My father loved to spin yarns and tell jokes, and one of my favorite jokes of his was the one about the twins (some of you have heard this before, but it never gets old). One was a pessimist and the other was an optimist. As my father told it…
Scientists were conducting an experiment to study the difference between pessimists and optimists. So, they searched far and wide for parents with twins—-one an optimist and one a pessimist. Finally, they found a pair of boys, and, after all the waivers were signed, the experiment could begin. There were two rooms, both were waist-deep in horse manure. The scientists watched from behind the two-way mirror to see what would happen.
One boy (the pessimist) cried and moaned, “I just knew it. This stuff always happens to me. I should have known that something bad was going to happen. Why can’t I ever get a break?”
The other boy, though, was slogging happily around the room and laughing as he flung horse manure into the air, each time with a healthy giggle. Baffled, the scientists had to enter the room of the optimistic twin and ask, “What on earth are you so happy about? Don’t you realize you’re waist-deep in animal feces?”
The boy replied, “Are you kidding me? Why wouldn’t I be happy? With all this horse sh!% there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere!”
The past three months have been crazy. October and November were a train wreck when it came to my personal life. Just about the time I was seeing some light, Dallas/Fort Worth was hit with a major ice storm last weekend, which wasn’t so bad until Saturday when every sink, tub, shower and toilet decided to back up water and sewage and flood the floors. We used every towel we owned to keep the walls and carpet from being ruined…and every plumber in DFW was down. They, too, couldn’t get out because of the ice.
I spent most of Monday and Tuesday cleaning the epic mess.
But you know what?
I don’t believe it is any great test of character to be happy when everything is going our way. Anyone can do that. The real mark of a person is how he or she behaves when the world seems to be caving in. Can we be peaceful, calm, happy, and look for the good….no matter what?
Yes, I freaked out for a few minutes and cried about the mess and that no plumber could come help. But, after I had my five-minute pity-party, I worked with my husband to make a plan to endure the freeze. We cleaned up as much as we could then began pouring boiling water with dish detergent down the main sink. Soon, the plumbing wasn’t backing up into the tubs, sinks and showers and we could take brief showers and use the sinks and toilets…carefully.
I set my mind that the ice storm was really a blessing. We wouldn’t have to pay the $250 emergency fee just for a plumber to show up. We made it until Monday and guess what? It was a regular plumbing visit (a clog) and the total was $218. If one of the four companies I’d called when I was freaking out on Saturday had actually been able to come over? It would have easily been close to $500.
Feelings Need Discipline
We train our minds much like we train our bodies. We need to exercise them and discipline our habits. We have a choice how we react and a lot of this is influenced by our expectations. What are we expecting to happen? Are we looking for the good? Or looking for how we will be somehow wronged?
I know that I was born an optimist. I think that is why my father used to rib me with that joke. But, there was a span of about 15 years that I allowed other negative people to convince me that I was a fool, an idiot, an unrealistic Pollyanna. I started expecting the worst, and I wouldn’t allow myself to hope for anything, because if I didn’t expect good things then I couldn’t be disappointed. I became a grouch, a complainer and a seed of discontent…and no one wanted to be around me. My life was full of junk, and why wouldn’t it have been? I didn’t expect good things, so I couldn’t even see them when they sat right in front of my face.
Eventually, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I started being very careful about my thought life. Our mind doesn’t have to be a garbage dump. We are in control of our thoughts, and we don’t need to dwell on every thought that drifts into our brains. Focus on good things, and it is amazing how quickly the tough times will fly by. Life, people, your work will disappoint you. Sometimes, they might even rip out your heart and show it to you.
We can cave or we can change.
Yes, the view from the mountain’s summit is breathtaking, but nothing grows there. The most growth happens in the valleys. Film is developed in the dark and so is character. When hurt, pain, loss, disappointment, frustration come our way we have a choice in how we view the situation. All of us have rough spots, and those setbacks, hurts and trials are the spiritual sandpaper that will shape us into a more excellent version of ourselves.
