Like the Plague

One of my joys in life is an occasional lunch with my buddy Graham, and last week was one of those occasions when we got together.

I forget what set me off, but I lapsed into Opposing Counsel mode, rag-chewing on everything from gerrymandering to book piracy to for-greed healthcare to the universal abomination and invasion of privacy known as facial recognition software (am I supposed to get a new face if my file is hacked?) to, to, to… I  wish I could say I was in rare form, but I’m just naturally capable of contentious discourse on any variety of topics. I got that gene. Both alleles.

Graham put up with far more of my bloviations than he should have, but as we were getting ready to repair to separate vehicles, he asked, “So, Ms. Happily Ever After, what’s the positive note we’re going to end on? Give me something upbeat to take home with me.”

That guy. I eyed him up. I eyed him down. I grumbled and I muttered, but I also stopped and thought: What have I come across lately that’s positive? Think, Grace Ann…  and I recalled a couple of articles I’d read.

“Solar power is contagious,” I said. “One house getting the panels results in more houses in that immediate neighborhood getting panels, across income levels, across demographics, like a green flu.” I think I surprised him, but more to the point, I surprised myself. Focusing on this one fact got me out of Ranty MacRant-Pants mode, and back to a place of reason and hope.

All the way home I was pondering the extent to which I’ve internalized the contentious, entitled, one-way foghorn dynamic of social media and news media, rather than the listening, constructive, humanistic outlook I purport to value.

I know other good stuff. Compassion is contagious, and also hard-wired into us. Darwin himself stated that compassionate communities will FAR out-perform competitive communities when it comes to thriving and adapting. (Take that, boardroom capitalism.) Laughter is contagious, and good for us. Exercise is contagious, at least among runners.

What I take away from Graham’s seemingly casual question is that I have to be more vigilant about my emotional hygiene. I want to work against the evils of the world without becoming depressed, close-minded, righteous, and loud. That will take paying attention to all the  sources of contagion around me, and allowing close only those that are constructive. It’s a plan, anyway.

What have you come across lately that’s positive? I’ll add the names of three commenters to my ARC list for Miss Dignified (ahem), Mischief in Mayfair book three, which comes out right after New Years. (Yikes!)




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40 comments on “Like the Plague

  1. until Covid came to town March ’20 I ran a little tuckshop in a large seniors lodge. I sold chocolate and combs and word-search books, and listened to a lot of stories. At the start of my four years there, I put up an invisible sign above my counter, saying ‘all are welcome here.’
    I knew from teaching, especially several years in an all-girls school, that gossip, if indulged, could run rampant far too easily. So I’d listen to someone wanting to complain about another for a minute, then say ‘I imagine that person would say something similar about you; how about we talk about kittens? or puppies?’ I’d bring up something cute and goofy on Youtube, and everyone would be happy in about 2 minutes flat. it never failed.
    (I miss my seniors terribly, and worry about them. I copied down phone #s, helped with buttons, sold hearing aid batteries then installed them – so many little things the staff didn’t have time for, and have far less time for since covid hit. the losses, fin de compte, are incalculable.)
    baby pandas anyone?

  2. It’s been a rough week for me. Rough. What happened? Lost of little stuff; nothing huge, nothing tragic and nothing that can’t be fixed or tweaked into place. But it was tough, rough and frustrating and I’ve cried in frustration more than once the last few days. But tonight my Hubby thanked me for a nice meal (a casserole my grandma used to make)and one of my sons told me I smelled nice (I took a shower right before dinner ’cause I spilled some salad dressing all over my clothes and I thought I might as well)and….I feel better.

    It’s surprising how a little thing like a thank-you for no reason or someone telling me I smell nice has made a difference in my attitude. One small, positive thing can help things improve 🙂 after a rotten week!

    • Sorry for the rotten week, Teenie Marie. It sounds, though, as if your menfolk SEE you (and smell you), and appreciate it. If there’s one thing worse than a hard week, it’s a hard week plus nobody noticing that you’re struggling. Hugs to you, and to the guys!

  3. Cancer survivors. I’ve known too many people in my lifetime who’ve been diagnosed with one form of cancer or another. I’ve lost close friends and family members. A couple years ago, I sat down and made a list of everyone I’ve known who had been diagnosed and the list was quite long, over 30 names and there are a few more since I originally composed the list. Turns out it was a very good exercise. What I discovered was that those who were more recently diagnosed were surviving their disease. Going back 30 years ago, I lost my grandmother and a childhood friend to cancer. In the last 10 years I’ve had the pleasure of knowing friends and acquaintances who were diagnosed with the same types of cancer and had survived. This, to me, is clear evidence of the advances in medical technology and reason for me to keep contributing to those research foundations.

