Timing Is Everything…

Winter sunsetWhen a couple hits a rough patch, one of the first questions the counselors will ask is, “What did you notice about your partner that first attracted you?” The question has several aims. The obvious aim is to start the discussion in a positive place, back when love was in the air (or in the bed, somewhere). A less obvious aim is to explore who is projecting what onto whom, so everybody can take responsibility for their share of the disappointments and problems.

I’m having a rough patch with winter. One gray day follows another, the temperatures are stinkin’ cold when they ought to be moderating. The most recent ice storm left my nice big pine trees in shambles. Some plan-destroying winter storm always lurks in the forecast somewhere, and worst of all, IT’S TAX SEASON.

horsecatAnd yet, I know winter will soon fade. That’s the beauty of a temperate climate. Just when I think I’ve fallen out of love with a season, it starts to slip away. The days are longer, the animals are shedding, Valentine’s Day leads to St. Patrick’s Day… In Shakespeare’s words, it’s time to “love that well, which thou must leave ere long” (Sonnet 73.)

Then too, it’s not winter’s fault I haven’t written much new material lately. It’s not winter’s fault that accounting is one of my least favorite things to do, it’s not winter’s fault I’m traveling next week and haven’t quite figured out the logistics. That’s all on me, not the season.

cat christmas treeHere are some things I loved about winter when it was 100 degrees out, going for a walk was a disgusting proposition, the grass had to be mowed every 72 hours, and the dogs were incessantly itchy.

NO BUGS. I love that there are no bugs in winter.

NO STINKIN’ HEAT. It gets so hot where I live that my computer needs it’s own little AC, the florescent lights in the kitchen give up, and the poor dogs plaster themselves to the cool of the floor for hours.

bird beederLOW HUMIDITY. The heat wouldn’t be so bad, but it literally sticks to you because of the high humidity.

THE BEAUTY OF A FRESH SNOW FALL.

THE FUZZY BEASTS.

THE JOY OF THE HOLIDAYS AND THE RELAXED WORK SCHEDULE THEY BRING.

THE SENSE OF LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEW YEAR.

THE STARRY, STARRY NIGHTS, THE BRILLIANT SUNSETS.

THE FIRST CROCUSES.And just like that, I’m not quite as happy to see winter fade. godivaMaybe one more snowfall or snow day wouldn’t be so bad. Or two…

Has looking on the bright side ever yielded big insights for you? Does it make the present more bearable, or is it an aggravating exercise in trying to minimize your legitimate misery? And a simpler question: What do you look forward to on the hard days?

To one commenter, I’ll send a basket of Godiva Chocolate goodies.

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57 comments on “Timing Is Everything…

  1. 1
    Susan Gorman says:

    Looking on the bright side works!

    We have had 10 inches of snow this week. The second storm yielded the heavy wet snow which needs to be shoveled quickly or it becomes very icy. I am thinking Spring each time I pick up my shovel to clear the walkways and each time I carry my older dog over the ice and onto the snow. I am thinking of the green grass , tulips, daffodils and day lilies which will bloom in my yard.

    I am pinning gardening ideas to my Pinterest board as I sit with my mug of tea, box of Kleenex and sleeping corgis. It’s snowing again. We are safe and snug inside and April first is not that far away!

  2. 2
    Jennifer says:

    I don’t know that looking on the bright side has generated many major insights for me, but it does help in subtle or gradual ways, mostly by reducing my worry and anxiety and by reminding me of what is good and worth my gratitude. I can get into a rut of worrying or overthinking things, but if I present more of a bright, optimistic side to others, it helps ease that not-so-bright side behind the scenes for me.

    (Hmmm, maybe the insight there is that if I choose to emphasize the bright side, especially with other people, the stuff that makes me worry gradually loses its power over me for lack of fuel.)

    And when it’s a really hard day, I say to myself that it’s OK to wallow for the rest of the day if I need to — but after a good night’s sleep, I get a clean slate.

    • 2.1

      I leave court on Thursdays with SUCH an improvement in my outlook. Yes, I lose cases and I worry for my clients, but in my own situation–a roof over my head, food in the fridge, none of my loved ones in jail or on a psyche unit–I’m FINE. No matter where I started the Thursday morning, by the end of the day, I’m the luckiest woman in the world.