I know that life is about seasons. There are seasons of joy and abundance and it seems that everything is going my way. In turn, that isn’t all of life. Gotta have the sour, or the sweet isn’t as sweet. And, if I have to endure the sour, I choose to do it with a smile, with great expectation of the better Kristen those trials will make me.
With all this horse sh*& there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere :D!
What do you guys think? What are your opinions? Thoughts? Ideas? Have you ever experiences something that appeared to be a disaster, yet was a blessing in disguise? I love hearing from you guys! Btw, the above image is Twig the Fairy if you want to follow her on Facebook. I’ve met her and she is seriously NEAT.
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
I hope you will check out my newest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World onAmazon or even Barnes and Noble.
Thanks! I really needed this today. I’m going to the doc in bit t see if toes on both feet are broken.
OUCH,been there before. Well, will keep you at your computer writing :D, LOL.
As soon as I get back, I will. luv ya, mar
I think that is the only way anyone survives the writing life (or life in general). I just told my (somewhat pessimistic) daughter the other day–believe the best in people and don’t be surprised by the worst.” Same with circumstances. My agent says I need to get your book. It’s on the Christmas list . . . hope no more horse poop happens in your 2013. Really enjoy reading.
Loved today’s column. Thanks for the reminder.
i’ve been delusional since the day i was born, lucky you
Not quite that disillusioned, but it seems to come in cycles, and I am very sick of it!
Kristen, you are an inspiration!! This time of year is always tough for a single parent. I’m SO close to caving in, but I’m doing my best to hold on, stay positive, believe God will work through this for us. I could cry and moan, but where would it get me? Just depressed and miserable. Somehow, things will work out.
I think you’re resilient — or you’re not. I’ve survived a very difficult family, multiple ups and downs in my professional writing life (each book — published by major commercial house — was rejected 25 times before it sold and my latest proposal did not sell at all) and four surgeries since the year 2000. So, then what? Pity parties are boring and no one ever wants to come or stay. You have to keep going or…or…or what?
Every life is going to throw some s**t at us and it’s how we respond to it that matters. Expecting smooth, happy, easy is delusional indeed.
Timely post, Kristen. Got my very first rejection to my query letter for latest novel. But it was uplifting in that she said she thought I was a good writer, just wasn’t that enthused about my story. So the search is on for an agent who is.
PS: Hope you found the pony. 🙂
Yes indeed! I have several family members who suffer from depression. It can be trying to talk to them. Everything is bad, everything is a crisis, all the time. It’s hard to clear my brain after an afternoon or evening family get together with them. Thanks for the reminder that we each choose how to respond to negativity or bad luck.
I’ve had sewage backflow issues in my house – I live in reclaimed swampland at sea level in a city with a 100-year-old sewage system. I know how sh*tty it is (pun intended). Sorry.
Love it! I choose to thank the universe for each rejection letter. The universe has my back and it simply means, that agent/editor wasn’t “the one” for my passion. I am just going to keep looking for my pony while remembering to be happy on the moment. I am sorry about your poopy floors, I am not a fan of poopy floors!
Another keeper, Kristen! You’re amazing, and it’s very timely today. i feel very…I’m not sure what i feel. The granddaughter of one of my favorite students drowned yesterday. She was only two. My student found out 15 minutes before her final exam. I don’t know what to do for her.
Although the delightful little girl is spending Christmas with God, I don’t know how to comfort those that remain.
There are no words for that. I can’t even imagine how to wrap one’s head around that kind of loss and suffering. I will send prayers their way, and God gives us beauty for our ashes. Just be there for her. Most people are there right after a death, but its a month later the shock wears off and all the support has gone home and on with their lives.
Thanks for the prayers, Kristen. That’s one of the best things we can do.
I too had a tough October and November. October 19th my father died, then two days before his funeral my sister’s cancer was back. On November 29, my brother who is 16 months younger than I am died unexpectedly of a systemic infection. I was on my way back from his funeral in Pennsylvania when I ran into the same storm that caused all of your problems. When all was said and done, I was just glad to be back home and at my computer writing again.
