I am not much of one for positive thinking. “Look on the bright side,” has always sounded to me suspiciously close to, “Your suffering does not matter, if it’s even real, and even if it is real, I don’t want to hear your whining because why should anybody care about your little woes?” My grown-up head knows that, “Look on the bright side…” is intended as a consolation, a counterweight to whatever feels overwhelming and gloomy, but my emotions do not always correspond with my venerable age. A shocking revelation, I know.

I am just as twitchy about the old, “You can’t change what happened to you, but you can control what you DO about it,” thinking. Sometimes, that’s valid. Just deal with bad luck or unkind fate, and soldier on. But other times, “what happened to you,” is the result of an institutional harm. More women are seriously injured in automobile accidents than men, despite women being the better drivers, because cars are designed to keep men safe at women’s expense.

You can go to all the rehab you want after that accident, get counseling, and cope with the PTSD, but keeping the focus on you “controlling what you do about” the accident obscures our deadly complacence as a society toward women’s safety on the road. Stop lecturing me about self-advocacy and my individual choices when you ought instead to be lecturing profit-driven car manufacturers about their responsibility for dead and maimed women.

I could go on. Suffice it to say, rose-colored glasses get a big old side eye from me. A little more pessimism in the planning stages of some of our social media enterprises might have saved us all a lot of angst and invasion of privacy.

But then I came across this post from Fred Wilson whose thing in life is venture capital. (I don’t know beans from Shinola about venture capital or non-fungible whatevers.) His point is that if you’re given a choice between rooting for the Celtics or dissing the Knicks, rooting for the Celtics is the better option. Criticism and analysis have an important place, but not as a universal default. The universal default should be what we’re enthusiastic about, what we treasure.

I am highly critical of social media, but I treasure this blog. Doing business with some of the larger book retail platforms is an exercise in enduring frustration and disrespect, but a couple of the smaller platforms are absolutely delightful to deal with.

If I let negativity be my default–and there’s tons of conditioning pushing us in that direction–then a) I’m pretty miserable, and b) I lose sight of much that is legitimately joyful, and c) I’m likely to connect with only fellow doomsayers and reinforce my grouchy, anxious tendencies. Phooey on that.

So let’s keep the comments simple: What are three things that give you joy? I’ll start: This blog, spring flowers, a hot cup of jasmine green tea. Big joy right there. Your turn. I’ll add three commenters to my ARC list for the June release, Miss Delectable.



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36 comments on “Positively

  1. Only three??? 1) Things that make me laugh (books, TV, movies, others) 2) sunshine and 3) flowers and hummingbirds. I guess that is more than three, but I can’t help myself. Can’t have the flowers without the birds.

    • Interesting, isn’t it, that when you focus on this topic, it expands. But the same is true with three things that cheese me off, three things that break my heart… focus matters.

      • True. That is why it is so important WHERE I focus. I have to make a conscious effort to stay positive – but to me it is worth it.

  2. Three things that give me joy? 1. Coffee in the morning with the newspaper. 2. The change of seasons. And 3. time to read before bed.

    Happy Easter, Grace!

  3. Because I’ve had to think for a minute of three things bringing me joy today, I’m pretty sure I was meant to read this blog.

    1. Diet Coke from McDonald’s. Why is theirs so much better than anyone else?

    2. New socks. Fluffy and soft. A friend just sent me a pair saying ‘Book Nerd’. 🙂

    3. A new development tore out an entire mature forest behind my home. It grieved me. I told myself to look for SOME kind of silver lining, and the sunrises that I now see must be the good thing (although I’m still missing the deer and riot of birdsong every morning).

    • Oh, that would break my heart. It happened to me as a kid, too, that my woods, complete with swamp, stream, and wild flowers, got demolished for a bypass that would allow yet more thousands of people to (pay through the nose to) cram into the football stadium. Maybe this is why I feed birds, plant trees, and drive a hybrid now.
      And who knows, maybe that development will be full of wonderful people who can protect the next forest from development.

  4. A walk in the countryside with friends.Coming across a village country pub and enjoying a cold lager and lime drink.Outside sitting in the pubs garden listening to the birds sing and the ducks quacking when we feed them.That’s my selection but of course it must have sunshine.Perfect.

