Tag Archives: staying positive

The New Cheese: Change


Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’ The phrase means literally that the more things change, the more it’s the same thing. I don’t know if that is actually true. Change can hit in a number of different ways. Sometimes those ways are good. They mean progress, improvement, innovation, and avoidance of stagnation. However, sometimes those changes don’t feel so good. They feel uncertain, destabilizing, and confusing. The unknown and the new are sometimes scary. While JB expressed his experience as nothing ever being truly new, and that eventually it all amounts to the same thing, I think the sentiment and underlying meaning is that change is more a part of constancy that is just life. The one thing that seems omnipresent in the world is change, every day something new or different. Sometimes things move so fast, it’s hard to keep up.

Why am I talking about change? Well, it is a new year. It is a time when a good number of people consider changes in their own lives. It is a time to consider the things that may have become stagnant or even unhealthy that could use a refresh, a new habit, improvement to what we choose to do and how we live our lives… But that’s not the only reason that I’m thinking and writing about change. Not really.

In the past few years, I have, myself, experienced a lot of changes. I have watched people I care about face other changes. Not all of them were good. In fact, many of them were distinctly unpleasant. There were significant losses. There were obstacles and health issues and heartbreaks. I have watched those I love battle crippling despair and agonizing decisions. It hurts.

But there have been other changes as well. There have been changes born of growth. There have been graduations, weddings, births, new opportunities, and new relationships. There have been moves and new places. There have been new ideas and plans.

I’m distracting myself again. I do that. The reason this particular post is in TNC is because I want to talk about change in the workplace. You had to know that it was eventually going to wind around to job, right? In the past year, my team has dealt with drastic and overwhelming changes. There have been team reorganizations, a complete program change, manager changes, and then a documentation platform change… and that was within less than six months! And they rolled with it. They handled it better than any team with whom I’ve previously worked. I could not be prouder to be a part of them.

And now… in the new year, they were hit with change again. Another reorganization resulted in almost my entire team shifting to a different manager and another group being assigned to me. I’ll be honest, it hit me pretty hard. I am a bit of a “mama bear” when it comes to my direct reports, and I mourned that loss, hard. It helped that the manager to whom they were given is one of the best people and best leaders I know, but it still shook me up. I can only imagine what my new team is experiencing, but I suspect that there may be a good deal of anxiety and trepidation as we all have to learn about each other and develop these new relationships after years of understanding the in’s and out’s of a different leader and leadership style. I know it came as a shock for most. Maybe some are excited about the change, but I expect a lot more are worried about how the “new boss” will be.

It took me quite a while to shift my own mood and thoughts and acceptance. But I know that we are all still working for the same team and the same people and serving the same deserving population that are given into our charge each day. Who knows, now that I’m not “boss lady” to some of my former direct reports, there may be friendships and colleague relationships to further nourish and bloom in a different way.

Change is hard. Sometimes it feels bad initially, but hopefully it can push us, motivate us, and help us keep moving in a positive direction to be better and grow more. I think it is really about perspective. Acknowledge the discomfort, but don’t get stuck in it. Look for the opportunity and let the change move rather than control. So, with that, I’m going to go back to our friend JB for another quote that I like better…

Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.’

Negative Nelly, Complaining Clarie, and Gloomy Gus…

They are contagious, you know. In fact, they are some of the most virulent agents of ill that are completely undocumented by the CDC or FDA or any other official sounding acronym that I could come up with to illustrate the point. While I’m pretty certain that a Perpetually Positive Polly would spark homicidal rage in the most stable of breasts, treading too long in the dark is draining, exhausting, and just not productive.

Negative Nelly

Can often be found hanging out with her buddy Debbie Downer. She and Debbie can find the cloud around every silver lining. Nothing can brighten their bad day. Nothing suits them quite so well as being able to share something horrible about someone who has had a run of good fortune. Prognosticators of pussilescence, they will be the first to predict misfortune and a downturn of luck when things are going well. They never have a good word to say about anyone, and while they are always willing to share all the juiciest gossip (especially if it is bad news), they are not the group in which you want to confide… since their next news story might be about you! 

Complaining Clarie

Quick to point out all the flaws, Clarie can spot all the ways that something can and will go wrong. Clarie’s glass is always half empty… if not entirely dry. Without fail, CC will always doubt the potential of any plan. She will find every single hole and stumbling block along the path… Not so bad, you say? Maybe not. We all need someone who can be devil’s advocate and plan for the potentiality of failure, but she’s not so forth-coming with the solutions. For CC, it’s not so much the potential, but the eventual, and she is absolutely certain about negative outcome. Clarie also likes to complain about her situation, the behavior of others, and the general condition of her surroundings, but she is completely uninterested in the contributed solutions of friends, colleagues, or family, Offered options are often met with “Yeah… but…” It’s like she doesn’t want anything to improve… she just wants to bitch about it. Finding the failure and pain points is all well and good Clarie, but how do you suggest we fix it?!?

