The power of positivity

No vice is tighter, no pressure cooker hotter, and no solitary confinement more oppressive:

Here’s a book you should, uhhh, read. <6 WAYS TO ATTRACT HAPPINESS>

You can manifest good things, you know. You just have to want it.

Why can’t you be like so-and-so, with the Down’s Syndrome boy? She’s always so grateful.

Fresh from having held my baby as he died—sparking live-wire fresh—the spectre of positive thinking burst uninvited into my life and I wondered: who is it for, anyway? Is it to relieve or rejuvenate me? Or is it to relieve and rejuvenate everyone who finds themselves in my periphery? Is Positive! Thinking! the spectre, or am I? I googled:

Positive thinking is a mental attitude in which you expect good and favourable results. In other words, positive thinking is the process of creating thoughts that create and transform energy into reality. A positive mind waits for happiness, health and a happy ending in any situation.

Positive thinking when you’re about to enter a phase of new or overwhelming or high-stakes work: yes. Because big steps require us to push beyond self-doubt. Positive thinking when you feel the rumblings of stress, the mind running in circles, playing and replaying out various miserable outcomes: yes. Because what good effect can catastrophizing possibly have, if we can help it? Positive thinking when you’re bristling with uncertainty of one kind or another: yes. Because much of the time, you can, actually, fake it until you make it. When we pretend what we wish to be, we wind up just pretty much being what we want to be. It’s an interesting and worthwhile private experiment, a practice of switching off unhelpful channels in the brain.

Positive thinking when something unspeakably horrible has happened, and the happening of it is irreversibly over, and you’re reeling with grief: No. Because not only can I not make lemonade out of this particular lemon, but you asking me to make you more comfortable in the vicinity of my unspeakably horrible outcome is GIVING ME MORE LEMONS.

Weeks after my baby died, do you really think you’re doing me a favour by telling me I’m not showing up as cheerfully as you’d like? How’s this for cheerful? Bite me.

I didn’t say it. But I thought it.


A venn diagram and three circles: Japanese; bunnies; illustrators. Follow one or two and you get peeks into sketchbooks and Kyoto apartments, Twitter handles with beautiful strings of Kanji and pencil on paper or silky floofs and floopy ears snuggling on laps.

be positive in all cases

Sweet and simple, like a picture book from some other time, but I’ve made a devoted practice of turning up my nose at positivity. Doggedly charting and patrolling the boundary lines that denote my private space. Keeping anyone who would tell me to ‘manifest my joy’ out of my space. Not keeping out joy itself—never!—only those people who would insist upon my performance of it.

Anti-positive is not pro-negative. Anti-positive is the staying off your feet of heart-convalescence, permission to be as you are. To breathe.

I keep joy, tending to it. Even when Liam’s death was still smoking I kept joy. I saw it, felt it, noted it. It would flash through in small ways and I’d feel giddy at my richness—my luck—almost as often as I cried, desperate under the weight of being mother to an absent child.

I keep grace, patience, perspective, tending to it. As a farmer’s work never feels exotic and is mostly unseen, and is simply, shovelling shit and showing up before dawn.


Be positive in all cases.

Positively devoted to the work of integrating loss as defined by you, no matter what the loss. Even the most incomprehensible loss.

Positively open to being as you are, where you are.

Positively refusing to perform for anyone else but yourself.

Positive that you know yourself—and your grief—more intimately than anyone else can ever know it. And so you really are the lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to navigating it, as lonely as that practice can feel. Positive that it’s worthwhile to try, and keep trying.

Be positive in all cases.

Post-loss, has your relationship to positivity—or any other previously relevant, suddenly impossible life mantra—changed? How would you describe your mantra now?