For the past few years, I’ve been actively trying to avoid negativity in my life and to focus on the positive. It’s not always easy, but I have found that it becomes easier with practice. When my friend, Trish Milburn, decided to create a group of authors committed to focusing on positive things, I jumped at the chance to join up.
Our society primes us to look for rewards in the big things. We can never be successful enough, thin enough, rich enough. For every milestone we reach, we’re nudged toward another one out of reach. While in some ways, I have no issue with that mindset, it’s been my experience that relying on the big things to make me happy pretty much sets me up for failure. Not that I’ll never have those things. They are achievable, I suppose, but my reality falls somewhere short most of the time.
My career is going well. I’ve been a full-time author for more than 20 years, so I can’t complain, but it’s not great. Not as great as my dreams, anyway. There are many things I’d like to achieve that I haven’t, many bars of success I haven’t yet reached. I haven’t yet reached the New York Times bestseller list, or the USA Today bestseller list. I haven’t become a household name, even though when I first started writing, I assumed that anyone with more than 40 books under their belt would automatically achieve fame a la J.K. Rowling. Apparently, that’s not the case. Who knew?
My family isn’t “perfect,” although it’s pretty close to it as far as I’m concerned. My daughters and I are incredibly close–close enough for us to all refer to one another as our “best friends.” My son-in-law doesn’t mind when I come to stay and, in fact, seems to enjoy having me around. But that doesn’t mean we’re flawless, or that everything is going exactly the way I want it to. My daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren live 900 miles away from me. I’d change that in a heartbeat if I could. We have our moments, like any family. But then you add in all the extended family members and step-family members and honorary family members, and in-laws, and you wind up with a lot of personalities trying to get along. So if I said that nobody in my family ever said the wrong thing or made a bad decision, that nobody had ever hurt my feelings, that would be a lie.
My home is nice enough for me, but it certainly isn’t magazine-spread beautiful, and my housekeeping routine is moderate most of the time. I have the skills to keep my house cleaner, just not the desire. Don’t get me wrong: my house isn’t hoarder-style messy, but I find no particular joy in doing the work to make my home sparkle, although I do find joy in having a sparkling clean home. So unless or until I hire someone else to mop and dust and vacuum regularly, I’m always going to be reluctant to swing the door wide and invite others inside. I’ve also learned that it’s a mistake to compare my everyday reality to someone else’s entertainment-ready or Instagram shot. Chances are, their everyday reality looks a lot like mine.
I’ve accepted the fact that as long as I hold out huge successes in my career, my family, or my home as the only acceptable cause for joy, I’m dooming myself to feeling stressed and frustrated most of the time, and that’s an extremely uncomfortable way to live.
I’m learning not to live with the “all or nothing” mindset, where everything is either completely wonderful or complete crap, and to look for the good moments, even in the middle of a difficult day. I enjoy being happy, so I try to focus on the little things that happen a million times every single day–the sight of a flower, a cold drink on a hot afternoon, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the technology that lets me call my daughter who lives 900 miles away anytime I want for any reason I want, the ability to share texts with my granddaughters, the taste of a sweet plum, the sheer amazingness of ice cream, a phone call from a friend, the chance to meet friends for lunch, a laugh with one of my daughters, a giggle with a grandchild…
The list goes on and on. In fact, it’s a whole lot longer than the one with the big-ticket items on it. If you haven’t already done it, stop and take a look around until you find something that gives you a moment of joy. It’s definitely worth the effort.