Gloomy Gus

Bless his heart. He’s the workplace version of Eeyore. Not so bad a character, but after a while, hearing about how everything is going to go to hell in  handbasket can get a little rough on the ears. Everything is always horrible, and Gus never has anything good to report. Whether it is his work performance or his physical aches and pains, he will regale any unfortunate listener with all the depressing details. I don’t know that Gus is just deliberately trying to sabotage a positive workplace, but he’s enough to suck the life out of everyone around him. Much like CC, Gus isn’t interested in your advice for how he might alter his own circumstances. He prefers to wallow in his own misery… and he wants to share that misery with company. He’s his own worst enemy, and he can’t figure out why no one wants to go on break with him.

Solution Sally (Marginal Member of the Negativity Collective)

She’s the antithesis to Clarie and all her complaints. Sally is always telling you how to do it better… But that isn’t such a bad thing to have a person who is always looking for the way to fix things, is it? Sally isn’t so bad, most of the time. Where our solution-seeking gal (or guy) becomes a potentially less than positive influence is when there isn’t anything that needs fixing. You know the saying, “If it ain’t broke…” Well, our gal Sal doesn’t even notice that things are working, she always sees a different way, though not always better, and she’s quick to jump in and tell you how her way is the best way, even when no one asked. We love solutions, Sally, but listening is an important skill to embrace before trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

Hanging around with these people too much can lead you to a convalescence in the Bitter Barn. Trust me, you do not want a permanent bunk in there. The accommodations are pretty poor and comfort levels are abysmal. Of course, that is how the regulars like it… always something to complain about, right?

The truth is that sometimes it is really hard to stay positive. When things are stressful and just not going your way, the simplest thing in the world is to dive into  morose sense of the futility… and of course bitch about it. We’ve all done it (except for PPP… and she’s just a little too chipper for everyone). There are just times when the day… or week… maybe year… just sucks. We get down. We get cranky. Sometimes, we get angry. It’s ok. Those are human emotions and natural responses to aversive stimuli and unpleasant situations. It’s not fun or enjoyable, and I think most people would find it completely acceptable for any normal human being to have those emotional responses. It’s also quite natural to vent and share our displeasure verbally. However, there is a time and place for everything… and a limit.

Negativity is one of those things that has a contradictory nature of sharing. For some negative impact issues, bottling up our emotional responses can create something like an affective abscess that bursts at inconvenient times or stews and simmers to grow into other problems down the road. On the other hand, venting can sometimes be a self-feeding spiral that just drags the person sharing into a more and more negative mood… not to mention either coloring the mood of listeners or just alienating everyone (remember what I said about the contagion factor). It’s a fine line.

So, when is it ok? And when is enough… enough? First of all, remember your environment and your audience. While honesty is generally the best policy, lambasting the boss in front of other leadership personnel may not be the best strategy for continued employment. Additionally, while everyone understands the occasional dissatisfaction inspired complaint, a continual diatribe without any contributing solutions may not be appreciated in work or social settings. Watercooler talk or an afterwork social gathering is always subject to the occasional griping, but no one wants to hear constant negativity.

How can you tell if you are becoming one of the negativity tribe? One key factor that can clue you into the “enough is enough” point is when the venting doesn’t make you feel any better. We’ve all had those moments where faced with a frustrating or infuriating set of circumstances, we just want to fly loose with “!@#(&%)!@$~@#!”  In the normal course of events, your friend, partner, or sympathetic coworker responds with, “Feel better now?” and if done correctly, the answer should be, “Yes.” That is venting. It lets off the steam that had built up to explosive levels. Once the pressure has been released, it clears the system for more productive focus. The danger of chronic or constant venting is that there is no cathartic feeling of “Aaaah that feels a little better after saying it.” With the continued diatribe or spewing of vindictive spleen, the spewer and the spewee just feel worse and worse with each instance… and each passing moment. Sometimes this conversation can degenerate into one-upmanship or “you think that’s bad?” and from there it’s is race to see who can be the most negative. This is a pretty good indication that venting is not therapeutic or helpful any longer.