You and I had a very similar autumn. So sorry for your losses, but we love you :D. Happy you are home and safe.
Loved your post! When so many things in your life go out of control, it’s hard to keep up. You barely take a breath and the next crisis hits. Like you, I was once surrounded by negative people. Now, when someone starts going negative, I hurriedly divert them onto a more positive subject. It always surprises me how many people complain! They also don’t consider who they’re complaining to, Hint: Don’t complain about your office when you’re talking to someone who sits in a cubicle. 🙂
You may not control your circumstances, but you do control how you react to it.
Just got your book, Kristen. Thanks for the handy dandy link to B&N!
As a favor, if you like the book, could you review it? I have loads of great reviews on Amazon but nothing on B&N :(.
Don’t get me started on complainers. I am ignoring most of my family right now. I’ve lived in Third World countries governed by dictatorships. I once had scorpions rain out of my shower curtain, had to wash clothes by hand in the jungle WHERE IT NEVER STOPS RAINING, and have been homeless a time or two. I’ve broken many of the bones in my body, including my back, and this was before the ADA. Had to climb stairs on a cane to make it to class. The petty crap people gripe about makes me see red, sometimes.
I’ll definitely leave a review! Thanks for all that you do!
I used to be gullible-y optimistic. Then, I got with someone who destroyed my optimism. I am slowly rebuilding it because I prefer seeing the glass half-fun instead of half-empty. It’s better having something than nothing, in my eyes. The silver lining is always there if we’d simply look. I am glad I no longer feel gullible, but I prefer feeling like anything is possible in my world. Great post!
If you want to laugh, read the first section — very funny. The whole blog is good — resonated with me — and sounds like some of the reframing Anna was suggesting.
I have also been in the “Don’t expect anything good and you won’t be disappointed” state of mind before. I am an optimist. Life loves to kick us around. Actually, I think it’s our enemy, Satan, who wants to see how much we’ll take before we just lay down and die. Remember Job? Remember Job’s wife? Wow, I hope I’m never like her.
Reality can be a downer. It was four year ago that my Gram passed away. The next month my mom’s lymphoma was back and a year from hell ensued. I had no positive thoughts during that time. All was black. Did that make anything better? No. I just couldn’t find the girl with the positive attitude.
Looking back, I realize I closed myself off and tried to deny my pain. Not the right answer. Feel it. Own it. Scream at God (He’s big enough to handle it). Focus on something else.
Thanks for being real with us. It’s nice to know I’m not the only imperfect person on the planet.
Oh, thank GOD for grace. I screw up ten times before my feet hit the floor in the mornings, LOL. Trials are there to shape us if we let them. Just like working out in the gym is painful to have the beautiful body. Enduring the pain of life strengthens the heart, character and soul if we allow it.
Love you, Girlie ((HUGS))
Very well said! Got challenged with something like this last night when someone said to me that my negative thoughts only defeats myself.
I’m still laughing. I love this anecdote. I will carry this with me forever and try to remember it when I’m in a room full of shite. I’m going to call my mom and read it to her. I’m hoping she finds her way back to optimism. This is something I’ve been working on and trying to teach my kids. I call it “grace under pressure,” and I need a lot of work with it. Thanks for this post and for giving me not only a fab laugh, but a reminder of my quest to be better 🙂
Four years ago I became sick and the illness only got worse. Eventually I ended up in the ICU and it took me 18 months to recover enough of my health to move on. Best thing that ever happened to me. I learned a lot about myself and what obstacles I was capable of surmounting. Too, it forced me to leave a job I disliked, but was hesitant to leave. Now I’m here talking to you and other writers and slaving away (with a smile) on my WIP. This is a new level of happy for me.
🙂 I’d be happy if only one month was awful.
RIGHT? I’ve been taking regular beatings for a while. Must be doing something right, LOL :D.
I learned from a friend who said ” cheer up things could get worse” So I cheered up and sure enough things got worse!! My wife says happiness is a choice so choose it! Oh and about the pony… that room is where the dad kept it until he could give it to the boys sister!!!!! It is good at least to have a princess in the house because she “might”share the pony with the twins.
