To read all posts in this series from the beginning, click here.


Looking at a big to-do list can make us feel overwhelmed, no matter how worthwhile the items on the list may be. Discussing them with others can give us the motivation and accountability we need to get beyond that unproductive inertia, as well as the perspective to determine how accurate (or not) the list may be. After taking a moral inventory at the fourth step and identifying our strengths and weaknesses, Step Five of a traditional 12-step program requires admitting “to God, to ourselves and to another human being” the exact nature of what we’ve done wrong.

This is not an occasion for self-flagellation, but it does call for strict honesty. The word “exact” is significant because, it we don’t know exactly what went wrong, then we’re likely to keep on doing it regardless of our good intentions. Actions have a cascade of consequences, not all of them expected or fully understood; so it’s necessary to look at them in detail and trace the chain of cause and effect.

Blogging can be helpful for several reasons. I’ve found that writing about my thoughts and actions gives me more insight into them because I have taken time to reflect on an issue and to consider different aspects of it. Reading articles on other blogs can shed light on how people are dealing with similar situations. Exchanging comments can amount to the online equivalent of a support group, provided the comments are encouraging and constructive. And in general, blogging nurtures feelings of connection to the community and the world.

When we get caught up in negativity and lack any meaningful reflection on what we’re doing, then our choices are likely to result in problems we never imagined might happen. If I choose to make daily visits to a political forum that’s full of gleeful snarky attacks, it may seem harmless at first—but after a while, my worldview subtly shifts toward considering such behavior normal. This is because the definition of “normal” is not based on any objective criteria, but comes from whatever we encounter regularly.

It’s an insidious process… healthy routines and positive social interactions may fall by the wayside, replaced by long hours at the computer reading and posting sarcastic comments about political adversaries, while also arguing with other forum members. That in turn causes family and friends to feel neglected. Their expression of such feelings may be perceived as hostile, now that it has become normal to see ugly personal attacks every day. At that point, it doesn’t take long to get swept into a nasty downward spiral where it seems like the world is full of enemies.

Without striving to be exact about the problems caused by addictive behavior, we never gain the perspective needed to see how the pieces all fit together. Causation can be very tricky. When unexamined assumptions stay in place for a long time, they can prevent us from learning from our mistakes and growing emotionally, in addition to other kinds of harm.

One way to look at it is like the bushes growing in my yard, which had a lot of dead branches this spring because of the harsh winter. Some branches died all the way back to the main stem. When that happens, the bush needs to be pruned carefully, snipping away a tangle of dry dead stuff. There’s a high chance of getting poked even through gardening gloves, especially if it’s something with thorns. The work takes a long time, finding the base of each dead branch and cutting it off. But it has to be done to make room for new growth to sprout, or else the bush will never be healthy again.


Click here to read Recovering from Negativity, Step Six.

May 21, 2014 · 7 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I’d like to thank Janine at The Positive Project for nominating my site for the Liebster Award, which is about recognizing new blogs. Although I didn’t post a response quickly, it wasn’t due to lack of appreciation; I’ve been busy and distracted because of my daughter’s college graduation. 🙂

Liebster Award

These are the award’s rules as posted at The Positive Project:

  1. Thank the blogger who gives it to you.
  2. Answer the eleven questions he/she asks.
  3. Nominate eleven bloggers with less than 500 followers.
  4. Ask these eleven bloggers eleven questions.
  5. Let these eleven bloggers know that they have been nominated.

At present I have no followers because my blog is not hosted on but is on a virtual private server. My husband kindly set it up for me using a WordPress theme, but he couldn’t find a good plugin to add a follow button. He likes to tinker with code, though, and says that he’ll write something to give the blog that capability. So, it’s on my IT department’s to-do list. 🙂

(Edited August 2014; this has now been done.)

Here are my answers to Janine’s questions:

(1) What did you dream about being when you were a kid?

I wanted to have adventures like the characters in my favorite books and cartoons. Being something practical, career-wise, almost never crossed my mind when I was a kid.

(2) East Coast or West Coast?

West, although I’ve been firmly planted in the Midwest for many years.

(3) Favorite all-time dessert?

Raspberry trifle. Or anything with raspberries in it.

(4) If you could meet one author (dead or alive) who would it be?