    It’s October, ladies. It’s breast cancer awareness month. Wear your pink and get your mammograms!

    • I do not much respect AARP, because they strike me as being far more about selling advertising and junk “supplemental” insurance (and cruises, back before), than about lobbying for seniors.
      BUT they did sponsor a study of depression in older Americans, and the study found that one group of elders does NOT get depressed. That group is cancer survivors. They have stared into the abyss, learned a thing or two, and gained some wisdom, joy, and compassion. I would not wish cancer on my worst enemy, but as silver linings go, that did catch my eye.
      That you know a lot of survivors suggests some of the same wisdom has rubbed off on you!

  4. I had a busy week at work. I had two courses to review and pass tests and several tough issues to resolve. I took Tuesday off and took Greg to a new trainer to se did we could figure out why he is freezing during his Novice obedience test.

    I received 2 ARC s this week- totally by surprise. Such a kind, thoughtful gift, I thanked both authors and explained that I was behind on my reviews…and reading. Both told me to enjoy the books and not worry about reviewing.

    I was overwhelmed with work, a dog who freezes at the off leash heel, housework,…and this kindness made my day, it reset my attitude.

    I am going to pay it forward.

    • You and your puppies… I have never known you to give up on a dog or put your faith in the wrong dog (is there such a thing as the wrong dog?). Greg will get it sorted out, and when he does, he will make all your patience and pondering worth the wait. Hugs to you and Greg!

  5. My local library is trying to restore in person services and process more print books. I can make do with ebooks, but I really miss physical books.

    • Libraries have been among many unsung heroes in this pandemic. I know my local library is still trying to shift back to print book services, but their website has never faltered, and many, many of my neighbors took advantage of the virtual services.
      Hope your library is back in the print business soon.

  6. These last few months have been very tough,the loss of two best pals of many years and soon after my daughter in laws mum died in a London hospital of covid.I cared for my granddaughter and their dog while their mum had to cope with many things being an only child.Everyone in their lives have difficult and sad losses to get through and it takes time to work through.I was in that process when I had a phone call from a friend of my son who lives the other side of England.My son of fifty had been rushed to A and E Barnstable hospital having a heart attack. Because of covid restrictions I could not rush to him The next 24 hours were crucial,then I could speak to him on the phone,to hear his voice was amazing,he had made it through,he will be in hospital for treatment/surgery.I will see him when I am allowed to go.We have communication every day.He is so positive and thankful and it has rubbed off on me.We have so much to give thanks for but we don’t always see it when we are being bombarded with sadness and loss.Take a deep breath,stand up and dust yourself down.Let the repair begin it all takes time.Positive thoughts ignite positive actions.

    • Geez, Brenda. THAT is not a call any mom expects, or ever wants to get. I’m glad he got to a competent hospital in time and that the prognosis is good. If a mother’s love means anything, he’ll soon be doing half-marathons. I seem to be offering everybody hugs this week. A big virtual hug to you!

  7. Oof, I’m having a rough time and struggling to find those positive notes. My old standby is the beauty of nature. I also see how so many people are extending small kindnesses through the course of my day (I see cashiers chat, construction workers smile when redirecting you, my neighbors wave, gentle encouragement from my PT, etc.) and I try to hold onto those.

    • It takes so little effort to smile and wave, and really does create positive momentum in my mood. When I’m reasonably cheerful toward and appreciative of others, I feel like a decent human being. I’m glad you can spot the twinkles in the day, because it does get dark mighty fast when you can’t.

    • Oh, lordy… new horses. Horse shopping too.
      Now it’s all online, and what a rabbit hole for dreary days that is. So far, I’ve refrained. Santiago is a wonderful ride for me, but then I get tempted…

  8. My yard angel got my shrubs cut back & the clippings on the street before the HOA could inflict their quarterly misery. Then agreed to let me chunk the bill across coming slower months because everyone except politicians & management companies recognize the economy isn’t what it was.

    A close friend said such wonderful things about me & what my friendship means to her that she had me in happy tears.

    My grocery clerk took one look at the compression bandages on my leg & overrode the cash register to give me the $5 off coupon I hadn’t realized expired the day before.

    The branch office of my post office called the trainee delivering mail on my street & she came back to rescue my parcels jamming the lock on the parcel locker for my street & brought them to my door so the contents wouldn’t cook or melt in the sun. We had a quick glad to meet me chat before my recycling angel stopped behind her mail truck & waited for her to clear my recycle bin instead of sailing by & leaving my bin for next week.

