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beautiful afternoons & overcast mornings: a lesson on acceptance

 

Clouds and acceptance
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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
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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
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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