10 Years of Positively Present!

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From now until the end of the month, EVERYONE who signs up for Patreon will get a copy of Through the Year: 52 Pages of Inspiration from Positively Present, an exclusive e-book containing 52 Positively Present illustrations. For just $1 (or more, if you're feeling generous!), you can get this unique collection of illustrations all while supporting Positively Present!

In March, the book will only be available for higher tiers. If you like what I've been doing over the past ten years, please consider supporting my work on Patreon. (And if Patreon isn't for you, don't worry: I've got something for you! Use code "anniversary" in the print shop for 25% off your order all month long!)

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This week, Positively Present turns ten years old. TEN. It's hard to believe that something that started as a little personal growth project (remember when I was too scared to even tell you my first name?!) turned into a full-blown career. I suppose that's how a lot of businesses start (a personal hobby one day turns into a business years later), but it still shocks me sometimes, just how far Positively Present — and I! — have come in the past decade.

Of course, with this big day approaching, I've been spending a lot of time reflecting so I thought I'd share some of the lessons I've learned from ten years of doing this. Even if you're not a blogger or a creative, check out these life lessons and spend a little time reflecting on what you've learned since 2009. I'm all for staying the in present, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to take a look back and reflect on how far you've come...

 

LESSON 1: LUCK

Sure, I've worked hard creating content over the years, but I can't deny that luck has played a role in the creation and continuation of Positively Present. I've been fortunate enough to come across some great people and organizations as part of my work here and through them, I've been given some amazing opportunities. While I've definitely learned the value of hard work over the years, I've also learned that sometimes it's just about being in the right place at the right time. 

 

LESSON 2: WISDOM

I started Positively Present as a way for me to discover how I, a negative worrier, could learn to live more positively in the present. While I still struggle with anxiety, worrying, and negativity at times, I've learned so much from writing, researching, and creating, as well as from followers and fans. With time comes wisdom, but I've learned that paying attention to that wisdom (and writing it down!) helps it stick with me. 

 

LESSON 3: OPTIMISM

Of course, one of the greatest lessons I've learned over the past ten years is how to be more optimistic. I'm by no means perfect in this regard (I still have to redirect my mind from negative thoughts all the time), but I now have more tools and resources and awareness that helps me focus on how to make the most of the moment (even when the moment's terrible). 

 

LESSON 4: SELF-LOVE

I didn't realize how big of a role self-love would end up having here, but it's been just as important as positivity and mindfulness. Over the years, I've learned how valuable self-love is and how cultivating it can help in almost every aspect of life. Perhaps I would have learned that without PP, but I'll always be grateful for the way this site has guided me to focus on self-love and self-awareness. 

 

LESSON 5: FREEDOM

I've always loved my freedom, but working for myself (something I was able to start doing after about three years of working on the blog as hobby) continually reminds me just how important freedom is for me. I'm so thankful to be able to do what I love and, while I'm often frustrated by the life as a "starving artist," I'd rather have an empty fridge and be free than be chained down with a full belly. 

 

LESSON 6: SUPPORT

Without the support of friends, family, loved ones, and awesome patrons, Positively Present never would have survived over the years. Both emotionally and financially, I've received incredible support from those around me, and, much as I love to rejoice in my freedom, that freedom wouldn't be possible without the support, encouragement, and help of others. 

 

LESSON 7: CREATIVITY

Through my work here, I've learned more than I could have imagined about the importance of creativity and about my own ability to create. It started purely as me blogging about my thoughts on being positively present and has since turned into books, planners, workbooks, design work, and illustrations. I've always loved creating, but having the opportunity to share it here has been an amazing teacher. 

 

LESSON 8: HONESTY

Sharing my words and work here has been, at times, scary. While I certainly don't share every detail of my personal life, I've definitely opened up here in ways I never would have thought possible. Learning to be honest with myself (and, in turn, with others) has taught me a great deal about how important honesty is. Looking to understand things as they truly are isn't always easy, but the more I do it here, the better I get at it. 

 

LESSON 9: CONNECTION

As an introvert, I'm not always putting myself in positions to create new connections, but Positively Present has brought me together with people from around the world who also want to share and learn and grow. It's been so awesome to meet new people (and to learn from them!) over the years. The internet has it's issues, for sure, but I never would have been able to meet so many diverse and unique individuals without this little site right here!

 

LESSON 10: CHANGE

Though much has stayed the same over the years when it comes to the content here, a great deal has changed in terms of how that content's delivered. Once just a little personal blog, it's now a brand with a variety of different social media platforms and IRL products. Change has never been my favorite, but working on Positively Present over the years has helped me to accept and work with change, and I'll be forever thankful for that life lesson. 

 

These are just a few of the many, many lessons I've learned since the beginning (though, even three months in, I'd learned a lot), and though there have been some major ups and downs, some wonderful successes and some time-wasting failures, I'm proud of what I've spent my time doing here on Positively Present, and I hope that you've learned something from following along. Here's to the next ten years of inspiration, insight, and personal growth! 

