Author Archives: Arlene Somerton Smith

About Arlene Somerton Smith

Plain and simple writing on meaningful topics.

Positively positive

I am an optimist. I CAN’T HELP IT. When unfortunate events occur, my natural response is: “Okay, let’s deal with this. How can good come of it?”

This past week I was alarmed and disturbed when someone brought the phrase “toxic positivity” to my attention. The Psychology Group calls it “the dark side of the ‘positive vibes’ trend.”

We define toxic positivity as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.

— The Psychology Group: “Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes”

Has my relentless positivity been annoying the heck out of people? Have I been robbing people of their sorrow? Maybe I have friends who are secretly licking wounds I unintentionally inflicted on them?

If so, I apologize, but I CAN’T HELP IT.

It’s not that I don’t ever feel sad, or mad, or angry. I do. But I am incapable of dwelling in those states, and I find it hard to understand it when people do.

If there was ever a time for people to explore the breadth of emotions, it’s during a pandemic. Over the past seven months I have felt sad, mad and angry. Of course I have. But I’ve also been saying, “Okay, let’s deal with this. How can good come of it?”

I have been practising gratitude at every turn, and I have found so many things to feel positive about. For example, I am grateful to have acquired the skill of picking up a tennis ball without using my hands, so as to (ahem) not touch other people’s balls.

Woman picking up tennis ball using a shoe and the racquet
No more bending! I can now lodge the ball between my shoe and the racquet and lift.

When I asked my Facebook friends, they too had found many positives amongst the negatives.

Physical Activity: My friends took up physical activities they had never done before, or had not done in a long time: tennis, biking, walking, and stand-up paddleboarding. One friend described her new kickboxing habit as a “great way to work out the COVID angst.”

Technology: We have learned how to use online communications platforms. We are doing online coaching, yoga and fitness classes. One friend learned how to use a coverstitch sewing machine to make athletic leggings with a professional look. And, of course, there’s online grocery shopping.

Connections: We aren’t seeing people like we were before, but we’re seeing people in a different way. One women meets a 94-year-old friend from Scotland every week via Zoom. Many people have met neighbours they never knew before, because suddenly everyone is working from home and going for walks. We’re helping each other with groceries and dropping off baked goods. We’re enjoying family time. playing games, eating together. While stocking up on books before the lockdown, a friend met someone who runs a writers group.

Services: Two of my friends learned how to groom their dogs. Many, many of them cut their own hair or a family member’s hair. We watched YouTube videos to learn how to do just about anything. Another friend has learned how to do her own gel nails.

Hobbies: Sewing, cooking new things, gardening, drying seeds, and canning are on the list of hobbies developed in the past seven months. I’ve been doing lots of writing. One friend started buying and selling used vinyl (albums in my lingo). He is, “having a blast. Meeting all kinds of interesting people (at a distance) and adding considerably to [his] music knowledge base.”

Self-care: Through all of this we have been trying to take care of ourselves. The physical activity is helping with that. One friend lost 30 pounds. Another friend has taken up a meditation practice.

These are all little ways of dealing with the negative. When can do them when we’re sad, mad or angry.

Collectively we’re saying, “Okay, let’s deal with this. What good can come of it?”

yellow frisbee with a happy face
Put on a happy face . . . but only when you’re ready.

Found hearts

While hiking at the Mill of Kintail last week, I came across this heart rock on one of the boardwalks.

Rock painted with a purple hear

A few weeks ago, I woke up and looked out my bedroom window to see this collection of hearts on my neighbours’ lawn, in celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary.

Over the years, I’ve encountered heart-shaped rocks in several locations, including during a Habitat for Humanity build in Bolivia. That heart became part of the foundation of the house we built together.

My niece went to an amethyst mine near Thunder Bay and brought me back this sample.

Heart-shaped amethyst

When I come across an unexpected heart, it always makes my smile. I think we all need a little lift these days, am I right?