I’d like to have coffee with Elizabeth Gilbert. She seems like the sort of person who would chatter nonstop, but her conversation would be so interesting that it would be okay.

(5) Right-handed or left-handed?


(6) Favorite dance move?

This question brought back a fun memory of a square-dancing class as a child. Do-si-do gave me much amusement.

(7) What is one of your underappreciated superpowers?

Persistence. 🙂

(8) Vegetable garden or flower garden?

Flower, mostly; although one of my favorite garden flowers is alyssum, which is a cruciferous vegetable. Alyssum blossoms are tasty on salads and in chicken soup. There are many kinds of edible flowers, but I haven’t ventured to try eating any others yet.

(9) What is one of your favorite memories?

Being presented with my engagement ring in December 1985. It was literally wrapped up as a present, in a box with Christmas gift wrap. I didn’t suspect a thing – opened the box fully expecting to find a bracelet or other small holiday gift. Great surprise!

(10) Who inspired you the most growing up?

My mom, who always told me that I could do whatever I wanted to do, thus teaching me the valuable lesson that it’s often more useful to be confident than realistic.

(11) Have you mastered any tongue twisters?

When my kids were little, we all had a good time trying to master the tongue twisters in Dr. Seuss’ “Oh Say Can You Say?”

I am nominating the blogs listed below. If I mistakenly picked anyone who has more than 500 followers, doesn’t like awards, or has already done this one, please feel free to accept the recognition without the award!

Lady K’s Lounge
The Fearless Scribe
A Project for Kindness
Morning Angel
From Acorn to Oak
Love Well Live Well
The Little Things
Following My Joy
A Little Positivity
Lucky Attitude
Still a Dreamer

Here are my questions for the nominees:

  1. If you had a time machine, when would you visit?
  2. Do you have stuffed animals, real live pets, both, or neither?
  3. How do you most enjoy spending a rainy weekend?
  4. What’s the most interesting wildlife you have seen near your home?
  5. Do you prefer jeans or sweatpants?
  6. Ever seen a ghost or had any other paranormal experience?
  7. What’s your favorite outdoor activity?
  8. Do you mostly read e-books or paper books?
  9. Most memorable thing you ever did with your hair?
  10. What comfort food do you find most comforting?
  11. Do you have anything in your house that is completely useless, but you kept it anyway for sentimental reasons?

Have fun, everyone!

How do you nurture yourself on a day when you’re feeling down? Sarah Ban Breathnach, in her book Simple Abundance, suggests two alternatives: Eat some good comfort food and go to bed, or shift gears by getting fixed up nicely and going out. In either case, just remember that the day will soon be over, and that there’s always a gift to be found in even the most discouraging day.

gift bag 

Last week, I was feeling a bit stressed because of some disruptive stuff that had been going on; and then I noticed that my watch battery was running down. My husband and I have a matched set of water-resistant Tissot watches, which have to be sent back to the manufacturer when they need the battery replaced. His watch battery lasts for many years, but mine doesn’t last nearly as long because women’s watches (and their batteries) are so much smaller than men’s. So I’d have to go without my watch for about a month, while feeling discombobulated the whole time.

My husband offered to take it to the jeweler’s for me, and I gave it to him before he left for work Friday morning. I reminded myself that I should just be happy to have a good-quality watch, my life is full of blessings, and replacing a watch battery is not a big deal. Still, it wasn’t much fun when I looked at my wrist out of habit and found no watch there.

I thought I’d probably have a quiet evening—just browse a few blogs and maybe do some reading on my Kindle. When my husband sent me a text message to say he was on his way home, he also said he’d gotten something for me. That added excitement to the day! I looked in the gift bag from the jeweler’s and found a new watch in there. It’s a style similar to the other one. I wouldn’t have thought of buying an “extra” watch for myself, just to wear for a short time every year or two, because that would have seemed too frivolous or extravagant; but what a lovely present it made!

Although not every stressful day literally ends with a present in a gift bag, I do believe there are gifts to be found in every day, whether they’re actual physical objects or something more abstract like a new insight on life. The key is to stay aware of what’s going on in the moment, so as not to overlook them.

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

In hindsight, inviting a telepathic alien creature to have a friendly chat inside his head might not have been Woods’ most prudent option… [This is Part 13. Continue reading this installment, or read the story from the beginning.]