 


 

If you like the work I've been doing and want to support Positively Present, don't forget to sign up on Patreon to get a copy of Through the Year: 52 Pages of Inspiration from Positively Present, an exclusive e-book containing 52 Positively Present illustrations (a glimpse of what's in the book in the image below). All tier levels will receive a digital copy instantly when they sign up from now until March 1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support! 

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8 Ways to Play Kind Games, Not Mind Games


Positively Present - Kind Games
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If you follow me on Instagram, you might've seen this recent post, where autocorrect changed my caption from "mind games" to "kind games." Not surprisingly, this led me to think about what "kind games" might consist of since, even if you're not intentionally playing mind games with those around you, most of us do some game-playing. Anytime you're not clearly and effectively communicating with others — intentionally or unintentionally — it's a kind of game (at the very least, a guessing game!).

No matter how much you might aim for healthy, communicative relationships, it's hard to always get it right. No matter how well you know someone, it's challenging to convey yourself accurately (particularly if you don't even fully understand how you feel which, let's face it, happens sometimes!), and it can be a daunting task to comprehend others, even when they do their best to share how they feel. 

Communication is a kind of kindness. The better you are at expressing yourself (and understanding other others express themselves), the better your relationships will be. But if you're anything like me, knowing that isn't the same as doing it. I know how valuable good communication is — in work, in socialization, in romantic relationships — and still I struggle greatly with it because it requires bravery, vulnerability, and a self-awareness that sometimes I just don't possess.

Effective communication has been an issue for me in almost every relationship I've been in, and, much as I hate to admit it, I've been guilty of playing a mind game or two. Often it's not calculated or mean-spirited, but, regardless of the intention, mind games are unkind (and very unproductive!). Here are some of the ideas that came to mind when I started thinking about how I could turn mind games into kind games...

 

COMMUNICATE HOW YOU FEEL

Telling someone else how you feel is one of the kindest acts. It's also one of the hardest sometimes. But if you want to be kind, you've gotta be brave and just do it. (Bonus: it's also one of the best ways to be kind to yourself as well, helping you cut down on a lot of unnecessary drama!)

 

ASK ABOUT HOW OTHERS FEEL

If you don't know how someone else feels (if you're not 100%, absolutely sure!), ask. I know it can be awkward sometimes, but just think of how many conflicts you could have already avoided if you'd just asked instead of assuming. Assumptions seem like they save time, but they often make things way more complicated, which isn't kind for anyone. 

 

APOLOGIZE WHEN YOU'RE WRONG

If you mess up, say you're sorry. Actually say it. Don't offer an explanation and leave it at that, assuming the other person knows you're sorry. Apologize out loud (or in writing if that's not an option) and mean it. (Advanced version of this game: apologize to, and forgive, yourself, too.)

 

EXPRESS WHEN YOU'RE HURT

When someone's hurt you, let them know. You can be honest without being dramatic or hurtful. (It's not easy, but practice helps!) You can set your ego aside and express how you feel without shame or fury. It's a tough game to play sometimes, I know, but remember: communication is a kind of kindness. 

 

SAY YES / NO WHEN YOU WANT TO

If you want to say yes, say yes. If you want to say no, say no. You don't need an excuse. You don't need a reason. The more often you practice saying yes/no to what you do/don't want, the better your life gets. (And the more everyone else will get you, which is a winning strategy for making the most of all your relationships!)

 

RECOGNIZE SIGNS OF CONTROL

Pay attention to how you feel, and if you feel like you're trying to gain control of someone or something, take some time to figure out why you're seeking control (hint: usually it's about you and not them), and knock it off. Most of us don't want to control or manipulate others, but do so without realizing it. Recognize it, then stop. 

 

DON'T JUDGE SO HARSHLY

Don't judge yourself or others so harshly. Everything — everything — is so much more complex, so much more entangled, than we realize. One thread tugged and everything is shifting ever so slightly. It's happening all the time in a million different ways so don't be so hard on yourself or anyone else. We're all doing what we can with what we're given. 

 

TAKE A TIME OUT WHEN UPSET

How many negative interactions might you have avoided just by pausing before reacting? It only takes a little bit of time but if you wait before reacting to someone else when you're upset, you'll be doing both of you a great kindness. A deep breath, a walk around the block, a day alone. Take time to chill out. 

 

There are so many ways to practice kindness, of course, but one of the most important (albeit most difficult) is communicating in a loving, open-minded, and thoughtful way. What else would you add to this list? What kind of kind games would you like to play? What kind are you already playing? 

 

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The Creativity of Worry


Worry Creativity

 

While reading Karen Thompson Walker's The Dreamers, I came across the quote, "Worry is a kind of creativity," and it really made me think about worry in a different way. Sure, worrying can be a soul-crushing nightmare at times, but it is kind of cool that I can imagine so many things in my mind that have never (and likely will never) happen. 

