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beautiful afternoons & overcast mornings: a lesson on acceptance

 

Clouds and acceptance
 ( )
 
 


Last Friday the day I woke to was a cloudy one. It was that hazy in-between sort of cloudy -- not dark enough for rain and craving a day of reading and snuggling, yet not light enough to have hope that the sun would come out by the afternoon. It was dismal. Bland. Unexciting and, from the looks of it, unrelenting. While I didn't want to hop directly back into my bed as I do on rainy days, I did have the desire to avoid looking at the sky and its infinite promise of gray. Driving to work, I felt glum. I couldn't shake the feeling with the sky surrounding me, the colors of everything dulled by the overcast sky.

I thought back to the day before -- in fact, less than twelve hours before -- when I had been driving home from work. The sky had been filled with those amazing can-you-believe-they're-real fluffy white clouds. The kind you'd swear you could bounce on if you could only get close enough to them. They were exploding and billowing across a vibrant blue sky and at every traffic light I would whip out my phone and try to take a picture, knowing full well I'd never be able to capture their beauty accurately with my Blackberry's camera. Still, I couldn't help but want to store those fluffs of white in my phone, to carry them with me everywhere. 

That afternoon I had already heard the forecast and I knew the next day would be gloomy, filled with frown-inducing phrases like "overcast" and "thunderstorm" and "take an umbrella." I knew I would wake and be disappointed with the sky, which I believed should be reflecting the sunshine and carefree attitude of a day privileged to be leading a three-day weekend. It has always irked me when the weather doesn't reflect my current life circumstances (which, yes, is a nod to anyone out there who has ever used the term "self-centered" to describe me...), but over the years I've come to accept the fact that the weather won't always suite my mood. Knowing that the next day I would be thrilled for the weekend and knowing the Friday weather would be a letdown, I felt even more compelled to capture the Thursday evening clouds with my camera.

As I was driving along, phone in hand, ready for the next red light and chance to snap an image, I realized the clouds I was so overjoyed to see -- those blindingly white puffs of smoke-like wonder -- were the very same things I would be dreading the next day. Clouds, it seems, have a power effect on me, both negative and positive. You see, I love nothing more than the sight of white against blue, a cloud coasting across the sky on a sunny day, but I have no patience for the clutter of clouds that crowd the sky on an overcast day. They are of the same make (whatever it is that makes clouds...) and yet they could not be more different in my mind. 

How many things can be like that? So positive and amazing if looked at in one circumstance and so negative and depressing if looked at in a different light? Could it be that, given enough thought and time, everything is like that? Everything we experience has the potential to be like the clouds I saw last Thursday and Friday? If pasted sporadically on a bright blue sky, clouds can seem like miracles, inspiring awe and wonder in a girl like me. However, if grouped together so closely that all of their shoulders are touching, leaving no room for even a glimpse of blue, clouds can be ominous and smothering, causing me to feel as if they might someday float so low that they will cover us all with their gloominess. There can be both good and bad when it comes to clouds, and I believe that's the case with most things. So many things can be negative or positive if looked at in a certain light -- and it can be hard to remember the flip side when caught in a particular moment -- especially a moment of the extremely good or extremely bad variety.

For example, it was difficult for me to really comprehend, on Thursday evening, how I would feel when those fluffy white clouds I was so fond of would turn grey and menacing on Friday. I knew, deep down, I would view them differently, but I couldn't really recall exactly how it would feel (though I'd experienced the doom of a gray day many, many times before). Likewise, when I drove into work Friday morning beneath a cloud-cluttered sky, it was hard to recall the sky from the previous evening and how much I had revered the clouds that hung there so perfectly, suspended above me in a way that seemed nothing short of magical. Often, when we are at one end of the spectrum, it's hard to remember the other end. Positive and negative seem so far from one another yet, in so many ways, they can be derived from the very same things.

Think, for a moment, about your bed. How many wonderful times have you had there? How many nights have you laughed and kissed and loved? And then think of those less-than-stellar moments spent in your bed. How many times have you wished you were anywhere but there? How many nights have you cried or felt lonely or tossed and turned with worry? Your bed -- the place you spend hours and hours in every day -- can be both a haven and a hell. It can be the place you long for and the place you long to get away from. Many places, experiences, and, perhaps, even people, can be that way. They can be the most amazing and the most heart-breaking. Though I don't have any of my own, I would imagine children are that way. People claim they are the best thing to happen to them, yet they can hurt their parents so deeply at times. They are the best and the worst, I would imagine. 