So what to do? Suppressing emotions just because they are not the happy peppy ones isn’t healthy, but feeding the darker emotions with continual negative energy isn’t good either. Having someone who is safe to process stuff with is a treasure. Don’t abuse them. Make sure that if a friend, partner, or trusted coworker is willing to listen that you give them the same courtesy and do not monopolize that avenue of communication. Also, how do you know that you are talking to Nelly, Clarie, or Gus… if you consistently feel drained and exhausted after every interaction, it’s probably one of these folks from the Bitter Barn. Best defense is changing subjects, but when all else fails, walk away. Use your own energy to fuel something more positive instead of letting it be drained away by the perpetually negative.

Stay encouraged and curious, folks, and stay out of the Bitter Barn!

Physical Fit: Surviving Vacation


Seems like an odd title, really. I mean, who doesn’t survive vacation? Ok, yes, I know there are accidents and extreme sport enthusiasts and of course those types with debatable intellect and common sense who think they are Grizzly Adams and decide to go walkabout with absolutely no actually survival skills. Other than that, though, for the majority of us who generally just take a few days or a week to not work and get away from the every day grind… that’s who I’m  talking about. Yeah… those of us who plan a break and go to a beach or other chosen location for the purposes of relaxation, typically, we don’t have to think about surviving the experience. We just enjoy it.

However, from the perspective of someone who is still struggling with the whole fitness and healthy living aspects, it is a different matter. Anxiety about losing ground in strength or endurance progress, gaining weight due to overindulgence, and other setbacks can prey on the mind and throw a wrench in anyone’s fitness routine.

This year, I decided to approach things a little differently. As a part of the anticipatory goodness of pre-vacation planning, I reached out to friends and fitness partners prior to my departure to ask them for their favorite tips, tricks, and advice for staying on track while still enjoying vacation. Here are the common themes:

  • Incorporate physical activity in the fun (walk, hike, canoe, swim, etc.)
  • Choose healthy food snacks.
  • Stick with normal eating routines.
  • Do not eliminate favorite vacation meals (restaurants, favorite foods, etc.), just be reasonable and balance workouts with expected caloric increase.
  • Work out early in the day.
  • Eat clean, especially breakfast, and incorporate protein and shakes or smoothies.
  • For hotel living, try to choose someplace with kitchenette (more control over what you eat and cheaper).
  • Keep the indulgence in adult beverage moderate.
  • Drink water. Stay hydrated.

People had great ideas for specifics in following these common threads, too. I thought about it all and realized that the enjoyment factor is especially important for any fitness regimen. It’s all well and good to lose weight, firm up, get stronger, feel better, but if you are miserable because you have denied yourself everything you love all the time, it will never become a lifestyle. That’s how yo-yo diets and weight gain-loss issues are born. Resenting or feeling like you missed out on something will eventually betray you and so the program falls by the wayside.

As it happens, I’m one of those people who have struggled with weight loss-gain pendulums and it has probably damaged my metabolism beyond repair at my age. So, I try to set goals of a different sort for myself than the typical “lose weight” or “fit in to size X, Y, or Z by the holidays.” It just isn’t feasible for me at this point(without surgery anyhow). However, I can have personal goals, such as improving my time per mile and endurance. I can become stronger. And if it just so happens that my pants fit a little looser (or just fit… wouldn’t that be nice?) and my arms stop waving when I do, all the better!

I’m a vacation anomaly in a lot of ways, though. For all that I love sitting on a beach with a beverage and a book and doing absolutely nothing else, I usually lose weight on vacation. Yep, you read that correctly. I generally shed a few unwanted pounds of adipose while I am sitting on my ass doing nothing. Sometimes, this is not necessarily a good thing.

Years ago, when I would make my pilgrimage to the ocean to gaze upon the waves and commune with the creatures thereof, I spent the majority of my time sleeping, reading, eating, drinking, and occasionally dipping in the ocean to cool off. This doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend a week. However, I didn’t really have a lot of activity. Also, while I did eat, I would usually skip breakfast and lunch and then overindulge with dinner. Alarmed at my increasing girth at one point, I changed tactics and restricted my food intake, meaning I limited my caloric intake on dinner and continued to blithely indulge in copious tropical drinks. I actually lost quite a bit of weight, but I had all of the muscle tone of a jellyfish.

Needless to say, my horrible habits of calorie watching and restricting led to about a decade and a half of bouncing all over the scale and never being able to maintain healthy weight loss. However, regardless of my average weight shifting about everywhere, I had always lost a couple of pounds during my sojourn at the seaside. The prodigal pounds generally returned and brought friends later, and having the muscle tone of an invertebrate doesn’t actually fulfill the criteria of health even at my lowest actual weigh-in (what my friend calls “skinny-fat”).