I've always been a worrier (that's what we used to refer to it as back in the day before "anxiety" became a buzzword), and I've always considered it to be a mostly negative trait. Yes, worry has helped me be prepared in some cases, but, for the most part, worrying has wasted my time and drained my energy. Often, things I worry about don't happen or, if they do, I often find that, no matter how terrible the situation, the worrying had actually felt (or made it) worse. 

Most of us, particularly those with anxiety, know that worrying isn't usually helpful. It causes tons of unnecessary stress. It creates pain where there need not be any. It has negative effects on your body. Excessive worrying can cause anxiety attacks, lead to harmful, self-soothing habits, and have serious impacts on the body. Plus, worrying is often irrational, and knowing it's irrational and still being unable to quell it can be immensely frustrating and distressing. Point is: worrying isn't great. But Walker's quote made me think that maybe it isn't all bad. 

Over the years, I've found lots of ways to cope with worry (some healthy, some not-so-much), but even when I manage my worry to the best of my ability, it's there. I'd like to think one day I'll get to a worry-free state of living but, based on the past 35 years, I'm not holding my breath. So reading Walker's quote oddly made me feel a bit more at peace with my worry. It made me realize that, for decades, I've been making up stories in my head of all the things that could go wrong in a given situation. Was this useful? No. Has it harmed me in a variety of ways? Yes. But, still: it's pretty fascinating to think of all the situations I've imagined. And, useless as worry has often been to me, reading this quote made me think that maybe, just maybe, it actually has some sort of value. 

Now, I'm never going to argue that worrying is something we should all do more of because it makes us more creative. Worrying isn't some creative exercise I want to practice. But, if I'm going to worry (like it or not), why not focus on the oddly positive element of creativity tucked in the folds of anxiety? If I'm going to worry, why not stop resisting it so much (shout out to all the worriers worrying about worrying too much!) and just see what happens if I see it as a side effect of creativity?

I hate the "tortured artist" trope, but just because something is bad doesn't mean it's not true, and, based on personal experience (and quite a few studies, it seems), a lot of creative people are worriers. Whether they're creative because they worry or they worry because they're creative is hard to say, but worry seems to be a pretty common thread among a lot of creative people. Van Gogh once wrote, "I am unable to describe exactly what is the matter with me. Now and then there are horrible fits of anxiety, apparently without cause, or otherwise a feeling of emptiness and fatigue in the head … at times I have attacks of melancholy and of atrocious remorse." I mean, SAME. 

The reason so many creatives — including myself — are worriers has a lot to do with one thing: imagination. On one hand, we can imagine things to write or draw or paint or sing, but, on the flip side, we can also imagine all of the horrific things that could go wrong in any situation. I'm not saying that all creatives do this, but it seems like it's pretty common. Anxiety and creativity seem to be linked in a lot of people. Does it have to be this way? Maybe not. But that doesn't mean it isn't this way for a lot of people, and, from what I've learned, this link between the two has been around forever. As Laura Swinton wrote in this article on anxiety and creativity,


“Anxiety is a qualification of dreaming spirit,” wrote Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Noting that it’s a somewhat different emotion from plain, old, destructive ‘fear’, Kierkegaard thought of anxiety as the inevitable ‘dizziness’ that accompanied any creative leap. Anxiety, he wrote, is the result of freedom, a signifier of the ‘possibility of possibility’ – where fear is definite, anxiety is open-ended and ambiguous. It’s an idea that resonates – about a century later, T.S. Eliot described anxiety as ‘the handmaiden of creativity’. Whether anxiety is an aid to creativity or the price of entry, the two seem to be linked.

Within a creative imagination, anything can happen. Wonderful things. Horrific things. It's all there – all the possibilities. "Possibility," unlike worry, is generally seen as a positive term, but too much of anything (and the possibilities are endless in a creative mind) can be very bad. While I wish the link between possibility and worry didn't exist (I'd love to be worry-free!), I do appreciate the fact that there's a yin-yang element to the imagination. Yes, worry can be awful and oppressive and downright debilitating (especially when in a season of change, as I am right now), but the imagination – the very thing that also causes worry – can also be amazing and eye-opening and inspiring. 

What Walker's quote made realize is that worry, while terrible at times, is at least interesting. Would I trade my creativity for a worry-free life? Some days the answer would most certainly be yes. But when I take a step back and consider it more objectively, I don't know. There's just so much wonder and pure joy that comes from creativity that I just don't know if I could give it up, even if sometimes my anxiety is so dizzying that I wonder if I'll ever regain my balance.

What do you think? Do you find worry and creativity to be linked? Do you think they always have to go hand-in-hand? I've personally never experienced creativity without worry (nor have I ever met a creative person who wasn't a worrier), but maybe they don't have to be tied to one another? Part of me thinks embracing the connection between worry and creativity isn't great (is it glorifying worrying in some way?), but, as a worrier, I know that worrying isn't always a choice, so why not try to find the good in it? I'd love to know what you think! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 

 

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