see the word “sure” for synonyms of “positive,” well, I’m not at all sure I’m going to keep playing this Positivity game.

A hot day at the farmers market. Back home I plop in the river and Josie chases dragonflies. I enjoy dangling from my favorite branch, floating in the water, but I bemoan my lack of skill when it comes to confrontation. I really must learn when not to engage and when and how to say “Back off.”

Elliott scratches his head.

Now, another incredibly warm, soft, August evening on the porch, not giving a damn if it’s good or bad, right or wrong, positive or negative, just relieved that it is, whatever it is, and watching as whatever it is slowly vanishes, turns into something else, something like night, a night with a warm August moon the color of vanilla ice cream, nearly a full scoop, rising in a pinkish southern sky.

The first four articles that popped up in the Google search, in order of appearance:

1. Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress (Mayo Clinic)
2. The Science of Positive Thinking: How Positive Thoughts Build Your Skills, Boost Your Health, and Improve Your Work (James Clear, Huffington Post)
3. The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking (Adam Alter, The New Yorker)
4. Can Positive Thinking Be Negative? (Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz, Scientific American)

I must acknowledge Amber Edmondson, whose “positivity” posts I was enjoying until I got wrapped up in my own. Also, from her I got the word “positivity.” Also, Cindy Baker. Even though by the end of the week she was just pissing me off, I know she meant well, and she did put me on this path, and who knows what else I might have written about this week. Just some drivel about my life, I suppose.