“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 (lower case “s”) moves me, but heaven (lower case “h”) help you if you are walking too slowly in front of me when I’m commuting. I make an effort to see the good before the bad, but I do my share of whining and if you are stupid, I am going to judge you to beat the band. I choose my friends like this (in order of importance): if you are funny (or capable of recognizing funny in others), intelligent (this is non-negotiable), exceptionally good to the people in your life, and judgmental ONLY of un-funny, unkind, and/or stupid 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, 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. My smarty-pants response to the doc was “Are you going to send me a check every month, or am I moving into your guest room?” “Ha-ha!” he said brightly, all the while backing 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 happened to read the John Kenney novel, “Truth in Advertising.”
The Light Bulb: In the novel, two characters call each other to report the one scary thing, one difficult thing, one amazing thing, and one beautiful thing every day. 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 good job and 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, 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 880+ consecutive days! Go check out my 1,000th post, my 100-day anniversary post for more on how my OBT has affected me and my 1-year anniversary and my 2-year anniversary 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!