This is a great post, Kristen, thanks! I battle with feeling down (I get depressed), and it’s hard to stay positive. For some of us, it’s just more difficult. Is my brain wired differently — I guess so. Still, everyday I try little things to help me steer myself into the positive. I tell myself, who knows what may happen? For me this is a open-ended positive statement.
Just joking this morning with my son about my checkered past and what great material it is for my novel writing. In the past few years I’ve been surrounded by can-do, positive people. It’s hard to complain around them–a good thing.
Thank you for posting this…..needed to hear it for sure. I’ve been hitting a rough patch in my relationship with my boyfriend, but I need to remember that I’m not locked down to him, and that it is okay to take care of me first.
Reblogged this on Live, Love, Laugh, Dance, Pray and commented:
Encouragement in all places (:
You certainly have been put through the ringer this year. Yet, you are still here, helping others. If I knew nothing else about you, that alone would be enough to earn my respect and admiration. Thank you for your posts, comments, ideas, advice, and most of all humor.
Best thing to do when life is kicking you is to serve others. Get your mind off yourself and sow some love :D.
That’s the secret keep looking for the pony.
I signed up, too! WHEEEE!
Yeek, I’m sorry, this comment was meant for the next post down in my reader! I fail at the wordpress app! Sorry!
Pessimist by nature here, but this is inspirational. Thanks, Kristen! I’ve learned through my lifetime to search for that silver lining and shine with it.
Hey, Kristen, you are such a bright spot for me (a glass totally-empty type!). Thanks for always passing on the things that never fail to provide “the best medicine,” laughter. Trust me, I don’t take lightly how blessed my small family is…for instance, we had our sewer back up and do its “nasty dirty work” last Wednesday on one of D/FW’s gorgeous days BEFORE the storm. Keep fighting the good fight.
I’m not normally a pessimist but this year has been especially brutal for me. Thank you for reminding me to not cave.
What I really want to know, Kristen, is this. Did you find a pony while you were cleaning up? 😉
Still looking, LOL.
I try to stay hopeful and optimistic – the universe gives us what we need most exactly when we need it. Although it’s not always obvious how a room full of manure can be a gift, if you keep an open mind and are willing to laugh, all eventually becomes apparent. At the very least, it’s all great fodder for the next novel . . .
LOL You are soooo right. Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to stay positive and I have to throw myself the pity party, get it out of my system, and then start chugging along again.
Unfortunately, when the events involve the death of a loved one, I have a lot of trouble getting past the grief. I don’t process it well. Fortunately, I have a good, loving support system I can lean on in those times.
And you need a FlyLady clog cannon. Seriously. (And a plumbing snake, You can get one of those at any home improvement store for less than $50 for a long, hand or drill-cranked one. EVERY house should have one under the kitchen sink. It will take care of many, many MANY clogs.)
Thanks for this. Another one going through a rough patch and your words have helped today. xox
Kristen, thank goodness for your sense of humor. You deserve to find a unicorn in all of that pony poop you’ve been trudging through. And I can relate. We once had a guest plug up every bathroom in the house. It wasn’t fun locating our septic tank at 3 AM.
Hang in there!
thank you for this post. very encouraging in keeping up with the positivity. connie
I really loved your post; I agree wholeheartedly that an optimistic attitude will bring more good into your life. I had a light bulb moment like that about six years ago. That was the moment that I decided I could find a way to satisfy my craving for cultural travel with my family. I did find that way, via international home exchange, and my family has since spent a total of sixteen weeks in Europe over the past five years – a dream come true! My optimism has thrived and now I want to share everything I know with other families, so they too can satisfy their travel desires. I honestly believe that I can accomplish anything I put my heart and soul into; and I just did that when I changed professions from business to travel writing and coaching. I just created my website, here on WordPress at http://www.trustingtraveler.com and am writing a book called Have Home, Will Travel; I sure could use a pro like you to critique my work. I am very optimistic that my name will be pulled from that hat!