Last year, I changed gears entirely, choosing to incorporate a more active approach to my vacation lifestyle. At the time, I had a goal to run one mile on the beach. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it was sort of a “bucket list” item, and running was nothing I ever thought I would do with any frequency or endurance. Well, run I did. It worked out pretty well, actually.

This year, the pattern continued with some improvements (partially based upon my kind contributors’ tips and advice). Every morning, I get up and run on the beach. I’ve stopped clocking the miles as much, but I just tried to stick to my most recent time goals of 40 minutes. Now, for those of you who have experienced running in loose or slightly packed sand, you understand that this is not going to give me the fastest mile. It does, however, identify muscles I never consciously experienced before, and it cuts my distance approximately in half. True story. Doing my run first thing in the morning did about three things: It got me moving and my workout done early; it allowed me to exercise without positively roasting in the sun and dying of heat prostration, and it gave me the opportunity to see a lot of cool things (like baby turtles struggling to the sea and sunrises each day).

We’ve always had a kitchen in our place where we stay every year. It’s small, and by no means the most modern or professional set up, but it suffices. I actually enjoy cooking when I am not also trying to work a 40-80 hour work week. This year, I planned a full week menu. It wasn’t bad, if I say so myself. It included things like feta-brined chicken with spinach Florentine and braised carrots; Andouille sausage with melon and potato gnocchi; sirloin with balsamic glaze and peaches with harvest mushroom and zucchini rice…  Are y’all hungry yet? Planning my menu was not only fun, but it allowed me to try and create new things that I might actually repeat at home. Obviously, dinner is only one meal of the day.

After my run, there is (as always) coffee, but I also included poached eggs. I’m working on my macronutrients (maybe a post later about that… when I wrap my head around it better), and I was not getting nearly enough protein in my diet. So, poached eggs helped make sure I was getting in some protein first thing. I will say that my habits are not changed nearly enough to go inside for lunch once I’m out on the beach, but this year I took my Herbalife shake or beverage drink to give me some protein during the day, too, instead of skipping and being starved at night leading me to overeat.

Sleep is something that is overlooked as a vacation staple. And I can hear what you are saying, “Why do you need to worry about sleep on vacation? Isn’t that what everyone does on vacation?!?” Well… no. Without the dread of the alarm clock jarring me into wakefulness on a daily basis, I tend to stay up way to late reading, playing games on my phone, watching Sharknado (no… scratch that, I will never watch that movie again or any of the sequels). I made a concerted effort this year to keep a decent sleep schedule (sans background TV). It made the early morning waking more natural and reset my circadian rhythm to something approaching healthy.

So… All in all, I’m pretty pleased with how I managed myself on vacation this year. I do not believe I fell off track, or if I did, it wasn’t so far that I’m struggling to get back. I expect that there will be a little bit of transition to go back to running with hard pavement or elliptical pedals beneath my feet instead of sand and a bit of recovery on my strength training since I didn’t do a lot of weight lifting while on holiday. All in all, though, I am hoping that I’ve not lost a lot of ground. Am I ready to go back to the grind? Oh, hell no. But that is an entirely different matter.

Psychological Loofah

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One of the things that I have finally figured out, after years and years of completely going about things in the wrong way, is that we all need people in our lives that add to it. Now, by adding I do not mean adding drama, or financial drain, or stress, or emotional turmoil. I mean that everyone needs people in their lives who add something positive to it.

Sometimes, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they add anything. It may be that they take things away. They remove negativity. They remove stress. They remove the dark, nasty cloud that hangs over the head.

During the course of day to day living, most people tend to build up what might be considered a film of nasty, grimy unpleasantness that is picked up from the world. It isn’t that the world is a completely horrible place, but going about the activities of work and interacting with humanity at large generally opens us up to things that are not always pleasant. This might be project deadlines, rush hour traffic, the weather, the bad mood of some other person who has surpassed their aggregate limit of @#$%s to give, or it could just be that we woke up on the wrong side of the bed and things went downhill from there.

In the modern age, we also have a smorgasbord of media that bombards us with negativity. It seems that our “news” agencies flood the ether with the most flamboyantly negative crap they can dig up. Have you ever noticed that a good many of the “reporters” out there can take even the most positive instance imaginable and spin it into horror story? I know. Good vibes don’t sell ads and airtime, but still, it just takes a special kind of miserable to conjure up some ugly for every ray of sunshine. I guess they are crying all the way to the bank, but it just seems an unpleasant way to make a living.