  3. 3
    Ann Gonzalez says:

    To get away from it all, I read. I may read a book a day if that is what it takes to get my mind off my misery. I hate cold weather, so after work I curl up in my bed with a book. Sometimes my book escape is my sanity. I have a hard time looking on the bright side.

    • 3.1

      Ann, for YEARS as a single mom, commuting long distances or trying to run my own law practice, the books were it. They were the one safe place, the decompression pill at the end of the day that allowed me to get to sleep.

      Love the books, love them. My keeper shelf might as well be my trust fund. As long as I can open a book, I’ll be ready to fight the good fight for one more day.

  4. 4
    Mary Doherty says:

    When I am having a hard day, something always comes to show me that other people have far worse things to deal with. I then realize that I have so much to be thankful for. By the way, I live in Florida, so I have to find reasons why I love Summer. When it’s 150,000 degrees outside and I don’t want to leave my house, because I will be a big hot, melty mess… Oh right, I am suppose to find reasons why I love the Summer! LOL!

  5. 5
    Belinda Payne says:

    I think positive thoughts are necessary. Look forward to getting the swing back in my step. talking with someone who knows how to give advice and doesn’t get mad if you don’t follow. But life is like that.

    • 5.1

      And this is why I’m not so keen on a community that lacks diversity. We need to SEE that we’ll be getting old and creaky. We need to SEE that at least our children are screeching toddlers any more. We need to see that We need to see that even though we ARE old and creaky, there are bright, lovely young people coming up behind us to take on the world’s challenges.

      And that’s just a rant on age diversity. I could go on…

  6. 6
    kimia safavi says:

    When I have a hard day, I most time cry for few minutes and feel a little better and then think about other people whom have worst situation than me then thank god for being healthy. Finally I pick a good book to read.

    • 6.1

      I had a poor baby with a friend on Friday. Court had been miserable the day before, and I’m tired, and I HATE ACCOUNTING, and the writing all stinks, and my house is a mess, oh, boo-hoo-hoo.

      All she had to say was, “You have a lot on your plate. This is tough. Hang in there…” And the problems are still there, but somebody else has validated my feelings and I can breathe again.

      And get back to the books.

  7. 7
    Jane Vivash says:

    I’m looking on the bright side – even though parts of the UK are floating away on the incessant rain we’ve had for the last couple of months. I’m looking on the bright side that the road I need to take to get to work will soon be re-opened after being flooded and impassable for weeks. I’m looking on the bright side that the alternate route I’m forced to take won’t be grid-locked tomorrow like it has been most of the Monday mornings that I’ve had to take it. I’m looking on the bright side that the longer days and the daffodils showing their pretty yellow faces already mean that Spring really is on the way. But most of all I’m looking on the bright side that in three weeks time I’ll be retiring and won’t have to worry about flooded roads and heavy traffic stressing me out. But can just enjoy the daffodils and spring flowers at my leisure and more importantly read my favourite novelist’s works at any time of the day! (That’s you, by the way, Grace!)

  8. 8
    Lady Wesley says:

    I too look for crocuses, but also the Lenten rose. In some winters, the blooms push their way up through the snow, and it’s always a wonderful surprise.

    • 8.1

      I’m surprised at the variability of the crocuses. They just know, when it’s safe to come out in January, when to wait until March. Same with the peepers. Same with the robins. I wonder, what robins to the robins look for?

  9. 9
    Sabrina Taylor says:

    What I look forward to on the hard days is the routine of the day to day. I get through the day and then come home to my sanctuary. And my sanctuary within my sanctuary is by bedroom where I go to read. Sometimes when times are hard I find it helps to read or watch a movie so that I can escape to somewhere else for awhile. It’s like a mind break. I think we need these breaks even when times are going great. I feel your pain about winter. Our winter has been long and cold and still have a few months to go yet. Hang in there, spring will come sooner than we think :D

    • 9.1

      I don’t know how I’d cope a-way up North. I guess the long, long days of summer are some sort of compensation, and the absence of a gross awful summer heat.

