I don’t garden. Not even a little bit. My thumbs are so black they are charred, but even I know weeds in a garden cannot be tolerated. This principle, this image of an overrun garden guides me as I think about my life. More specifically, as I manage my heart.
One definition of husbandry relates to managing plants, crops, gardens. I think of my heart as a garden. You could be tempted to assume this will be a fluffy, pastel Peptol-pink post that sprouts flowers and rots your teeth with its sweetness.
This is not that. This is the opposite of that.
This is about the discipline it takes to live a positive life. A life that is gracious when it wants to be selfish. Kind when it’s tempted to be cruel. Magnanimous when it would rather be small.
I’m relatively new to the writing game, but not to life. I have four decades under my belt now, thank God. I appreciate how every one of those years prepared me for being a published writer. Really, prepared me for a lot, but a few things that specifically translate to this still-new path of professional author.
One of my writer friends recently referred to me as “relentlessly positive.” She had no idea how accurate that statement is. Negativity is a constant temptation that I see people yield to all the time. It takes grit and intention to resist that temptation and to dig out your best and share it with those around you, even when you don’t feel like it.
If the heart is a garden, then we are constantly pulling weeds because we’re human. We are fallible. We are vulnerable to emotions and responses as old as time. To assume we are not, leaves us open for negativity to creep in and leak out. Here are just a few principles that help me remain positive even when the environment around me, when the culture around me, would tug me centrifugally into the negative.
1. “Rejoice with those who rejoice…”
This is actually taken from a passage of scripture. You don’t have to be “religious” to appreciate a good principle, though, right? There are days when I feel discouraged on this path. If you’re a writer, you know how solitary and isolating and sometimes melancholic this journey can be. Days when I ask myself is this really what I’m supposed to be doing? Days when the sales or reviews or whatever barometer of that moment cause me to question my direction. On those days, it can be tough to look to your left or your right and see others flourishing. To see them hitting all cylinders, and it’s those moments that leave the door ajar for one of the nastiest, most stubborn weeds that will literally choke the joy out of this journey.
I know it sounds weird, but I don’t allow myself jealousy. I know what the beginnings of it feel like. I remember giving in to it, but the same way we form habits around our eating, fitness, time – we can form habits of our heart. Jealousy is a weed in this garden, and I will ruthlessly pull it from the root. One of the habits I am constantly cultivating to counter even the beginning of jealousy is celebrating with others.
No matter what.
Even if I feel that twitch, I will celebrate and congratulate and make that person feel the good will. Truly believe that I wish them only the best. And it’s not phony. Not inauthentic. It is following through on the vision I have of who I want to be. I want to be kind, so I don’t wait to feel kind. I am kind. I behave kindly. I want to be gracious, so I don’t wait to feel gracious. I behave graciously. When you want to be strong or fit, you don’t wait to feel strong or fit, you exercise those muscles. An action is required to reach your goal. This is an underused muscle for many of us, but if you exercise it on a consistent basis, you are soon not just celebrating for the sake of this habit. You ARE happy for others. And never is the opportunity more ripe than when someone else succeeds.
3. Push ahead. Pull up.
Promoting others, looking for ways to help others succeed is something I love to do. I don’t know when it shifted from this is something I’ll do because it uproots those weeds, to something I genuinely relish, but it did. When my friends, old and new, have books coming, they know I’m going to be shouting so loudly for them. I sign up for their cover reveals and release day blitzes. I look for ways to leverage any platform I have to promote other writers. I share their good news by twitter, Facebook , Instagram, and carrier pigeon.
I could look at someone more successful and say, they don’t need my help. Who am I? I could look at someone even newer to the game than I am, and think they can’t do anything for me, but I don’t live my life with that agenda-based crap thinking, and I’m certainly not going to manage my career that way. It really isn’t about that. I get so much from this. That habit of my heart that creates a positive force field around me.
Anyone who steps into my orbit long enough knows, if I can help them in any way, I will. Unequivocally. And this next nugget is for free. Positivity is its own reciprocity. I don’t pout when someone I promoted, doesn’t promote me. There is someone I want to be; a condition of my heart that I cultivate that has nothing to do with if the favor is returned. It is its own reward.
4. Your success is just that. Yours.
The success of someone else does not diminish your potential. It does not detract from your possibilities. There are enough readers to go around, and they are constantly looking for the next book to read. Focus less on envying someone else’s hard-won or even got-a-lucky-break success, and more on your path. On being the best you possible. Writing your best book. Doing your best work.
