Moving Away from Negativity Can Bring Surprising Joy: personal story


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My morning began with delight and chaos which threw off my regular journal writing schedule. I was cuddling with laughing, singing children instead of writing in my garden. I'm clear about the value of my choice.

Later in the day I attended a social/professional luncheon. While there I felt strong social pressure on me from a group of people to play a role that is not who I am. I didn't like it. I fought against a stiffening I felt building in me. I was building and fighting not to build an inner wall around who I am. I relaxed as I moved away from them but couldn’t when I was with them. With them I was polite, pleasant and guarded behind a mask. If the façade slipped a little, and I felt the real me emerging, I felt stress in my body.

A powerful recovery guideline is, withdraw from what shuts me down and approach what opens me up. I followed this guideline and left the gathering early.

Even away from the group I still had to clear myself of negative energy and get to me again. I thought I'd like to hear some good live jazz. When I explored jazz events in Los Angeles they were starting too late for me, or were too far away or cost more than I wanted to pay.

Meanwhile my two dogs were itching to go to the park. My energy was up enough to take them.

So with chucker, a bag of tennis balls, a bowl and two bottles of water, off we went. My mood started to lift. It was a gorgeous night.

We all got out of the car, and as we walked toward our favorite running spot I heard fantastic jazz. A house on the border of the park had a party going on with a live jazz band playing just what I wanted to hear.

More than that, I could dance. I didn't even know that's what I really wanted. So I threw the balls for Winston and Treya. While they ran after them I danced to latin jazz and 60's rock and roll. The three of us were joyous under the moon.

Coincidence? Certainly. But it happened. My honeysuckle does not market it's flowers nor do the hummingbirds put out want ads for nectar. Still, they find each other every morning in my garden. They use their senses and their authentic natural selves.

I'm certain that if I stayed stiff and grim, thinking about the negativity I experienced this afternoon I would have created more negativity. But my effort to shake it off and move toward what opened me up brought me to a beautiful night in the park and even the jazz I wanted played into my life.

• What opens you up?
• What little things can you do during the day to honor what opens you?
• Can you reach for those things when negativity encroaches?

 You can't afford a negative thought.


0 # "What opens me up?"shh 2013-10-20 15:13

When I read your blog Joanna, my thoughts spiralled off in all kinds of directions - Thoughts about how it feels to spend any length of time with people you cannot be your true self with, it's a feeling I know well, in the past I would've felt bad about it, berated myself, longed to fit in and be like them, even further in he past others would've been disappointed and ashamed of me, asking me in a disdainful tone "why can't you just be like them?". Thoughts about "coincidences" the type that is just what we need at a particular time, and about the views of processwork (process oriented psychology), which believes that most coincidences are not coincidence at all, and feeling pleased that from all of those books on my "intend to read when I find time" shelf in the bookcase, that on Friday evening I picked up a processwork based book, by Arnold Mindell, to start reading now that I have a little more time. And thoughts about my living space, which at the point when I terminated therapy last November, I really wanted to transform into something that was more of a reflection of who I am and the things that energise me, that I had lost the urge to do in recent months, and that has returned with a vengeance in the last few days.

I went to make myself a cup of tea to allow all these thoughts to settle and find some clarity, returning with a warm drink, and a recollection, a fond memory, of something that happened in my final therapy session, just minutes before we said our last goodbyes...when my therapist was saying some kind, things about what it was like to be in relationship with me, and how she thought others I share relationships with probably felt the same, and I said something about myself just being an ordinary, normal, person, and she said "you know you're not" and I conceded "okay, maybe not" and we both laughed. It had kind of been a theme in my therapy my wanting to just be average, stereotypical, "normal" and fit in with everyone else in the world, and her trying to convince me to learn to be accepting of who I am, and to start viewing my differences as positive, as something that I could share with others for the greater good.

And so what opens me up is allowing myself to be my authentic self and not feeling the need to bow to the pressures of those around me, or those of society in general, allowing myself to feel proud and happy to be who I am, and excited to pursue the things that make me feel energised and alive. And what I hope to do is transform my living space from a home that could belong to anyone, (so many people have similar furnishings and similar wall décor to mine, sometimes I see photos on friends' FB pages that could have been taken in this house even though they were taken in someone else's) into something that is "mine" that reflects my individuality, my uniqueness, and that sense of aliveness I feel when I am opened up in this way - and that will hopefully have the impact of allowing and encouraging this authentic self to be present more of the time




0 # making your home your ownpinkjoanna 2013-10-21 18:01
Making your home your own is a great joy, Shh.  And it doesn't have to be expensive.  Gradually you keep what you love and give away, donate or toss what you don't.  In time, your home surrounds you with love, caring, inspiration and personal challenge that is right for you.

This is expressed in furniture, dishes, books, art, work space, plants, stones and more.