      My writing is my sanctuary, and so is my house. Good to be reminded of that.

  10. 10
    Mary R. says:

    I’m not much of an optimist (idealist, yes; perfectionist, sometimes; pessimist, uhh I plead the 5th) so saying “the sun’ll come out tomorrow” doesn’t do it for me. But I’ve found that doing something nice for someone else, doing something stupidly goofy or creative, or getting something off my oppressive I WILL PUT OFF THIS UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE list makes a difference in my mood. This has been an endless vortex of a winter….even though in bag of mixed blessings….as a teacher I have had more snow days than usual. But this has been a dreadful Bi-ach of a year to be teaching in public schools. We’re in a vortex of our own! People at my school started leaving little surprises in each other’s mailboxes with a “tagged, now tag someone else” note. Irony of Catch 22 situation: you’re so stressed that yes- people go off and no- people don’t care and there’s not enough energy left to be back-stabbing or petty. Spring is 40 days away – counting them!

    • 10.1

      Public education has taken such a beating for doing the impossible with the invisible resources. The down side of Yankee independence is a lack of respect for the academic, even at the primary level, and that’s just not fair.

      Without a populace capable of informing itself and thinking analytically, democracy doesn’t stand a chance. Hang in there. The pendulum is long overdue to swing in the direction of the schools.

  11. 11
    Diane Sallans says:

    I’m really looking forward to the end of this winter – it seems very long without the usual breaks between the snow & deeper cold. I’ve been chipping at the frozen snow on my front walk all week (I didn’t get out there right away so now I have this three inch frozen crust that I chip at & then move but it’s really heavy). Hopefully we’ll get some warmer air in another week to get rid of these frozen hillocks.
    So while I’m staying in I’m trying to get a lot of chores done to feel a sense of accomplishment – put up some new curtain rods & curtains, opened the sewing machine & did some mending… and carving out time to read!
    I keep thinking warmer weather will be here in a few weeks!!

  12. 12
    Larisa says:

    Another bright side of winter is hot cocoa. Warm cognac or brandy. And yes, focusing on something pleasurable, beautiful or fun always helps, if only for that brief moment.

    • 12.1

      It’s snowing now, and it’s beautiful. I much prefer a snowy day to one that windy, cold and gray, and I still prefer a cold winter day to sweltering summer counterpart.

  13. 13
    bn100 says:

    look forward to reading a good book

  14. 14
    Mary T says:

    Your blog hits close to home this week. I suffer from winter depression myself and January and February are the two hardest months to get through. Anticipation of the coming of Christmas holiday gets me through November and December but once Christmas is over it’s a real downhill spiral. Though we have had a couple of mild winters here in the Midwest for the last few years, this year is as bad for us as it is for most of the country.

    Counting my blessings is something I do frequently, and it certainly helps when I am at my lowest. Losing myself in a good book helps too. I re-read a lot of my favorites during this time.

    I also seek out comedy because laughing really does seem to help me. I get some comedy from TV. I’ll sit down to watch the Daily Show, Stephen Colbert or Chelsea Handler, but as soon as the commercial comes on I fall asleep. Yep, it only takes 30 to 90 seconds for me to nod off (smile).

    I also have some favorite books that make me laugh also though. I just re-read PERDITA by Joan Smith. Keeps me laughing cover to cover. And in some books I just go to the parts that make me laugh the most – the first chapter of A LADY MOST WILLING by Julia Quinn et al, and the Dinner scene in FOOL FOR LOVE by Eloisa James. Whatever tickles your fancy. Humor is subjective.

    Like you, I’m waiting for Spring. If this Polar Vortex ever lifts, I just might see my daffodils poking their sprouts through the snow by the end of this month. Fingers crossed!

