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October 11, 2013


I’ve feel like I’ve been neglecting my little blog. I hear her calling to me, saying Remember me? We used to be best friends. Why don’t you visit anymore? 

The truth is, I’ve wanted to visit, but I’ve been trying to stay on top of all the other endeavors I’ve been pursuing in recent months. Not only am I hugely excited about the work my husband and I are doing on The First Daythe wonderful writers and people I get to work with, but I’m also trying to continue crank out my own fiction, and it’s a terribly slow process. (I think I’m making peace with that, though I’m always surprised how long it actually takes between the seed of the story and the finished product.) I’m teaching writing and literature four days a week, driving endlessly, it seems, across the bridge on two of those days on open south Jersey roads. I’m still doing yoga every morning, meditating during the day whenever I can, and trying to, you know, do that “being a good mother” thing.

So often, it strikes me that starting a blog is like setting your intention. And what you put out, you get back. So much of spiritual philosophy talks about how not just our actions, but even our thoughts matter. Every single thought—whether it’s positive or negative, full of self-doubt or personal confidence, makes its own way in the world, creates its own bulb of energy that exists inside us and connects to other people. So when you’re full of judgment and anger and cynicism—which, in essence, means you harshly judge and can’t find the goodness in yourself—you see everyone around you, every action, in those terms. It’s a hard worldview to step out of. It takes consistent practice, and most of the time, divine intervention (though some people may not call it that). This is all to say I’m really glad I called my blog An Attitude Adjustment. It’s given me so much room to grow, such a chance to detail the subtle transformation that’s happened inside of me over the past few years. My daughter will be four next month, and I started this blog in the dead of winter, when she was barely three months old, with the slow discovery that I was in the grip of post-partum depression. Even that was a chance to change my attitude—a gift that helped me face some things about my life and myself that I’d too long kept buried.

In Sanskrit, which I’ve been studying a tiny bit for my yoga training, I learned that attitude is basically a translation for pose. If I were to go back and look, I think I’d see that every post on this blog is a reflection of my effort to adjust my attitude. In every new stage of my life, even amidst all my resistance to change, I’ve worked to make the best of things. For instance, this year, because my husband and I are taking turns driving my kids the twenty-or so minutes to school, I was sort of dreading the long car rides, the time that would be taken up driving instead of doing things that are more productive. But I quickly began to see how special that time is with the kids—it’s our chance to be alone together, to talk about things that might not come up at the dinner table when they’re tired and hungry and forgetful about the day. It’s also a chance to share with them the music I love, now that they’re getting old enough to remember artists’ names and song titles and even make requests.

Some of the time I spend driving helps me figure out how to work through feelings I have about forgiveness, and people who keep popping up even though I’d like them to go away. Literally—popping up, like a profile photo that shows an ex-coworker has been purposely checking up on my job status, over and over and over. But even that gives me the opportunity to practice, to put into play my own set of values. Instead of getting mad, or trying to control the situation, I’ve realized the best thing I can do is be grateful. If I practice my beliefs, the people who cause me struggle or challenge will help get me to a better place, help change my attitude. No one could never fully experience life or get to a positive mental state unless they faced some difficulty along the way, studied hard for some personal test that they eventually successfully passed.

The downside of attitude adjustment? A blogger friend told me in an email a couple of months ago that she’s noticed a huge change in me, but that she misses some of my snark. I agree with her—where did my humor go? Maybe it’s under the couch with cracker crumbs and broken crayons. But I don’t miss it terribly much; I recognize that writing with humor, in the past, was my way of lightening the load, helping me get out of my head. I’m doing that in other ways now, and I suspect it will come back in a different form. It’s not that I don’t laugh, or that I don’t experience joy. I just think that making jokes, for me, was a survival instinct, a way to counter anger or melancholy. I still get sad sometimes, because I’m human instead of machine (which, if we’re to be honest, can be a serious bummer), but it hasn’t hit the deepest notes.

I have tools to find my way out now, metal claws I use to climb out of the ravine.


Image: “Lonely desert highway…” by mlhradio via Flickr.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Nina October 11, 2013 at 9:41 am

I loved reading this and catching up with where you “are” these days. It must be really hard to juggle the fiction along with the editing and other writing.

Interesting point about the humor . . . I find that there are times in my life when I’m feeling funnier than others and it’s not always connected to general happiness like one would think. Like you said, I think I’m snarkier when I’m crabbier.


Liz S October 11, 2013 at 11:12 am

Amen. Well said and bravo. I like the image of life being transformative. That as long as we keep moving forward, being dynamic and not static characters in our own stories, we can point ourselves in the direction of change that leads us to our best selves. Reset and repeat as needed. :) All the while, sharpening those metal claws.


Beth March 4, 2015 at 10:52 am

Jana – I enjoyed reading this. I always like your writing. I actually think there’s a difference between snarky and funny, and that being snarky often springs from anger, not humor. Kind of like sarcasm. For my part, I find snarky easier to get to than funny – probably because anger is easier to tap into than joy (I need to work on this!). Anyway, it’s good to hear from you again.


Mary Jo C. March 4, 2015 at 2:01 pm

There’s something zen in your article about practicing being a better (fill in this space). Our efforts to succeed ebb and flow, ever closer if we’re careful, or drift there with some wind of opportunity. Perspective helps us win the prize or maybe just relish the good challenge tried.

In my long experience, humor is a grace used to entertain and comfort. It’s also worked to diffuse many stressful situations in my life, in and out of uniform.


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