    • Sunshine is no small gift. Part of what gets me through the dreary Maryland winters is that the sunny day, with no leaves on the trees, are absolutely brilliant, even without snow on the ground.

  5. 1) My corgi Rose. She’s 14 1/2 and still determined to walk and be my work buddy. She’s moving slowly and sleeping more. I treasure her.

    2) My coffee. I enjoy filling up my Farberware percolator and listening to it brew. The dogs love the smell of the coffee. Because they know their breakfast is being made.

    3) My books. This week I have read The Last Bookshop in London (Madeline Martin)and Lost in Paris ( Elizabeth Thompson). I have traveled to WW London and to Paris without leaving my couch!

    • Please hug Rose for me. I have cats about me now, and one of them in particular will curl up next to the computer in the evening and just start purring like a street rod. I know then that it’s time I put away the to-do list, and let my own engine idle. Mrs. Potts is a one wise cat.

      • I lived in Northern VA for several years & fell in love with the place when I saw the redbuds and dogwoods wild in the early spring woods.The dogwoods were like butterflies paused.Stunning! That’s joyful!

  6. I have so many things that give me joy, even in these days of Covid. First my amazing, wonderful husband, without whom I could not have survived the fear, isolation and boredom of the past year. Whether he just passes by my office and stops in for a visit while taking a break from his writing or recording, or when he suggests an afternoon cup of hot cocoa and a word game, he has kept me sane (well, as sane as I ever was!). Second, my incredible family, with a special focus on my beautiful grandkids, Austin and Savannah. Even with Covid, we have managed some masked and socially distanced visits and they always remind us how to laugh at the silliest things. Third, food! I love to cook and planning and preparing inventive and healthy meals is something I have always loved to do, (though admittedly cooking for only two is seriously testing my math abilities as I try to cut down favorite recipes so we are not eating the same dish for a week!). Also, to banish the scourge of the “Pandemic Poundage,” we have gone on a serious diet, which does limit what I cook, but also forces me to look for more ways to bring flavor, but not calories, to our meals. When I get frustrated with the events happening in the world today, I recount the things that bring me joy and count my blessings. Stay safe. Stay well everyone!

    • My neighbor has started a home-cooking delivery business, and I succumbed to the blandishments of her quiches. Oh, my, what I have been missing… if you think cooking for two is tough, try being home alone with a whole quiche that won’t stop whispering your name… and she makes desserts too.

      • I adore quiches, but the desserts would be my downfall. Does she fall into the crust or no crust camp of quichedom?

        I’ve learned you can freeze quiche, which stops me from growing to the size of a feral hog.

      • Oh my! I meal plan for a week at a time, so when I make a dish that normal people would consider 2 meals each for two people, I can apportion it to 2 days in my plan when I am not staring at the dish in my fridge (or worse, on my counter top) while I am starving. I have long used my freezer to store any leftovers we can’t eat it 3 days or less. I store in “meals for 2” portions. Weeks from now when leftovers reappear, I am excited to see them again. Still, it’s a constant battle…

  7. This is ridiculously easy as I’ve always seen the joyous good stuff no matter how horrific the current surrounds. Right off the top of my head:

    A fabulous friend who couldn’t be closer than a blood relative. She’s logged many a mile with me driving her or her driving me somewhere. Plus she shares my sensibilities, so we cackle over something that hits our risibilities even in inappropriate situations.

    The bald eagle who decided to visit the shoreline of my lake and waddled around looking ridiculously pleased with himself/herself long enough for me to record its perambulations to share on the neighborhood social media, which pleased a goodly number of neighbors. Anyone know if it’s possible to tell the gender of an eagle without getting intrusively personal?

    Your books, which are just as engrossing when James Langton reads them to me as when I grab one off the shelf and immerse myself for the umpteenth time.

    Bonus item: An Egyptian friend sent the link to the live stream of the Pharaoh’s Parade, complete with English subtitles for the Arabic, and we watched “together” via social media, sharing commentary as if we shared a sofa, even though he was watching with his family in Dubai and I was thousands of miles to the west in Florida. Fascinating to see the faces of the pharaohs’ coffins in color, when I grew up seeing them in black and white in the pages of a 1930s Travelogue Encyclopedia. Trivia for quiz night – the St Johns River in Florida is one of four rivers on the planet flowing to the north, like the Nile, and the city of Jacksonville on the St Johns is due west from Cairo.