  15. 15
    Molly R. Moody says:

    Grace I think the thing I most look forward to on hard days is the thought that “this too shall pass” though it may take a while to do so. We’ve had some miserably cold and icy weather here and when that happens I just stay indoors. This past Thursday and Friday, for example, I didn’t open the storm door to the front porch even once. Both days I opened the interior door, put my nose close to the storm door, shuddered from the cold, and very quickly shut the door and headed to my warm bedroom. I love your description of all the things you don’t like about hot weather, I couldn’t have said them any better. In a way, I’m looking forward to warmer weather, but when we hit triple digit temps and double digit humidity I’ll again be longing for winter to “hurry up and get here dang it!”. I think the main thing wrong with this winter is it actually started in November when we had two days of extremely cold weather. I see that we’re expecting temps in the low and mid 70′s the 14th through the 18th so I guess Spring is on the way. There’s a 40% chance of rain tomorrow with a high of just 51o and I’ve got a 10am appointment so I’ll be our and about early but as I stated above “this too shall pass” and I don’t think I’ll melt if it rains and I get wet.

  16. 16
    Kassia says:

    What do I look foward to on the hard days?

    I am not so sure I am having any other kind of days besides “hard ones” lately…

    For the first time in years winter is bothering me. I used to like everything about it… from a good snow storm (so I could feel so powerful using the snow blower to make my long driveway beautifully clean – I am a bit OCD so the sides of my driveway were nice and straight – very organized and clean!) to just being home with my favorite book in front of the fireplace… but this year I am just seeing “work” in every thing…

    But I am looking foward to spring… I am dying to go outside to garden and reduce my garden to 1/3 of what is now so I can manage…

    I miss my roses. I miss their fragrance, the color the complexity of my gorgeous David Austin English roses to the beauty and color of the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale… And I look foward to the pictures I am going to take… not that I need any more pics of my roses… I have literally more than 5000 pics saved… oh gee the more the better…

    I just saw a piece on Sunday Morning today about a Principal in a school that still cleans his own office. He used to be the janitor in this school and one day the Principal told him he would like to see him being the Principal. So this such a nice man went to college, got a degree, got a teaching position and is the Principal… he said something I was think about this week (really a great coincidence???) it does not matter how you start … its how you finish that really matters…

    About looking into the bright side …
    So I am trying to be positive, and learn from all things, other fellow humans that are older and younger… even from the animal world – their habits and such… learn and hope that good things will come my way… why not???
    One thing sometimes I struggle is the romantic side of my life… well the lack of it… I keep thinking that it might happen one day… so I try to be positive about it… after being engaged twice I am so glad I did not marry them (I don’t regret ending because they were really not good for me. I was in love with the idea of getting married and it would have ended in divorce) but the thing is at almost 52 should I still have any hope??? Questions… and more questions…

    One thing I have learned is that there will always be people in better situation than me and worse situations… my life will always be in the middle no matter what…
    I validate my feelings,cry, do what I need to do (sometimes will be read a nice wonderful story, or look at pics of my roses!) but I can count my blessings and hope to find courage for another day.

    • 16.1

      We’re at an interesting time of life, when our professional competence is at its highest so far, but our social reality and physical situation is changing, not necessarily for the better. I look at it this way: The wrong relationship is worse than no relationship at all, and my life now is peaceful. Peaceful is good. I’ve had drama, and I do not like it.

      It took me a long time to realize that I was finding conflict and oppression in my life to distract me from doing my own work, and resolving old issues. I like that I’ve found the other side of that issue, and I’m hopeful I’ll not need to learn it again.

  17. 17
    Gail Nichols says:

    I have to look on the bright side after a bad day(or week in my case) it is the only way to keep my sanity and my sense of humor. What I look forward to most when the day gets bad or too painful is a good, romantic book or movie to get lost in.

  18. 18
    Bettye McKee says:

    On the hard days, such as now, I look forward to sunshine and buds on the trees and flowering plants; walking along a stream and hearing the water rushing along; seeing birds gather material to build nests (hopefully not in the eaves this time); and chocolate, especially Godiva chocolate. When I worked for an oil and gas exploration company (1982-1990) I got a box of Godiva chocolates for Christmas every year. If that’s not enough to spoil a lady, I don’t know what it would take.

    • 18.1

      Bettye, when we have a cold snap, my stream freezes, but I can usually hear the water running under the ice. I love that! In summer, I love the sound of the moving water in the dark of night, when all is quiet and the lightning bugs are out.