    Both my FedEx & UPS drivers rang the bell & waited for me to open the door so they could put my heavy boxes inside the door for me to unpack at leisure in the A/C rather than dumping them on the porch & running.

    The cormorant choose my yard for wing drying several days, the egrets, ibis & herons have mounted forays & I’m expecting the Sandhill cranes any day now.

    The eruptions on La Palma in the Canary Islands, thousands of miles to my east, combined with the midAtlantic hurricanes to create spectacular sunrises. Plus the returning Dragon X spacecraft shook the house with a sonic boom coming in for recovery a few nights back. A few neighbors caught the reentry on camera.

    Finally, the purple Wandering Jew cuttings I potted to sprout like their windowsills so much I’ve been treated to pink blooms. I’m hoping to add them, along with some rosemary plants rescued from my supermarket’s produce section, to fill in some blank areas in my landscaping when the weather allows.

  9. Let me see
    I have been working on self acceptance/love lately which I have never been good at. A collateral benefit is the general improved mood from doing things to care for myself. This includes talking to my darling daughters on the phone (they live on the other side of the country), Actually seeing friends and acquaintances live and in person, cheating on my diet with frozen yogurt without overdoing. Foooooo;k;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;o;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;ooo;;;;;;;;o;omlkllll.

    I have found that if I stay in a good mood I am not as susceptible to grim world view. Exercise is indeed helpful and acknowledging all my accomplishments no matter how small. I am downsizing my material goods which is harder than I ever thought it would be. I give myself a pat on the back for every cleaned surface. Hugging my dog is a good one as is an occasional portion of frozen yogurt with chopped nuts.

    A truly big helpful change is to read news and not watch/hear it on TV or elsewhere. Other peoples emotions are contagious sadly.

    I think I will look into solar power….

    • That downsizing thing… I’m keeping a garbage bag right beside my fridge, as a reminder to fill it up and take it out. Old wicker baskets that I have no idea why they’re in my house, magazines I should have tossed last year, a plastic thingie that makes tossing a tennis ball for the dog (who died two years ago) easier… So much STUFF, and so much of it has to GO.
      I will think of you as I’m filling up my garbage bags.

  10. Mu husband and I have watched “America’s Funniest Videos” every Sunday night that they have been on since the pandemic started. It is a time to laugh – really laugh hard – together to get ready for a new work week. It helps during this crazy time to laugh at silly things that people have done and puts me in a better frame of mind to deal with the hard parts of life.

  11. I have been known to be a “Gloomy Gus (Gertrude?)” kind of person. In fact, when my husband and I eat breakfast, I tend to unload about the latest depressing news that I came across in the day’s headlines while drinking my tea as he slumbered, peacefully unaware of the latest awful events that happened overnight. Sometimes he’ll tell me I’ve depressed him enough for the day and we will each retreat to our offices. I’ve come to realize that it’s a lousy start to both our days, so I have made an effort to find some cheerful or funny tidbits to talk about instead. I subscribe to many news feeds, several National and international newspapers, and more than one media outlet to keep abreast of what’s happening. I also subscribe to a few “Optimist” kind of feeds, and more and more I find myself skipping over some of the horrific news out there and focusing on the feel good stories. If you make an effort to seek them out, there are so many instances of people simply being nice to one another, no heroics or extraordinary measures, just simple human compassion. People doing something for their fellow human being with no agenda or benefit to themselves, but simply because it is the right thing to do. I live in the Northeast where Covid vaccinations are happening at a greater rate than elsewhere in the country, where most people mask as a courtesy to others, where people are usually respectful of each other’s space. Certainly there is not 100% compliance, but most of us are careful and courteous, and that gives me hope for the future and makes me (and my grateful husband) happy!

    • I don’t think we realized what a quagmire of greed, negativity, and lies we were stepping in when we (Reagan) repealed the FCC rules requiring fair, balanced, and accurate news coverage. I grew up with calm, fact-based nightly news, and if something as an opinion piece, it was on the editorial page of the newspaper. If it was an ad, it only popped up during commercial breaks.
      I do believe more of us will follow your lead, eschewing the negativity sinks, and building up our own information sources to suit individual needs. I moved away from one major network as the last election approached. They could not report a positive story to save themselves, and their “analysis,” and “commentary” content FAR outstripped any actual news reporting. Phooey on that.
      I’m with you: I want to be informed. I do not what to be manipulated or needlessly upset.

  12. I love that the Washington Post has a positive news section. I have curated my social media down very tightly so I’m not seeing very much negative stuff, and I think my mental health is a lot better for it! I’ve gotten away from looking at the news too.
    I do a gratitude journal, and I’ve noticed nature makes up the vast majority things I’m grateful for on my list, as well as some modern day technology.