I use fen shui as a basic template and honor the bagua as much as I can.  It helps me streamline my thinking about placement and always feels good and looks good.  

Bon voyage on this new phase of your self validating journey, Shh.
0 # Thanks Joannashh 2013-10-22 16:08

Today I feel so fully reconnected with "her", my authentic self, the one I discovered on my way to recovery, and subsequently lost again over the course of the last 8 months or so.

I realise that I need to trial some ideas with my living space to see what will work and how best to execute or if necessary modify or scrap my ideas, so I have enlisted the help of a friend to come at the weekend and help me to move some heavy pieces of furniture around and get a feel for what is achievable - amazingly a lot of my ideas follow the bagua without my even consciously attending to it :-)

A lot about me has changed in the last 2-3 years and I need my living space to change to accommodate the person I am now - I have very little money to spend, but I do have my eye on a beautiful orange reading chair and footstool, and a collection of canvasses painted by both myself and my two girls that are brimming with energy and life, and I feel need to be displayed, so those 2 elements are kind of the focus of my ideas and everything else fits around them. Thankfully these rooms a pretty clutter-free, they are the 2 rooms I find it most important to keep on top of, so there's scope for this to feel a pretty creative project from the outset.

Thank you for your good wishes Joanna!


0 # Wowmylifex2 2013-10-22 21:23
There is so much negativity in the world right now. I am staunchly conservative in my political beliefs. Here in the States we are experiencing the divide of our country over political views. I work in the field of social work which leans toward the left in ideals and feelings on social welfare. I am probably one of the only case managers who believes in a hand up, not a hand out - which our current government seems to embrace. i don't talk politics at work very often. However, if asked my opinion I will share. Most often my views differ drastically, and I feel set up. 
In the past, I might have given the popular answer. But not anymore. In fact, I have become quite the activist for ideals that are important to me. In doing this I would like to think that perhaps I could make a difference. I don't just argue to argue. I have researched my opinions and can debate knowing that I can answer the hardest of questions. Speaking up for the rights of our country and its constitution means so much to me. This is empowering because I know my potential. I know my voice needs to be heard.  This would be a current example of how I honor myself - I don't back down even when my beliefs are being challenged.
0 # honoring yourselfpinkjoanna 2013-10-22 21:57
Dear Tracy,

This is great to hear. Honoring your position, even in the face of contraversy, requires strength in character and committment to your beliefs.  

When we meet different viewpoints, if people can be mature, patient, contained and still awake and aware, knowledge comes through.  Sometimes even wisdom comes through.  It's in the abrasion between viewpoints that sparks fly.  Those sparks can burn people up ..... or .... they can create new light from which everyone can learn.

Thank you for posting this.
Casey Becker
0 # AuthenticityCasey Becker 2013-10-25 10:29
Hi Joanna,
Great thoughts on being true to yourself. It takes effort. You really do have to think about what you think, how you think, when you think, etc. When we manage our minds, the external becomes easier to manage. We can move towards things that open us up, as you said. 

My son opens me up and if I can put aside my worries when we are walking to the park, I can play in the leaves, point as school buses and smell the flowers. If I don't, I find myself annoyed that he's not just walking to the park. Strange isn't it? By focusing on my son, someone who opens me up to life, my worries are irrelevant. 

0 # opening up to lifepinkjoanna 2013-10-25 13:47
Great, Casey!  Thank you.

And..... when you focus on your son who is opening up your life as he opens his, you discover something new in what gets his attention or in how he responds to something.

That can add to what you care about and expand your consciousness.  Because you love your son, the new dimension you notice is bonded and integrated within you with love.  So it stays.

And.... that then becomes something that leads you to new or deeper areas of your authenticity.  Follow that, honor that, make room for that and something lovely is bound to happen.   :-)

Not all at once.  Maybe months or even years.  But it will happen.
0 # internal conflictshh 2013-10-25 17:29

Well my friend is coming to help me jiggle furniture around and get ideas for how to make my "authentic me" living space work, and I'm conscious that I need to order my orange reading chair and a new (non-orange) sofa ASAP, so that they will be ready and here before Christmas, and it's left me with conflicting thoughts.

Now that I'm looking at sofas and considering my needs on a practical level, I find myself torn. Torn between beautiful, smart, stylish clean lines, scrapping the orange chair idea and the moving and expanding of bookcases, and going for a cleaner, more minimalist look, one that always looks clean, smart & tidy; versus my original vision, of bookcases, our own artwork on the walls, a comfy reading chair and something that fuses cosiness and comfiness with enough colour to inject a vibrant energy, without getting too gaudy or tacky.