In truth, it doesn’t really have to be the network media, either. Social media rarely goes viral with positives. It’s the negative stuff that usually “breaks the internet.” Fear and anger seem to win the game. And… that’s sad. Truly. Even knowing why it is so doesn’t really help. It is just a sad statement about humanity that we are so focused on the negative. Unfortunately, it isn’t just electronics in our lives, either.

Think about it… you know there are people actually in your life right now that do it, too. You can probably think of at least one person that you interact with on a semi-regular basis that can suck all the air out of a room and turn a good mood into a full blown depression without flexing a muscle. It is like there is an entire species of Grumpy Smurf (for those old enough to remember) who hate everything and who can never let a positive comment live without taking a swipe. As it happens, I have been known to test out this theory. It happened the first time quite by accident, but the person in question was so very negative I attempted to find something positive to bring into the conversation. It wasn’t contrariness on my part (No, really. It wasn’t). It was more a deliberate attempt to cheer us both. I found that I was unequal to the task. It didn’t matter what I said, they could turn it around into something just heartbreaking. Eventually, I just felt frustrated and depressed. However, I now approach it almost as a game. I will say things that are deliberately upbeat and positive just to see how they are going to spin it into the toilet.

In the unseasonably rainy weather we have been having, a brief glimpse of sun was visible. I noted to Grumpy Smurf, “Man, it is nice to see the sunshine again, even if it is just a little while.” The response was classic, “*hmmph* Yeah, it’ll probably just be miserably humid or turn into another drought.” I just have to laugh at these moments.

Knowing the person’s history, I can almost theorize why some people feel compelled to discredit positivity. Sometimes it is an “Expect the worst and take what you get” mindset. If you plan for bad stuff, then you can’t get caught by surprise and maybe you won’t be as devastated by disappointment. The problem with this mindset is that while preparing for the worst, those individuals never seem to get to enjoy the best. All their energy is spent in discounting and looking for the dark cloud around those patches of silver lining. It’s a shame, really.

Another theory is that people who feel the need for the negative spin are playing into “the other shoe” phenomenon. “Things are going way to well right now, the law of averages says I’m gonna get creamed when the other shoe drops,” or “What’s the angle? There has to be an angle?” For some people, history has taught them that when things are going really well, something bad follows right behind. So, they never want to feel “too good.” The other side of that coin is similar to the “expect the worst…” folks. They never get to enjoy their lives because they are so busy looking for that other shoe and the angles.

My point to all of that is that most of us have at least one, usually more of those types with whom we interact every day. Aside from those, there are just the usual bumps and jostles that make up the plethora of life’s little irritations. All those little, and not so little, things contribute to a miasma that builds up on the surface of our personalities like a scum on a pond or mineral scale on the shower walls. We may not even notice that we are carrying it all around with us, bogging us down, making us less shiny. Before we realize what has happened, we’ve got second skin of all that negativity making us one of THEM.

This is why we need the psychological loofah in our lives. Sometimes this is something. Sometimes this is someone. I’m lucky. It’s taken me a while to recognize them for what they are, but I have psychological loofahs and scrubs and chemical peels in my life… I am a psychologist, you know. I build up a lot of that film. For me, there are a number of activities that help me reset and get away from the negatives. Some are daily. Some are weekly. Some are monthly, and some are once a year. The point is that they have become part of my regular regimen to keep that negativity film at a minimum and keep me from being the negative ugliness in someone else’s life. Last but certainly not least, I have the people that are my positive refilling sources. I have been extremely fortunate to have some people in my life who are positive and upbeat (sometimes even when they haven’t had the greatest day on their end either). One in particular always starts the day with a post on social media that says “Be blessed today, sugas!” Usually it is some variation of that. She isn’t Pollyanna, and she has her own struggles, but she tries to contribute positively to the world rather than contributing to what is already an oversupply of negative. I recently told her that her posts are my daily reminder to be more positive than I may feel each day. I’m not sure how she felt about that exactly, but it was true.

My positive friend, her partner, and a few others are people in my life who are a joy to be around balance out the people in my day to day that may be … not so much… I want to be one of those positive people for my friends and loved ones, too. I know that I am not always, but I certainly try. I know that to be healthy physically and emotionally, I need to practice a little mental hygiene. That includes physical exercise, meditation, music, reading good books, laughing out loud at least once a day, and interacting with the people in my life that bring their joy to share with me. I also know that with my psychological loofahs, I stand a much better chance of being what people I care about need instead of contributing to the negative film.