    It gives me absolute joy that we can find like-minded souls all over the globe and share glorious events in real time, when in my childhood I had to scribble on tissue paper for Air Mail to talk to someone in another country, as international calls were prohibitively expensive and had to be booked in advance by live operators.

    • Hi Beth –
      Telling the gender of an eagle might depend on the type of eagle.
      Many birds have different feathers… even from babies to juveniles to adults.
      When there are no differences in feathers, then there might be a difference in size. Females can be bigger (or smaller) than their male counterparts…
      I think one would have to be a true and practiced “twitcher” to tell based on size without a corresponding opposite sexed bird right next to your lovely shore friend.

      bald eagle females are larger than the males by something like 10 or 15 pounds… and i think they have bigger wing spans.

      That’s all i know.

      i am so glad you got to see this lovely bird frolicking on the “beach”!!
      i have a raptor who visits my backyard occasionally… he/she is just gorgeous. i think he’s a red-tailed hawk… the song birds go quiet and hide when he’s about!

  8. Hmm. Three things: as someone else said, sunshine, particularly on a spring day with a light breeze (this time of year, when it starts to get warm, is my favorite); cats, or more especially pictures of cats (I have none of my own but my best friend is always willing to share pics of hers); and the movie The Princess Bride, which is my absolute favorite, and which always makes me smile and laugh and if someone quotes from it it always makes me excited. And the nice thing about today, here, is that it’s a nice day: about 60 degrees and sunny! Spring is almost here.

    Happy Easter! (I guess a bonus thing is a good book. :))

  9. Being home. Hearing my family in the house. Coffee.

    Adding this one: vaccines! My husband is high risk so I was so thrilled when we went to get our first round of vaccines.

  10. That time of sweet lassitude between sleep and wakefulness when one has slept well and needn’t get up.

    Vocal harmony, whenever and whatever. “O but Everyone
    Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.” Sassoon

    A good, natural bowel movement. I am not kidding and don’t know how to phrase it more elegantly. It means I have eaten well, am unstressed and have had enough exercise.

    But only three?

  11. Ugh, my least favorite consolation phrase “everything happens for a reason”, what if that reason is racism, religious bigotry, or misogyny etc.?

    Three things that bring me joy
    1. my children
    2. sunshine and a good book on the porch
    3. in the middle of my front yard there is the most delicate, elegant, tiny white flowering plant that must be the result of a bird taking a break on the branches of the tree above it. It delights me and I have no idea what it is.

    Bonus anticipatory joy- I can’t wait for the farmer’s markets to open! I love buying from small farmers and getting fresh produce (I especially delight in buying the things I have never seen before and figuring out what to do with them).

  12. 1. Sunrises and sunsets
    2. The sound of running water in nature
    3. A warm purring cat on one’s lap
    and I have to add a fourth: 4. The first cup of coffee of the day

  13. Oh my gosh, reading your books brings me joy, but I’ve just finished the last one in print and can’t wait for the next few to come out! Distance running brings me joy – I’m a 62 year old Marathon Maniac/Half Fanatic. Being with my husband, my kids and grandkids brings me joy!

    Please, please, please write more books fast and furious, because I can’t wait for more Grace Burrowes! I especially love your Regency romance and Scottish novels.

  14. Reading historical romance, my cat, flowers.

    Interesting points you bring up. I consider myself an optimist, like Captain America I automatically try to find the good. I will say, I think it’s because I’ve had more than my fair share of negative experiences and finding the good kept me from getting stuck in psychological muck. I have also learned, though, that first I must acknowledge my emotions. If I skip right to optimizing, I miss a healing moment that is crucial. I’m learning to care for myself as I would a child of mine. Lovingly.

  15. It’s a bit late to add in my things that bring me joy, but I will anyway. 😉 It is hard to narrow it down to only 3 things! Wildflowers, reading a good book, and spending time outside in the spring before summer heat gets too high.

  16. The following give me joy:
    Connecting with my daughter and granddaughter, who live on another continent, with video calls; watching the birds at our bubbler and in our backyard stream; and contributing, through my activities, to the well-being of others.

  17. Finding that comfortable spot in bed so there’s no more tossing and turning, a dish of delicious pasta, and wasting hours just going through my music collection and thinking about what the songs meant to me at a particular point in life.

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