Personally, I’m looking for the Ponies!
Happy Holidays, Kristen
and…I just reposted your blog on my facebook page. It really is great to be reminded to work always strive to be positive and not fall into a negative pattern of thinking, . Thanks for reminding me, and I’m pleased to share that reminder with my Facebook friends and family.
I so needed this to pick me up. My stomach is acting up as usual because of something I ate and I’m feeling totally down on myself AND life. I’ve wasted hours feeling miserable.
Now I’ve got to go READ THAT NOVEL I’m in the middle of editing.
A timely wonderful post! Thank you! When I was a teenager I decided that it was no use to hope for something more. Just take what I got and no one (me) would be hurt with disappointment. So much wasted time. Right? A few years back I realized that I was missing so much of life (20+ years) and I made the determined decision to trust God and start dreaming again. Although the last years were challenged with health issues, loss of business, loss of home, financial loss and emotional crisises, they were also filled with lots of love, laughter, hopes and dreams. Yes, challenges may still arise. It’s up to me to meet them with my arsenal of looking for the blessings in life. I know everything is going to be all right and the best is yet to come. Blessings to you all.
Thanks for the healing thoughts, Kristen. Rejections taken in emotionally can question our adequacy as persons when it is our writing that has been turned away. It’s all about seeing the positive in failure and keeping your spirits high.
“Yes, the view from the mountain’s summit is breathtaking, but nothing grows there.”
I am so stealing that.
Thank you for your posts. I’m at a place in my life where I feel rather lost, and don’t ya know it….the mornings I wake up and am feeling really stuck, or confused or sad I open my email and there’s a blog from you that is so spot on to what I’m dealing with. That gives me hope, and reassures me that I’m not alone.
Hi Kristen, just wanted to give you a heads up that we’ve recently mentioned your blog on our newest post as well as at an event we we’re invited to speak at in North Carolina. You can find it here: http://inionnmathair.wordpress.com/ Thx 🙂
Thanks so much for this post, Kristen. I tend to be an pessimist and have to work really hard sometimes to believe there’s a “pony in the horse manure.” Like you suggest, I try to control my own thoughts. Sometimes I indulge in a pity-party, but because I know that after a few minutes, I’ll feel better and ready to move on. For me, the key is to admit to myself how I feel, even if it’s a negative feeling that I’m ashamed of, and then to let it go. Talking it out (even just to myself) seems to release all the negative. I’m glad you’ve gotten through the crises of this year, and I truly hope that 2014 shows a lot of peace and happiness for you.
A great reminder to focus on the good! Thanks Kristen, well said.
I love your blog and I love unicorns! Thanks for sharing!!!
This post is beautiful. Just what I needed right now 🙂
It’s hard to keep the perspective that every disaster has a silver lining, but I think it does! I’ve had lots of little miracles come out of the ugliest storms, and I’m always grateful for them. Well, almost always. Thanks so much!
Thanks for the reminder and the viral kick-in-the-pants. Needed it. I’ll be posting this on my FB page. : )
PS – love the picture and message!
This is a very special blog post, Kristen. I loved it – and it left me thinking… in many ways.
Reblogged this on vivianneouya's Blog.
I always remember a Garrison Keillor, Prairie Home Companion skit, where he said, “Nothing bad happens to a writer, it’s all material.” I’ve tried to live by that. It got a lot easier when I found Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life. It’s a small book but very funny and very practical. Simple but not always easy. It made a HUGE difference for me. Happy Holidays!
Reblogged this on Sharliebel's Blog and commented:
~ Inspirational Thoughts Seem To Lift My Writing Spirit ~ I love stories about family. ~ Charlotte M. Liebel
Kristen, I hope that I eventually get to hang out with you in real life. Your posts are so uplifting, always what I need to read right when I need to read it. I’ve had a lot of crap hurled at me the past few weeks, and this post right here is making me cry because it’s so healing to my wounded spirit.
We all go through the Valley, but that’s where we grow. Sending loads of love your way.