  19. 19
    eli yanti says:

    I wish I got the chocolate because valentine day is only 4 days yayy :D

    Yeah this 5 months is really the hard months for me, not hard day but month why because : my mom die and I got gastric acid. To this day I astain from many food and the worse thing, can’t lament my sick to my mom.

    But still life must go on and just keep positive thinking. And now I only want to health :)

    • 19.1

      An important priority! On of my author buddies lost her mom on Valentine’s Day a few years ago. Oh, ouch, ouch, ouch. I’m hoping some handsome swain will come along and add good memories to the day’s sad ones, for her and for you.

  20. 20
    Tracey S says:

    At the end of a long day in the bakery, (Valentine’s Day is this week! EEK!) I remind myself that I get to do what I love. My hands hurt, my back, legs and shoulders are screaming, but on the bright side, I am no longer in a cubicle where I was miserable. I realize that thinking about that particular bright side doesn’t take away the arthritis, but it sure does make my heart smile! That’s what a “bright side” is to me. Taking a rough situation and purposely finding something good about it, so we can squeeze out some extra joy.

    • 20.1

      I’m in the same boat. The LAST thing I need right now is a sedentary job. But if my back, hips or knees should go, I can still do that job, whereas training horses…. not so much.

  21. 21
    LSUReader says:

    Looking on the bright side is definitely a help. I remember telling myself when I was younger that I could do anything as long as I could see the end in sight. I still sometimes pace myself that way–knowing that as soon as I finish this major effort or that onerous task, something more pleasant (reading, perhaps?) awaits me.

    • 21.1

      I agree, LSU. We can endure much if we know a) our suffering has meaning, b)we are not suffering alone, and c) as Molly said, “This too shall pass.” Any one of the three can sustain a soul.

      Then I think about people locked up for life for crimes that would get them two years in minimum security in any other developed country…

  22. 22
    catslady says:

    For the big picture, I’ve always looked forward to Spring. I probably wouldn’t appreciate it if winter wasn’t so unlikable lol. Hope keeps me going. And knowing that things could always be worse. And always reading. Daily, I look forward to going to bed and being taken away and lost in a story.

  23. 23
    Karen D says:

    I live in Northern California, so other than a cold spell in early December, it hasn’t really felt like winter at all yet.

    We are currently experiencing some rain, finally, and I love the sound of the water rolling on the roof or dashing down the spouts.

    Even though I am a native NorCal Gal, I do love the seasons, and would like to have had more of a winter… All of our fruit trees are a starting to bloom already and it may be a tough year for produce as we were too warm in January.

    That being said, the phrase “to everything, there is a season”, makes me grateful for what we are given in turn.

    I hope that you get your “one more snow” and that spring brings you a blossom or two before the heat and humidity of summer!

    Karen Dooley

  24. 24
    Sheryl N says:

    I try to look on the bright side of things. I feel that I have been very blessed in how things have turned out for me and my family. I have friends that are having financial, marriage, or job troubles. I find that when I think of how it COULD be for me, I realize that I have a great life compared to others.

    • 24.1

      Those unanswered prayers… I was turned down from the law schools I applied to the first time around. Ended up going to an excellent school but in their night program. Ended up with a nicer bunch of law students, in much less debt, and without having to relocate.

  25. 25
    Cate Parke says:

    I’ve pretty much always been “the glass is half-full girl.” I can’t help it. I love living–love breathing. I love what I can see when I first look out the window every morning. A new day is like a blank sheet of paper. I envision the masterpiece I could write on it. (Well, I could if I TRIED hard enough!) I love the people I’ve known for years and years and the ones I’ve yet to meet. I love the privilege of loving another person. I love to read–LOVE it! (And thank you so much for the hours upon hours I’ve shared with your wonderful characters, Grace!)
    ~Cate Parke

    • 25.1
      Cate Parke says:

      Grace, one thing I have to say is that you have a very difficult job. Still, there are people you may never know in the future who will thank you for your caring and help today. I simply had to walk away from a job in which I saw no end of suffering. I hope I made a difference to the children I worked with. I was a pediatric nurse working in what is known in our state as a Child Health and Development program (or CHAD). The people on my caseload were the poorest of the poor. The obstacles the parents faced overwhelmed my imagination. Often the obstacles were put in place by the parents themselves–but not always. Still, I’m a nurse (as well as an author). I thrive being able to see outcomes. I couldn’t manage on the hope that I may have made a difference in some child’s life twenty years in the future. Somehow, I doubted it. The problems so many of them faced were overwhelming. Their roads to living successful lives were far too rocky and there was simply nothing I could do about it. It broke my heart. Still, I’m convinced I helped one or two. Perhaps that’s the measure of success–to do what you can for everyone in the moment and know you helped the one or two far into their futures. At least, I hope so.
      ~Cate

      • 25.1.1

        Cate, I’ve run into people I represented ten or twenty years ago. They’re grown up, they have kids, and they’re the ones who approach me. I ask them what they recall of my representation of them, and they’re response is NEVER outcome based. They don’t recall that I got them sent home over the Department’s objection, they don’t focus on whether I failed to get them placed with siblings or not. They recall the quality of the interaction. Did I listen? Did I respect them? Did I call them back?

        Maybe process is where we make the different, not only outcomes.

  26. 26
    Christina G says:

    I once took a class called “Sex and Death in Advertising”. Along with being able to see the overtly grim and sexual nature in every single ad, I realized that nothing sells quite as well as Bad News. Missing People, Drive-by Shootings, Corrupt Governments, Dirty Cops. Even construction on a California freeway turns into “Carmageddon” (really, who comes up with these names?). The list of negativity is endless.

    I know I’ve said it here before, but it bears repeating (sometimes several times a day!): No matter what happens, it could always be worse.

    I try to be as positive as possible. Sometimes it’s very hard and other times, not so much. But on days when I am get into a funk, I tell myself what I do look forward to is this: A good book, a cup of something warm and my cats snuggled up on my lap – oh, and cake, cake makes everything better!

    If I’m feeling terribly down, I know I can always FaceTime Sister and Favorite Nephew. His sweet smile and giggle ALWAYS make things better.

    • 26.1

      I stopped getting the AARP Magazine. So full of fear mongering: Take this lovely cruise (while you can still walk, you still have a pittance coming from Social Security, and you haven’t been scammed by con men selling you insurance–you DO have insurances, don’t you? At least three policies? Because you ARE GOING TO DIE!!!!)

      Sometimes, the emotional mute button is the only option.

  27. 27
    Kim says:

    Take a “Thankful” Walk.

    Every morning, while I drive to a job I can’t wait to retire from, when its dark on my way in and on my way home, I thank God for all the things to be thankful for. The people I work with, the beautiful way snow looks on the trees with sunrise coming through them, my family, a flock of snow geese, an eagle, a hawk, deer. The beautiful way spring flowers pop up through snow or the big fuzzy hug I get from my horse when I can get to see him. How my dog looks when he comes in from the backyard with snow on his nose and a grin on his face! The peaceful silence of snow falling at night. . .

    Grace, I agree with you – no bugs and no humidity are two things I’m VERY thankful for in the winter!

    Taking a Thankful Walk never fails…

  28. 28
    Astrid says:

    Grace,
    I think in a way you answered your own question when you offered Chocolate as a prize. What I look forward to on hard days is chocolate……. any form. Warm and toasty drinks in the winter accompanied by cookies (chocolate preferably!). In the summer chocolate icecream helps to alleviate the stress from the heat. Fall and spring can go either way with truffles being a good choice since they don’t melt too quickly which happens in the heat and they are not too hard which happens in the cold. So I think of chocolate as the ultimate panacea for all the ills in my life. Thankfully I have some restraint and can manage to savour it relatively slowly, otherwise I would be as big as a house!! Or you could say that I have a fairly happy life, since I’m not gorging on it every day.

    • 28.1

      I once did a FB post about, “OK, now I can reward myself with vegetables samosas and tablet for dessert!” and another author came back at me that food as a reward is a BAD idea. Food is to survive, not to reward. Bad, Bad, Bad.

      I felt sorry for her, but then, she’s raising a toddler. I hope her perspective will change, because she’s fighting evolution. The things we need to survive as a species–sleep, food, company, procreation, shelter–are supposed to be pleasurable.

      That kid will have her hands full explaining life to her mom…