At this point (if you're still reading!), you're probably wondering, "Where is she going with all of this talk of clouds and beds and children?" Well, in essence, what I'm discovering for myself (and sharing the play-by-play here with you) is that the negative and the positive aspects of life are not as disconnected as one might think. In fact, most things that are immensely positive can also be incredibly negative. (As you read about in the example with the clouds). We often tend to believe that negative and positive are opposites, separate from another and, in an abstract way, enemies of one another. But, in reality, negative and positive elements are woven into almost everything. People, places, things, ideas -- they all have good and bad, layers of positive and negative. Some may have more of one than the other, but, when it comes to the terms "good" and "bad," those words are objective and what one might see as the worst thing another might see as the best. 

Therefore, we cannot be certain that what we are seeing as positive or negative is necessarily so -- or, maybe more importantly, that it will always be that way. When I drove home last Thursday and saw those brilliantly displayed clouds arranged so perfectly on the sky, it was hard for me to imagine me having anything but complete and utter love for clouds. However, I knew deep down that it was much more complex than that. Clouds can be beautiful, yes, but they can also be devastating. (Dramatic? Yes. True? I really think so.) The more I think about it, the more I realize that so much of life can be that way. All of its elements have the ability to be both amazing and awful. So what's a girl like me, who is striving so hard to focus on the positive in life, to do? Do I focus only on the things that are positive (when they are positive) or do I recognize the complexities of positive and negative in everything and accept things for what they are, when they are that way? 

Personally, I don't see living a positive life as only focusing on the things that are positive. You've heard it all before, but it's really true that there can be no light without dark. If I was unaware of the potential for dark, gray skies, I would never have taken so much delight in seeing those beautiful clouds littering the sky last Thursday night. Without knowing about the negative, I could never fully enjoy the positive. To know what it is like to live a negative-focused life, I now feel like I have the perspective to really appreciate those things that are positive. I've learned that living a positive life doesn't mean ignoring the negative (though, admittedly, I won't always be happy when I have to deal with negative aspects). Instead, it means recognizing both the good and the bad in everything and understanding that most elements of life are not one dimensional -- and that's what makes them so awesome. 

Know this: we are destined to see both the negative and the positive and, while it is certainly nice to focus on the positive, it does no good to ignore the negative. If you take away one thing from this post, let it be this: In everything, there is both light and dark and, to live a truly positive life, you must recognize and accept both the beautiful afternoons in which white clouds float lazily against a blue sky and the overcast mornings in which gray clouds hunch low from the heavy weight of the sky. 


words to live by: made for sunny days

 

sunny days
 ( )
 


I went to the market

The world was threatening rain

I was late to the station

So I missed that train

And the streets fill with umbrellas

And we all look the same

But I'm the one who's waiting 

Till the sun comes out again

 


 I was made for sunny days

I made do with gray

But I didn't stay

I was made for sunny days

And I was made for you

 

 


 Found the look you gave me

When we were still in bloom

When I thought that you might save me

From the dark side of the moon

Instead we both went walking

To the shadows and the gloom

And we never stopped talking

You still light up the room

 

 

 

 

 


 I was made for sunny days

I made do with gray

But I didn't stay

I was made for sunny days

And I was made for you

 

 

 


 The nights are longer

You make me stronger

And the late light lingers on the grass

And nights are dark but then they pass

And they don't seem so deep

I'm still losing sleep but I don't mind

No, I don't mind

 

 


 I got you a winter jacket 

That he wears around

And we chase him to the springtime

And the sleeves drag on the ground

And every hour we're working

And working day are bound

And every day is Sunday 

Cause the sun comes down bouncing down

 

 

 


 I was made for sunny days

I made do with gray

But I didn't stay

I was made for sunny days

And I was made for you



 The Weepies
"I Was Made For Sunny Days"

 



"Words To Live By" is a segment on Positively Present that features my favorite quote or lyrics from the week. Every Sunday I post a quote or lyrics that have inspired me with the hope that they'll inspire you too. Comments will be closed on these posts, but feel free to tweet the post if you enjoy it or contact me via Twitter.


15 ways to live in the moment

live in the moment
 ( )



Today I'm featuring a guest post on Positively Present written by Melissa Tamura, who recently ranked online schools for Zen College Life, a directory of online degrees. She's going to give you some great guidance on how you can live in the moment -- starting right now!


It is very easy to expend all your energy worrying. Concerns about past mistakes, rehashing what you should have done, revisiting occasions of sadness or anger expend time and energy. Many people think of the future with anxiety, anticipating problems that they may not be able to overcome. Losing sleep, feeling on edge, and stress-related maladies can be the results. One way to get out of the worry habit is to heighten your awareness of the present. Things are happening all around you every minute of the day. Why not focus on what is going on now, enjoying the simple fact of being alive and immediate, rather than casting your thoughts forward or backward to events you cannot change? The principle is simple, but the art is more complex. It takes practice, discipline, and above all, focus. Try the following 15 ways to live in the moment as warm-up exercises for learning to enjoy your life more fully in the here and now.