    • Social media… oh, don’t get me started. I LOVED that Facebook outage, though I know a lot of businesses were hurt by it. I’m all for mandatory social media blackouts, just as I don’t think the liquor store should stay open until midnight.

  13. “Emotional hygiene” and “paying it forward” are two phrases that really speak to me in the posts so far

    I called my son out on a couple of things by text this morning. He responded in kind. And then he called, telling me that he loved me and text was not a good medium for apologies. That’s positive.

    Our daughter joined us for church by Zoom and told us that she’d heard this week that the point was to be like Christ, not other Christians. I was touched. That’s positive.

    Our realtor called at noon with offers on a condo we’re selling our kids being past college, but a slightly nicer sort of college dormitory it is. He has spent the same time and effort that would sell something worth millions. It’s appreciated.

    I would like to remember to focus on the positive. It isn’t easy for me. And I would like to pay it forward.

    • The pay it forward reminder is timely, Marianne. So many people have been so kind to me, particularly during the last ten years of published authordom. Compared to being a lawyer, it’s like being on a different and much kinder planet.
      Now you have me thinking about how to mark that ten-year anniversary, and how to make it a pay-it-forward occasion.

  14. Mostly I get my positive vibes from my reading. And it’s one of the reasons I read more historical romance than contemporary since all the bad stuff has already passed (don’t tell me it’s fiction because it still counts for me). I try to avoid most of the bad stuff but there’s so much that crawling into my reading hole and ignoring the outside world is the best for me. Also, I’ve been suffering with a really painful knee for over 2 months and that makes me grumpy, too. The steroids my primary care practitioner prescribed didn’t work this time but I’m happy my appointment with the orthopedist is tomorrow (finally) and hoping for good things. (I’ve had bad knees since my 20s and have knee replacements on both sides of my family so I don’t expect perfection but maybe less pain and stiffness.) And it made me happier to read the positive comments from all of ya’ll.

    • I’ve been SO GRATEFUL to Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase, Tracy Grant, Lauren Willig, and other authors who’ve published series I can re-read. I’m taken back to a less stressful time, I find new wonders in my old favorites, and I forget for a few hours that I really ought to fold the wash (again). Books are magic. They just are.

  15. It’s kitten season. I placed one lost kitten a few months ago. He was followed by 6 more kittens a little later. I placed one of those also, with the same family. Now we have 5 new kittens which make 10. They are absolutely adorable and loveable (although I could do without the intestinal parasites). You would not believe my vet bills. I was also mopping floors at midnight. My husband is a saint.

    The shelter wasn’t a good option. A staff member begged me not to bring them. They are overrun and so are all of their 66 foster homes.

    • I just re-read this and realized it didn’t sound like something to be grateful for. Those kittens are adorable and so loving.

      • You are to be commended.

        Around here they go for barn cats, and if they become prey for eagles, hawks, coyotes, owls… well, there’s a steady supply. And we have an excellent spay/neuter program.

      • I would get one from you if I were close and my vet bills for my 2 dogs weren’t already borderline

    • Is it ever NOT kitten season? I commend you heartily for looking after the small ones, because as ferals they do not face good odds. My neighborhood has plenty of cats and like you, I do what I can, but they just coming… In some ways it’s amazing, but in other ways…

  16. Ah, Grace. I’m afraid I’m afflicted with the duel alleles myself. I watch YouTube videos of animals and tiny home dwellers. The people building/designing/living in tiny homes tend to say: “This was very important to me to have…” and “I love this…about my tiny home.” They are creating wellness where they live and I find the goodness rubs off on me,

  17. It’s so easy to crab, isn’t it (*looking guilty over here)!?!?… because happiness and good things don’t really need to be fixed… but the the other side needs discussion and sharing because fixes can be complicated or not immediately discernable.
    In dog and animal training, it is standard practice to “end on a good note”… and humans are the same!

    Starting the day with a dance is fun! And, I don’t embarrass myself because it is in the privacy of my own home. ;p

    My other positive is that my Mom’s heart procedures went well and the did ended up doing them both on one day instead of two. That made her (and me) happy! 🙂

    • oh goodness!! Typing with one hand has struck and dented my grammar!!

      ahem… what I meant to say is: my Mom’s heart procedures went well and they ended up doing both on one day instead of two.

    • With horses, you do the same thing: End on a good note. Work on something that beastie does well, and praise him lavishly for nailing it again.
      Then somebody figured out that if you do two trainings sessions a day, that’s twice chances to end on a good note… I’m not sure the horse views the situation quite to constructively.