I tried to work through it - why am I so drawn to the sleek, smart, co-ordinated, very tidy-looking room, when I believe that the quirky room reflects my authentic self? I realise that I see the smart room as something I'd feel proud of, and proud to show off to others, it would boost my self-esteem to own that room. The quirky room, I don't think other people would like/get, despite being comfortable and cosy in it, I wouldn't feel the same pride and self-esteem that I would about the other room, it wouldn't give me the same confidence boost I feel so torn between the two.

I keep reflecting, how much of being drawn to the smart room is about pleasing others, wanting their approval, needing to fit in? But it's more than that, there's something about being organised and having structure too, and about the safety and comfort of staying with what you know. The quirky room is a risk, it might be brilliant or it might turn out awful, I might hate it - going with this style would definitely take me out of my comfort zone, despite feeling like a representation of my authentic self. And I question whether that is the answer, that I've spent so long not being my authentic self, not letting people see her, because I was ashamed of her and scared what people would think of her, is something that it is still a bit alien and uncomfortable for me, a bit challenging to stay there. If I make the quirky room, then I will be ditching the safety blanket that is the smart room, and the ability take pride and self-esteem from what people make of the objects I surround myself with, rather than the person at the centre. If I follow my authentic self and go for the quirky room I will be following a path that is less predictable and organised.

I guess when I weigh it all up I know that I should find the confidence to ditch the safety blanket and take the risk of going with the quirky room, the room that feels true to who I am; and to learn to have faith and self-confidence in my true self, rather that seeking it through objects and other people's approval, and learn to feel proud of who I really am!


Laura R
0 # go quirkyLaura R 2013-10-26 16:08

Shh - I love your vision of a room that reflects your personality. You have to live in your house. You deserve a room that is comfy and colorful. Let the rest of the house be practical and make that one room yours. If others judge it's probably because they don't have the courage to be quirky. I support you in doing what your heart wants. Hugs.

0 # personal environmentpinkjoanna 2013-10-26 17:37
It's one thing to create your environment based on other people's taste, or what you imagine their taste to be.  

It's a different matter when you think of people you care about and people you would like to know in terms of what would make them comfortable in your home.

The first method loses yourself.  The second method honors yourself.

I have modular table/benches throughout my house. I like them.  They are country wood and come in two sizes.  

I have them because my friends like a place to put their cup of tea down when we are talking in the living room.  I have them because I can move them aside to create more dance and theater space for the children in my life.

So I'm thinking of other people, but the choices I make are based on my taste and what I value.  

We do need to tinker with our plans as we evaluate the complexity of what we care about.   :-)
0 # authentic and sincereJackie 2013-10-26 17:38
I took my youngest child and a co-worker's son to a Halloween party at my daughter's school last night. I knew that I would not be welcomed into the cliques, but I really didn't care. I hung out with the kids. I ate with the kids. I trick or treated with the kids and then we went home. I could have avoided the whole evening, but it meant something to them. I did it for them. I made the best of it. I ate well too. 

I have been working on my house as a hobby and a creative outlet. It's been a long process. We are finally getting going on projects again. I think it's easy to get caught up in what is popular, but much better to let that go. My choices are certainly informed by hours and hours of looking at home decor images in magazines, but I don't want it to be a showplace, I just want the details to feel and look like me. I want it to feel comfortable.

My husband and I have different taste. This is sometimes a challenge, especially when I feel that I should get my own way. I don't know why I don't trust him more. He rarely makes a bad design decision. I guess I want it to be what I want, not what he wants.

The hardest part of it though is the waiting. I'm always waiting for him. Waiting for him to agree on a paint color or a purchase. Waiting for him to call the electrician. Waiting for him to go shopping, etc. When I'm waiting, I feel as though what I think and/or what I want isn't important (my ongoing pattern).

If we go to Home Goods, you can be certain that he will be running around the store with the kids. He won't look at one potential item for the home and then we will leave without purchasing anything. 

I'm not dependent on him for money, just for permission. This really bothers me. He doesn't get involved in what I pay for in regards to the kids or the groceries, but he does where home purchases are concerned. I'm not choosing items beyond our means. I pay cash for everything. I don't know why I have been powerless to change this aspect of our relationship. I have talked with him about it, but it has more to do with him staying in control so that he doesn't have to face his fears about money.

The other day I heard a radio commentator refer to our society as an "amoral culture of death", that really disturbed me and it made me want to cry. Why spend your time spouting when you could spend it loving and helping others. It bothered me that he had nothing better to say about this beautiful life we are given. That commentator could better spend his time tutoring children, helping the elderly or breaking up fights in Home Goods...

If you love the orange, go for it Shh!
0 # Permissionpinkjoanna 2013-10-27 18:37
Dear Jackie,

You raise important and sensitive questions for all of us.

I'm thinking about these below questions, not exclusively about you, but as they might relate to maybe all human beings.

