Small, But Wonderful Things: Reframing Positivity

On the day I’m publishing this blog post, we have officially entered the mercury retrograde of 2019, which will only set us free on July 31st. Phew. So I mean, what a better time to talk about POSITIVITY? Overall, it definitely hasn’t been the luckiest couple days of my life, but weirdly enough I have a lot of things to look forward to, and it almost feel like I’m physically pushing towards them despite the hurricane of bad luck that is hurling towards me during this retrograde. It’s also ironic that even before this mean planet started causing all these problems, I was feeling a lot of irritation and “negative” vibes around me. It seems like every other day I would find a reason to blow my top, get angry or just complain. And by the end of it, I was exhausted.


It was small, but it was wonderful

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My mother taught me a lot of things. One of them included the idea of being positive. But her view of it wasn’t the “Look on the brightside” kind of Hallmark nonsense — no, this was a woman who lived through a lot of hard times throughout her life and knows that it’s never that simple. Her philosophy has always been; celebrate the little things, and learn how to celebrate and enjoy things. And even though, like a good and concerned mother, she does nag me about things I need to work on, this is one she says I’m quite good at.

“Oh, how my girl knows how to be happy,” she always has said in her native Lithuanian. But more loosely translated what she meant was that I know how to celebrate happy moments, gifts and memories. She said that it was far too easy for my dad and her to buy me presents because I would lose my mind over the littlest things. Maybe that’s my Taurus energy showing — I do love tangible trinkets and gifts, no matter how small. But I definitely have always been able to enjoy the small things.

So, does this mean I’m an objectively “positive” person?

And another question I’ve been thinking about is this: is it even possible to be positive, to enjoy, to celebrate, to savor and eat up the wonderful moments while holding onto sadness at the same time?

The short answer is yes — but it’s not always easy.

I think part of the problem with the “being positive” mantra that we see a lot of the time — whether it’s through greeting cards or embroidered pillows at Target — is that a lot of the times, it’s very performative. It a lot of times has to do with how much you smile, how many times you cry, how often you view the glass as half empty or full. It’s very visual. But to me, it’s more internal.It doesn’t mean you have to show your happiness all the time, or even prove it to people around you. In fact, for a lot of people dealing with depression or other mental illnesses, their main concern isn’t making sure they look positive, it’s just to feel well enough to survive through the day. And even with a lot of self help books and “12 step” articles about how to get more positive can be patronizing. Because it’s just for you a lot of the times. I like to think about positivity and taking enjoyment in the little things as a form of meditation; letting yourself breathe in and take in the things around you. It has a lot to do with gratitude as well.


 

“I think part of the problem with the “being positive” mantra that we see a lot of the time — whether it’s through greeting cards or embroidered pillows at Target — is that a lot of the times, it’s very performative.

 

From a negative point of view, my mother and I haven’t had much to celebrate or be grateful for almost 4 years to date. After my father’s passing in 2016, I knew her and I would have to hold each other up, for my sister, for our family and for each other. A lot of times it was a switch off; when she was having a bad day I would get her out of the house for a yoga class, or on a particularly day I felt down she would spot me some cash to get a haircut (something her and I always agreed made us feel refreshed). We both came to terms that we were going through a depression, and I think just admitting that and being able to talk about it is important. And then we knew what would make each other happy, so we simply just reminded each other of those little things. It was uncomfortable at first, because my mother is such a beam of light — so positive and calm. I was worried I wouldn’t have the strength to pull her out of those bad days. But the last couple of years hit us hard and there were moments I knew I had to allow her to be sad, to feel down, to not feel like doing anything. And she would do the same for me.

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“VACATION EVERY DAY” PANTS

These will certainly not fix my depression, but they will make me feel like a sunny, tropical garden in Hawaii.



And still, somehow, her positivity continued to shine, as did mine. It was through the little things — her getting a chance to keep up her garden, me being able to sleep in on Sundays, or warm days where we both could enjoy sitting on the porch without fearing getting a cold.

Not to get dark, but I do feel my anxiety and depression sometimes getting the best of me. Anyone who has experience the same will know — it’s very up and down. You have good days and bad days. But a lot of times for me; I like to see it as neither having a “good” day or a “bad” day. It’s just an awkward but beautiful mix of both. What makes me feel good is knowing that I can enjoy things still, while still holding onto the trauma and grief, like a small knapsack that doesn’t weigh me down, but still has shaped me as a person. And of course, for a lot of people, the sadness comes out of nowhere. The cloud just appears right when we think the sun was supposed to stay. That happens to me a lot as well — sadness out of nowhere, dread peeking its awful head right when I thought I was alright.

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So my positivity plan? I get happy about what I can. My boyfriend, my dog, my dear friends and the time I and spend with them. Being able to do what I love — whether it be writing, research or social media work. Feeling the energy and excitement I feel when I burst out of my writer’s block (like through this blog post. I’m thankful and happy to be living in a modern time when there’s SO many opportunities, that even if one things falls through, you can start a whole new thing and share it with the world. A good outfit or a killer pair of shoes that makes me feel like a million bucks and puts me out of my comfort zone. Drives to work where I can blast my favorite songs over and over again and sing as loud as I can because — just because. Selfies where I feel pretty and good hair days and a good book, a good sentence, a pleasant reflection.

Because maybe one day I’ll look back and be thankful for being so happy and energized about that small opportunity, because maybe, just maybe that’s the thing that started everything else after that. It was small, but it was wonderful. And it’s the hope that there will be more where that came from, that kept me grinning.

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Good things have happened. A couple weeks ago a tiny, but exciting thing happened in terms of my career as a journalist. I have big goals, dreams and ambitions — one that I replay in my head about how I would react when I would achieve them, or even something similar to them. A small tiny fraction of that happened recently. A very minuscule opportunity, a small contingency that finished as soon as it arrived. But it was something, something towards a bigger thing. And I celebrated. It was in my car, on my way home. I felt happy and light and elated. I felt so…stupid for a second? Why am I so happy about the smallest thing? Something quick and temporary — not a job or an offer or anything close. But then I remember what my mother used to say about me, how I’m good at celebrating things and being happy. And I realized that it’s simply allowing yourself to be happy, content and at peace, and not worrying about looking silly or even, overdramatic.

So I continued to smile, even laugh and squeal, by myself and I allowed myself to do it. Because maybe one day I’ll look back and be thankful for being so happy and energized about that small opportunity, because maybe, just maybe that’s the thing that started everything else after that. It was small, but it was wonderful. And it’s the hope that there will be more where that came from, that kept me grinning.

And weirdly enough, since then I’ve been trying to ride that wave of contentment, to be sort of…propelled by that moment of positivity so that it can influence future things that may not end well, or may not end badly either, but I’ll at least be happy that I had the opportunity to try. Sometimes positivity is just bravery; to go forward, to fight for yourself and find things within yourself to be happy about as well as the things outside. The courage to hold up the microphone to the universe and say, what do ya got for me?