Something good. The first time I tried it, and it worked, no one was more surprised than me.
Let me tell you what happened:
Over the summer I struggled with a bad case of the blues. Long weeks of low energy and negative thoughts. Little or no enthusiasm to make plans with other people. Way too much time spent sitting alone and numb in front of the TV, hypnotized by old movies and summer reruns.
How weird to feel so down, so listless, so unmotivated and not know the reason why. I couldn’t blame my ongoing sadness on any recent crisis in my life. Or on one of those I’m-sorry-I-have-some-bad-news-for-you phone calls from an Onco-doc. And it certainly wasn’t a nasty side effect of any new pharmaceutical in my medicine cabinet.
So I analyzed and ultimately rationalized my situation this way: can’t mood swings happen to the best of us, whether or not we are in- or outside of CancerLand? This psychological low point just was –and clearly in my life right now for no particular reason I could come up with. But the truth was, I hated feeling this way. I wanted the ‘old me’ back.
How could I short-circuit my blue mood and put a smile back on my face?
Then I remembered the idea of setting positive intentions. Maybe I read about it in one of those books I find myself constantly skimming in the self-help section at Borders. (You know the ones I’m talking about – they have catchy, italicized subtitles with lots of exclamation points – Take control of your life NOW!!!). Maybe I heard about it on Oprah or Dr. Phil. All I know is that I was at a point where I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I did it: I started setting positive intentions.
Once I made up my mind to try it, beginning the process was incredibly easy. Driving to work the next morning, I picked a positive thought (something good will happen today), and repeated it silently to myself over and over again until I pulled into the parking lot.
The next step would be more of a challenge. I had to wait and see what my first something good would turn out to be.
That night there it was, something good sitting in my mailbox, tucked neatly between the bills and Home Depot circulars: a handmade thank you card from a fellow cancer survivor. She wrote, how can I ever thank you for all you’ve done for me and all you’ve been for me in some of my darkest hours? Wow!I was touched by her kind words and totally freaked out by her incredible timing.
The next morning something good turned out to be a parade of geese stopping traffic to walk across a busy suburban side street to reach the pond on the other side of the road. This updated version of Make Way for Ducklings immediately put a big smile on my face.
On Saturday afternoon something good was my three year old neighbor Margot running into my yard with her child-sized toy rake in hand to help me clean up the first fallen leaves of the season. After raking diligently for a few minutes, Margot bent over and picked up a few acorns from the ground.
She held them out to me in the palm of her hand and announced proudly, “Cocoanuts for you.”
Forever the teacher, I gently corrected her. “These are actually acorns, Margot.”
“No, cocoanuts,” she insisted.
What is the name of a round object that falls from a tree that has a hard outside covering? Hmmmmmm. I tried to see the world through her three-year old eyes and couldn’t help but smile. It’s all how you look at it, isn’t it?
Another day something good was the e-mail I got from the public library announcing that a New York Times Bestseller that I had put on reserve over a month ago was now waiting for me to pick it up.
Before long something good was peeking through the kitchen window at the morning glories climbing the patio fence, wide open in shades of pale blue and hot pink at 6:30 a.m.
Something good was also silently watching a pair of tiger swallowtails lazily explore purple flowers blooming on the backyard butterfly bush.
No doubt about it. Something good was working wonderfully well for me, so I continued the experiment. Day after day, during my daily commute, I diligently repeated to myself the same positive intention. By dinnertime I reviewed the day’s events to pick out something good that had happened. Soon it became obvious that this process created a marvelous tension, powerful enough to lift my spirits for most of the day.
Finally I had to ask, did setting the positive intention actually make something good happen? Was I in fact drawing happiness and joy towards me like a magnet? Or did this process just supply the attitude adjustment, helping me to focus on the many small and precious moments that can be uplifting, only if we are properly “tuned in” to experience them?
Was it the chicken or the egg? In the end, does it matter?
Today something good is completing this piece and sharing it with all of you.