15 Ways to Live in the Moment
 

  1. Listen. Stand still and focus on the sounds around you. What you hear is life happening. Try narrowing your focus to one distinctive sound and block out the others.
  2. See. Being introspective can be enlightening, but to live in the moment, use your eyes to look outside yourself. What color is the sky?

  3. Feel. On a sensory level, feel the environment around you. Is it warm against your skin? Feel the humidity in the air, note the slant of the sun's warmth or the briskness of wind in your hair.

  4. Smell. Fill your lungs with the scents of the day. Pleasant aromas, sharp odors, even sensory hints that are barely there, like the smell of rain, are all part of what is happening right now.

  5. Touch. Ground yourself in the moment by holding on. If you find your mind drifting back to its customary worries, touch a railing, pull a leaf from a tree, shake hands with a friend to stay current.

  6. Taste. Rather than automatically downing that morning coffee, focus on your taste buds to experience all its nuances of flavor. Savor your toast. Living in the moment means focusing on what you are doing right now.

     

  7. Create. Draw a doodle. Compose haiku. Fold that memo into an origami crane. Give your complete attention to the something you are making out of nothing.

  8. Laugh. Do not let your enjoyment of the present be clouded by habitual worries about the past or future. If you see something funny, laugh. It feels great.

     

     

  9. Run. Set your mind free by focusing on the physical. Run until you are out of breath.

  10. Meditate. The secret is to discipline your mind to float freely. Do not allow it to tether itself to memory or anticipation. Meditate with your eyes on a focal point nearby and keep your thoughts untethered.

  11. Communicate. One of the best ways to put down your mental burdens for awhile is to engage. Ask a question at a lecture. Join in a sing-along. Enter into a friendly debate.

     

  12. Invest. Do not just observe the world around you; join it. Allow your mind to observe and interpret what you see, hear, and feel. Care about the moment.

  13. Help. When you are helping someone else with a problem, you forget your own for the moment.

  14. React. Living in the moment does not mean sailing through untouched. Respond to the here and now as it happens.

  15. Be. Feel the effect of your own presence in the present, and refresh yourself with each moment that goes by.



This guest post was written by Melissa Tamura, who recently ranked
online schools for Zen College Life, a directory of online degrees. For more ways to live in the moment, check out the following links: 


Time To Wake Up: Making the Most of the Moment

100 Ways to Live in the Moment

Dip Your Toes Into the Moment

 


learn to hold on to the past (without losing the present)

 

past and present( )

 



Have you ever had one of those days that felt so absolutely perfect that you wanted it to last forever? I know I have and, even as I'm trying to live my life in the present moment, it can be hard to stay focused when I know that, at some point, the perfect moment will be over. For me, thinking about the end of a perfect moment is one of those things that can drag me down when I'm in the moment, making it pretty to be present -- or positive. We all know that those breathtakingly perfect moments can't last, but there are ways we can hold on to them so that they are not lost forever, while still managing to live a very present life. 

In holding onto moments and memories, it's essential not to get bogged down in the idea that they are more valuable than what you are experiencing right now. Remember: the only time you really, truly have is now so it's pretty pointless to waste time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. That being said, I do think it's important to keep some particularly special moments with us, even as we live our lives in the present. There has to be, as with most things, a balance between remembering the wonderful experiences we've had and remembering to enjoy the life we're living right now. 

How can we strike a balance between living in the now and remember the good times? I've given this one some thought and come up with a few suggestions that should work for anyone -- no matter what your past or your present situations are. As you read these suggestions, keep in mind that the way to live your most positive life is to stay focused on the present -- but that doesn't mean we can't make a little room for the good things in our pasts. 



How To Hold On To The Past (Without Losing Your Present)

 

  • Save your most treasured memories in a special place. One of the best ways to help you feel as if you're not losing a special moment is to save a memento from it and keep it in a safe place where you can go back and look at it again. Or, take pictures of the moments that mean the most to you and hang them where you can see them all the time. 

  • Look for the good you remember in the moments you're living. A lot of the time we can find some of that good from our memories in the moments we're living right now. Take the time to look around and notice what's happening in your current moments to see if there are any of those memory-making qualities. Memories all start with a moment and it's important to realize that all moments will someday be memories. 

  • Appreciate what you had -- and what you still have. Of course it's essential to recognize what once mattered so much to you and be grateful for the good times and experiences you've had, but it's also just as important to appreciate what you have right now. I understand that not every moment can be an amazing experience you want to hold on to forever, but each moment is valuable and it's so important to appreciate every single one. 