May my found hearts help to lift yours. What are your favourite hearts?

Doing this post whipstitch

In my previous post I wrote about different ways to look at a commonly used expression. Another part of our book club conversation that day involved different expression.

A family member of one of our members lives in eastern Canada. In a conversation the family member said, “I can take care of that whipstitch,” meaning, “I can do that quickly.”

That was a new one for all of us.

A whipstitch is a simple sewing stitch used to join two pieces of fabric, knitting or crocheting together. It is the fastest way to complete that task, so the expression makes sense.

I found a different definition on Urban Dictionary. [CAUTION: Some definitions on Urban Dictionary may cause you to lose sleep, or at the very least say “Ew.”]

Their definition:every chance you get,” as in, “my wife calling me at every whipstitch is getting very annoying.

I hadn’t heard that one before either. I like it, even though I would have preferred a different sentence as a demonstration.

Something like, “Telemarketers calling at every whipstitch is getting very annoying.” There’s something we can all get on board with.

Do you have any local expressions to add to my list?

Say your piece, or peace

Peace by Chocolate advertisement
An advertisement for Peace by Chocolate, a shop that donates 3-5% of all company profits to the Peace On Earth Society 

My book club met yesterday. We had a discussion that went something like this:

HOST: If you were to write, “Say your (piece)(peace), how you you spell it?

BOOK CLUB MEMBER #1: I would write p-i-e-c-e.

BOOK CLUB MEMBER #2: I would say that it’s p-e-a-c-e, because after you’ve spoken, you feel at peace.

BOOK CLUB MEMBER #3: I think it’s p-i-e-c-e.

BOOK CLUB MEMBER #4 (that would be me) : I think it’s p-i-e-c-e because you are contributing your “piece” to an interaction.

HOST: I always spelled it p-e-a-c-e. It’s saying your peace. Speaking what is in your heart so you can rest easily.

2 out of 5 book club members had a peaceful take on the expression.

And you know what? I like both. After all, the play on words works for the Peace by Chocolate company in Antigonish, NS.

I feel better now that I’ve said my peace. I think I’ll have a peace of chocolate.


Our book club was discussing The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, a book that left some of us feeling less than peaceful. We all loved the title though.

A good time of year to dance: Hafiz

Here is a phrase I’ve heard some lately: “If I don’t laugh, I might cry.”

Laughing is good. Or dancing!

The God Who Only Knows Four Words

by Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master

Every
Child
Has known God.
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don'ts,
Not the God who ever does
Anything weird,
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
"Come dance with Me."
Come
Dance.

What Should We Do About That Moon?

by Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master

A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.

That night one hundred beetles and all their cousins
Gathered

And did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the "night candle" rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument,
Said to his friend—for no apparent
Reason,

"What should we do about that moon?"

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless
Questions.
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Exercise sandals, exercise rubber boots, exercise socks

Remember these?

Did you know that Scholl Exercise Sandals boxes are the perfect size for holding plastic slide containers? We have several Scholl boxes full of slides in our basement.

orange plastic slide holders in a Scholl box

I’ve been transferring some old photos from slides to digital. As I sorted through the images choosing which ones to transfer, I contemplated the Scholl’s box.

Exercise sandals? In no way was that footwear appropriate for exercise.

I owned several pairs myself and loved them, but I never once wore them to go for a run, or even a brisk walk for that matter. I would never have considered wearing them to join a pick-up game of ball.

Those sandals count as exercise footwear only if anything we put on our feet to walk around is also to be considered exercise wear: exercise rubber boots, exercise, socks, exercise stilettos.

Great marketing idea, I guess, because people love to think they are exercising, but accurate? I don’t think so.

We’re still falling for similar misleading advertising for diet and exercise products, according to this Saturday Evening Post article: “Con Watch: Avoiding Weight Loss Scams.” Will we never learn?

I’m going to put on my exercise slippers and walk to the fridge while I think about it.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com