  1. Where do you relinquish your authority?

  2. From whom must you seek permission?

  3. What are the forces in place that maintain this structure?

  4. What benefits do you get from this structure?

  5. What risks might you take if this structure is gone?

  6. What is the first step to change this structure, or is the status quo acceptable to you?

Thank you for such question provoking share, Jackie.
0 # Just have to say!KymL 2013-11-01 22:12
So this quote has gone through my head so many times in the last 4 months!  I laughed with joy when I read it:

          You can't afford a negative thought.

As well as I've been doing I still really struggle with body image issues and every time I start going down that road of criticism, this is what I tell that negative voice!!! 

Loved seeing it in print!! 
0 # Glad you said it, Kympinkjoanna 2013-11-01 22:15
0 # Furnishingsshh 2013-11-04 18:09

I have been struggling with aforementioned project of making my living area something that feels like it is truly all seemed so easy, but then it became so complicated!

I started questioning whether other rooms/areas of the house are more deserving of my money and attention, I struggled to find the furnishings I wanted at a price I could afford, I doubted my vision of what it should be like.

I realised yesterday that it was partly about getting rid of really good quality furniture and replacing it with lesser quality stuff - what if it all falls apart in a year or two? what if I regret it and wish I'd kept my quality furnishings? I also realised that at the time those items were purchased my life was in a different place, we could afford to go to a decent quality furnishing store and buy from their top end, now I can barely afford to go to the 'run of the mill' stores, and in those stores I have to be careful what I choose to make sure I can afford it. What it made me see that was that letting those decent quality items go and replacing them with very lower quality things, meant that I have to fully accept where my life is at, where I have ended up, what I've become as a result of ending up living on my own with my girls. But it also reminded me to 'live in the moment' a bit more - the stuff I buy now might only last 4 years, not 10 years, but it's what I need in my life "now", in 4 years time I might be in a different place, needing different things, and quite happy to replace them to fit in with who I've become in that time.

The most interesting thing though was thinking about the significance of the things I'm reluctant to part with - that great, big, chunky solid oak dining table, I bought it over 10 years ago, my first child had just turned one, and I was really struggling with some type of PTSD & depression, relating to my daughter's health problems (difficult to explain succinctly, but pretty harsh), and the 2 things I associate with it, are a sturdiness, stability, something 'rock solid' to depend upon - which a) I needed in my life as I was literally falling apart and b) it was the thing I'd spent the last year trying to be - unwaveringly strong and dependable (which was partly why I'd ended up in such a mess),and also a sense of "family" - which at that point I was just starting to believe we might be - after 11 months of being warned she could die, she might have CP, she could have developmental delays and the strain it put on our marriage, there was finally hope of being a normal healthy-ish family - and it has lived up to that role of being at the centre of the family, for meal times, for doing arts & crafts upon, for doing homework, for parties & celebrations, and it still is at the heart of family life....although a new table could be too.

But going back to the strong, sturdy, reliable element - and that being something I really needed in my life at that time and also the thing that I needed to be in life too - I feel a bit like that table is a representation of my ED, my ED was strong and reliable, it was always around, always there to support me and it enabled me to be that solid, strong reliable person that I needed to be, to be physically large and grounded and always there for people, and keep my emotions in check, and stay calm. Being scared to get rid of that table, especially because of my relapse, is like getting rid of my safety net. And so what I realise is that as long as my new table still provides that sense of "family", that I need to get rid of that big oak table, that chapter of my life is passed, I now live knowing I have the support of good friends that I am able to reach out to when necessary, and that I don't need my ED behaviours anymore.

The other interesting piece, is my big bookcase, I bought this about 18 months ago, to accommodate all my uni stuff and a growing collection of books that I wanted to keep rather than pass on, and in many ways it was my degree course and my professional training course that fuelled the purchase... and what I have learned about myself is that whenever I feel like my life is at a crisis point, I go running back to education - a professional course & a college course when my daughter was ill, a post-grad course after I was raped and lost my job, this degree and as a result of starting and really struggling with ED therapy and my marriage being on the rocks.... it harks back to using my teachers as substitute mothers and feeling that school was fair and predictable (unlike home)... so when I really need that mother figure to hug me, tell me I'm coping okay, and that everything will turn out fine in the end, I run to education. Interestingly I got that bookcase at the point when I had cut contact with my mother and my husband had decided he wanted to become a woman - and I insisted it went in the living area, not the study, I'm guessing because I needed that presence of a mother-figure to be around for me at such a difficult time.

And what I've realised is that it is something really useful and of value for me, to have that mother-figure bookcase around for when I need that influence in my life, but I no longer need it to take such a prominent role, and so it makes sense to move this piece into the study.

It's been such an eye-opener for me to make these associations, so now hopefully I can get on with creating a space that feels right for where I am at this present moment in time!


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