  • Know what to hang on to and what you must let go of. It can be tempting to cling to memories (a.k.a., the past), especially when they have positive connotations, but you have to consider what's really valuable and what's not. This is important both in terms of physical mementos and mental memories. You only have so much space so it's up to you to determine what you really want to place the most value on. Remember: too much of the past (even the good past) can weigh you down. 

     

  • Remember that living now doesn't mean you're missing out. Sometimes, when you've had a particularly good experience, it can be hard to move forward because you feel as if you're losing a part of that experience with every passing moment. Keep in mind that just because you're living in the moment doesn't mean you're not conscious of the good things that have happened to you. Being present doesn't mean you're losing the best parts of your past; it simply means you're making the most of those memories right now.    

  • Share your memories with others, especially those who were present. One of the best ways to keep good memories close to you in the present is to share them with others. Whether you have photographs or merely recollections of an event, sharing those stories now can be a great way to make them last. It's especially great if you can share them with those who took part in the moment and connect with you now about things that happened in the past. 


It can be hard to live in the moment when you're longing for a moment gone by, but it's possible to be both present and nostalgic. I completely understand that there are some moments that you don't want to forget and it can be hard to be present when you want to return again and again to those moments. That being said, if you want to live a truly positive life, it's so important to live in the now. Hopefully the tips listed above will help you to live in the moment without forgetting about the good times you've already experienced. While it can be very detrimental to let the past rule your life, I think it's great if you can indulge in the past in small doses and doing this can, in fact, help to enhance the present moment. As you can see from the ideas above, it is possible to hold on to the past -- without losing sight of the present. 

 


How to you stay focused on the present
 without losing sight of your past? 
What are some of the best ways to enjoy memories
 without letting them dominate the present?


words to live by: life's meant to be positive

life should be positive
 ( )
 


Some people ask me why always on the bright side

When there's so much going on down the other side

It's like I live in a bubble with no trouble

And problems don't exist


I chuckle and tell them that ain't the case at all

It goes way back to the time when I was very small

Not in mind but size and age my papa use to say


You can always look at the negative

But you should always live in the positive

So I try everyday to live that way


Some people live in what was and what they could have been

As opposed to living in a what is and how much they can

And be the first to complain about nothing in life going their way

The attitude is "that I can't do nothing 'bout" 

And very happy with just breathing in and out

The ones that when you say "lets go make a difference"

They'll say "naw that's OK"


So I don't waste time on the trip side

'Cause I do know the real on the flipside

And I'm crystal clear everyday that's why I say


When I see the morning

And the sun is smiling down upon me

I joy in the blessing

That still the ground is not above me

And for the people

That I can truly say do love me, I feel 

Positivity, 'cause that's what life's meant to be

Positivity, 'cause this day did not have to be


Some ask me why I'm such an optimist

When it's more fashionable be a pessimist

From what's in seventy-five percent of what we read, hear, and view

Well I use to have a friend named Minnie Riperton

Who use to always say when she was living

"Like fine wine I like seeing the glass of life as half full than half empty"


I'm saying sometimes life can't be rough

But never to the point of me saying I've had enough

Long as my heart beats I ain't giving up

That's why I say everyday


When people ask me as an African American

What do I see for tomorrow in the human plan?

Is it possible for all the people of the world to co-exist?


I say unity is only as big as our vision

And if its narrow, try to expand beyond the horizon

But true leaders must guide us through the ills of society

That stands in our way

So if the road is to harmony, be with the call

But if its about discord, don't take the ride at all

'Cause the world vision I see is the one we for everybody


When I see the morning

And the sun is smiling down upon me

Just joy in the blessing

That still the ground is not above me

And for the people

That you can truly say do love you, do feel

Positivity, 'cause that's what life's meant to be

Positivity, and that's the energy the world needs

Positivity, 'cause that's what life means to me

Positivity, 'cause this day did not have to be

Positivity, 'cause that's what life's meant to be

Positivity, 'cause that's the energy the world needs

Positivity, 'cause that's what life's meant to be

Positivity, and this day did not have to be

Positivity, 'cause that's what life means to me

Positivity, and that's the energy the world needs

Positivity, 'cause that's what life's meant to be

Positivity, and that's the energy the world needs 



  
Stevie Wonder
 "Positivity" 



"Words To Live By" is a segment on Positively Present that features my favorite quote or lyrics from the week. Every Sunday I post a quote or lyrics that have inspired me with the hope that they'll inspire you too. Comments will be closed on these posts, but feel free to tweet the post if you enjoy it or contact me via Twitter.