When you truly believe that your success is so much more about how you manage your lane, and so much less about what someone else is doing in theirs, it liberates you to do the first two things I mentioned. You can celebrate when they succeed because your success is this thing completely separate from theirs. You can push someone ahead of you and pull someone who is behind because you’re not afraid they’ll get too far ahead or they will pass you from the back. You have your lane. You have your path. And what is for you, is for you. That is bedrock to celebrating others’ success and to promoting those around you.
Insecurity is a nasty, aggressive weed. It will kill everything healthy that could grow for you. Jerk it out. Spray it with pesticide. Show it no mercy.
5. Not Pollyanna.
My commitment to a positive life could easily be mistaken for naiveté. Don’t confuse positivity with Pollyanaism. I’m not perfect. I might sometimes say something I regret. Do something I regret, but I try hard not to say anything behind someone’s back I don’t feel confident I could say to their faces. When I have a problem with someone, I want to take it up with them, not talk with a lot of others about it.
These are what I call Grown Folks rules. Just basic responsibility for your words and actions that every adult should assume. I know when I have violated one of these rules because I feel it. It feels slimy, and it’s not worth it. I may slip every once in a while, but I try to stick to them, and to surround myself with folks who share that commitment.
I will assume the best about a person until they show me the worst. Once you show me the worst, I believe in forgiveness, because bitterness is a nasty weed, too, that will poison your peace. I forgive other people just as much for my sake as for theirs! And you won’t find me badmouthing folks who have done me wrong, but they probably won’t be in my inner circle. As hard as you fight to keep your own garden clear of weeds, the last thing you want polluting the space around you is someone else’s negative habits and intentions. If you’re not willing to keep your space positive, I’ll like you from a distance. 🙂
These are just a few things I do to manage my garden. I can’t cross over into your yard. Look over your fence and manage yours. I can only tell you what has helped me live a positive life and has made me, in the process, a ruthless gardener.
What are your tricks for staying positive? What do you struggle with the most?
* * * * * *
Kennedy Ryan writes contemporary romance and women's fiction. Her Bennett Series books - When You Are Mine, Loving You Always and the newly released Be Mine Forever - are all available under the "Forever Yours" imprint of Hachette Books. Kennedy always gives her characters their happily ever after, but loves to make them work for it! It's a long road to love, so sit back and enjoy the ride.
In an alternative universe and under her government issue name, Tina Dula, she is a wife to the love of her life, mom to a special, beautiful son, and a friend to those living with autism through her foundation Myles-A-Part., serving Georgia families.
Her writings on Autism have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, and she has been featured on the Montel Williams Show, NPR, Headline News and others. Ryan is donating a portion of her proceeds to her own foundation and to her charitable partner, Talk About Curing Autism (TACA).
Her interview series MOMMIES DO THE MOST AMAZING THINGS is featured each month in Brooke Burke's online magazine Modern Mom.
Find Kennedy at http://kennedyryanwrites.com/ or on social media at Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube or Google+.
Top photo credit: Onions growing via photopin (license)
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
Thanks so much for having me!
Oh Kennedy, as a recipient of a few of your hugs, I can testify that you can make others 'feel the goodwill' - it pours into your hugs!
I'm like you - relentlessly positive, although I can't take a lot of credit for it - I came in that way. I do need work on being snippy though. I'm learning, slowly (as always).
This is full of wise statements, but to me, the 'aha' was, 'I manage my heart'. That is so true. We talk as if we have no control over our hearts, and that we are at the mercy of it's whims.
Thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Hope I get to hug you in New York this year at RWA!
Oh man, now I want one of those hugs!
And this is why I love Kennedy so! She's sweet and smart and sincere, and I can't wait to give her a hug. End of April, girlfriend, I'm coming for you. 🙂 xo
Laura, see I have to be ruthless because I didn't come this way! My mama can attest to how "not ruthless" I was in high school! Hugs will be in our future!
Kimberly, that is a LONG time to be without one of your hugs, but what choice do I have ? You are loving your Amsterdam adventures! Mwah and misses, honey!
Loved being here, Laura! And you know I always have and take real life hugs when I see you! Kimberly Belle, I miss your sweet self so much, and will gobble you up once you're all done with your Amsterdam Adventure! 🙂
We've never met, but are cut from the same cloth. Or shall I say pulled from the same garden. Your article was chock-full of words I live by, love by, and reach for daily. It's not always easy, and some days I have to work for it, but I believe it's worth the effort. Thanks for reminding me I'm not alone. 🙂
Denise (Dee) Willson
Author of A Keeper's Truth and GOT
I wish that you were in my circle of friends. Very inspiring post. Thank you.
