“Every day we get a fresh chance to live the way we want. We get a chance to do one amazing thing, one scary thing, one difficult thing, one beautiful thing. We get a chance to make a difference.”
– John Kenney, Truth In Advertising
Introduction: Let me first say that I am not one of those aggressively-positive, sunshine-filled people who see the good in everything and just want to hold hands and sing Kumbaya all the time. I’m a standard-issue, moderately-brittle, smart-assed, happily-married, lesbian native New Yorker, capable of great kindness when the spirit moves me, but heaven help you if you are walking too slowly in front of me when I’m commuting. I make a conscious effort to see the good before the bad, but if you are willfully ignorant or mean, we are not going to be friends. I choose my tribe like this (in order of importance): if you are funny (or capable of appreciating funny in others), intelligent (non-negotiable), kind to the people in your life, and judgmental ONLY of un-funny, unkind, small-minded, mean-spirited people, we’ll do just fine.
The Problem: 2012 and 2013 really had it in for me. After a string of serious personal setbacks and losses resulting in some major health problems (and a lot of sadness), my doctor told me to reduce my stress. How do doctors make that sound so easy? I have a stressful job in a stressful city in a stressful industry. I am aware none of this makes me special. However, I need my stressful job. You know, to eat and stuff. I asked the doc, “Are you going to send me a check every month, or am I moving into your guest room?” “Ha-ha!” quoth he, as he backed out of the room. So no help there.
The Challenge: How was I supposed to reduce stress while still surrounded by the same stressors? I needed a plan. I did some research, asked around. Yoga? I could maybe manage that once or twice a week, but I needed a daily solution. Breathing exercises? Handy during a panic attack, but not exactly life-changing. Medication? I try to resist such things unless I really need them. Liquor? Infinitely more appealing, but would eventually cause health problems of its own. Also, not a great day-time solution, since I no longer work in radio or advertising. I was at a loss. Then I read the John Kenney novel, Truth in Advertising, and I got The Big Idea.
The Light Bulb: In the novel, two characters call each other daily to report the one scary thing, one difficult thing, one amazing thing, and one beautiful thing . Everyone has daily scary and difficult things, so I didn’t think anyone needed to hear about mine. However, the beautiful and amazing things really stuck with me. I began to wonder what would happen if I committed to spend every day looking for at least one beautiful thing? Would that change the way I looked at the world? I tried it, and it did.
“Happiness is like an orgasm. If you think too much about it, it goes away.” -Tim Minchin
The Results: I am changed for the better. The quest for beauty has been infinitely better for my state of mind and my blood pressure than the parade of worst-case scenarios that used to play on a loop in my head. And most days, I find my stress level is more manageable. There’s something profoundly soothing about looking for beauty (and finding it). Plus, now I have an excuse to haunt Etsy, and to troll the internet for fantastic stuff like bad-ass bionic prosthetics, heartfelt artworks, trippy, trippy GIFs, stunning fashions, and creative geniuses! And sometimes, I am moved to tell my favorite stories or talk about my favorite people.
The Caveat: Of course I am acutely aware that the ability to look on the bright side is a privilege. I have a roof over my head and enough to eat and a stable job and lots of love in my life. I know how lucky I am to enjoy those things, and I try not to take them for granted. For those of you who struggle with those things, I wish you good luck and better days.
The Conclusion: I think everyone should try it. It costs nothing, doesn’t take up any time (unless you write a daily blog), and doesn’t require anything of you except that you open your eyes to the beauty already in your life. Give it a shot. Oh, and tell a friend!
“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.” -Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Post Script: Don’t worry, I’m still the same crotchety New Yorker I always was. I just smile more and panic a little less.
Post-Post Script: I’ve been at this for 6 years without missing a day! Go check out my 6th anniversary post, my 1,000th post, and my 100-day post for more on how my OBT has affected me and my 3d blogiversary and my 150th and 200th Etsomnia™ posts for a few of my favorite things!
“I hate writing. I love having written.” – Dorothy Parker
Way-Post-Script Confession: When I’m having a bad day or I’m worrying that my next post isn’t good enough (as much as I love it, Etsomnia™ gives me a weekly case of the yips), I come back here and read the comments people have made, and it gives me the boost I need to keep going. So keep those cards and letters coming!