Denise, always nice to meet fellow gardeners! LOL! Thanks for your kind words. Best of luck to you. 🙂
What a wonderful post and right when I needed it. I'm printing this off and hanging it in my office. Love this. "A life that is gracious when it wants to be selfish. Kind when it’s tempted to be cruel. Magnanimous when it would rather be small."
A wonderful post and the timing was perfect 🙂 Thank you!
This was a special read, chock full of admirable adages that I will pay forward. Thanks for sharing.
Oh Kennedy, what an awe-inspiring post. I need to do some weed-pulling today. 🙂
I still revel in the memories of the laughs and hugs and craziness we shared in Immersion. And just with your smile, laugh, and song you lift those around you. You go girl!
Suzanne, it is ALWAYS so good to see your face (via avatar! LOL!) and to hear your always-encouraging words. We had a blast in immersion. You lifted me up, too! Hope we get to do it again soon. And I have to pull weeds DAILY, so we'll just keep our gloves on. 😉
I loved this post, Kennedy. I'm a generally positive person by nature, but I do have to keep weeding. You've got some great lines in here that I'm going to pull and post on my wall, especially about not waiting to feel a particular way before you act that way. My word for this year (I don't do resolutions anymore) is Take Joy - an active choosing to be joyful - and it seems very similar. Going to check out your blog now!
That was just lovely. Thank you.
Jennifer, thank you for the feedback. I do the same thing. Instead of resolutions, I do words for the year, which serve as touchstones for me all year. Reminders of what I'm focusing on and what/who I want to be. I love yours - take joy! And I'm always weeding! Always. I'm really big on not waiting to feel something. A life dictated just by emotions...which are, by definition always moving - I can't do that. I know who I want to be, and can't always wait for my emotions to catch up to it. Thanks again for chiming in. Loved hearing from you. 🙂
Good for you, Kennedy. There are too many folks out there who might bring us down. You are a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. I love surrounding myself with doers and movers ... people who never forgot how to laugh or the magic of kids.
Bless you efforts to help others cope with the stuff life throws at them. It is a pleasure meeting you here at WITS. I meet the nicest people this way 🙂
This post couldn't have come at a better time after the day I had yesterday! 🙂 Thanks for the post!
Feel my love? It's always coming your way. Hope it wraps you in lovey hugs every day.
Your consistently gracious spirit impresses me as much as your writing. And your writing impresses me big time! I'm so glad I got to know you in Immersion class
I know I'm lucky we're friends. Just wish I could see you more often.
Share kindness. Feel kindness.
Share love. Feel love.
Thanks so much for sharing your kindness and love in this blog.
What a great column. I love the part about having your own lane with your writing. Absolutely spot on.
Marvelous, Kennedy. It is such a joy to know you. Hugs, my friend. And much success and happiness and all the other good things in life you deserve.
Kennedy, this is such an inspirational post. We can all learn from it.
It's nice to know I'm not the only writer who is not a gardner! But even better than that was to read your insightful tips. I think if all grownups followed your tips and taught them to little ones, there would be much more positivity in our world. I've been fortunate to keep connecting with other writers with attitudes similar to yours and it's been one of the most unexpected and rewarding aspects of being a writer. Thanks for the tips!
A beautiful and inspirational column, especially for a writer such as myself who is making slow progress and yet can enjoy the success of others along the way.
Kennedy, I so needed to read this post this morning. I sometimes fight the blues, although I do try to practice your philosophy as well. It's good to hear I shouldn't berate myself for the blues, but should shake them off, put on my big girl panties, as Jenny Hansen says, and go back to being positive.
Positive people draw positivity, and exercising the positive heart helps it grow stronger. Thanks for the lovely post.
What an inspiring post. I try to bring more positive into my life each day.
Kennedy, I love, love, love this post (one "love" just couldn't cut how I feel about this). It's not pontificating, nor moralizing--it's just real, and as good advice for the rest of our relationships as it is for those in the writing community. Thanks so much for sharing this.
I'm late to the garden party! Thank you for blogging with us, Kennedy, this post is perfect.
There's a quote that I have taped to the daily divider in my dateplanner - "Begin each day as if it were on purpose." - Mary Anne Radmacher. It reminds me to take control of my thoughts, attitude, heart, whatever else needs a kick in the tush, and make the day what it can be.
Thanks for sharing that quote Orly. It really clicks with me.
Thank you, Kennedy.
Beautiful and so wise. I am taping this to my wall! Thank you! I've always tended to be too negative and very insecure since I was a child because pessimism was rampant as I grew up and I have to fight against it all the time. THANK YOU.