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Thinking positively: Is your glass half full?

How to stay positive during difficult times

I have to start by making a confession: this will not be 100% about sewing, but about a state of mind. Even if you are a sewing enthusiast and only read this site for sewing tips, please read forward and if possible, please send me a message or leave a comment here, I would love to hear your opinion on the subject.

Is there any way to think positively in this situation? There must be. Or else.

DIY kids mask
Do you see the mask or the bunny who hides inside?

This article was prompted by events in my own family, events that have affected us quite hard, as we all have probably been. We have been uprooted, made sick, prevented from getting together, and threatened in our moral and physical well-being to the point where we had a choice: adapt or go crazy.

Another source of inspiration for this was an article from New York Sun from 1897 “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” which maintains its validity to this day. It is quite popular in the USA, but perhaps not so much elsewhere. But it shows us that having a positive attitude and believing in good is the only way we can progress.

There is no doubt in my mind that the current worldwide crisis is one of the worst periods in recent memory for our human species, probably the worst after World War II ended. There were other regional problems, and I have personally survived at least one of them (the fall of the USSR and the communist regimes of Eastern Europe), but this is a worldwide issue and it affects the very basis of our society.

Travel has become essential not only for people, as families scattered around the world, but for business also, as international commerce becomes more and more important to our society. It is no secret that many goods are no longer manufactured in North America or Europe but in China or South East Asia. Did you notice the lack of sewing machines at dealers and online vendors? At some point in June, almost everything was sold out, and prices for older machines soared on Craigslist (USA) and Kijiji (Canada), two online markets I have experience with.

Even now, I was looking last week for a good but not top-of-the-line sewing machine for a friend, and I recommended the Juki HZL-F300 model, which used to sell for about $500 at normal times. Guess what; most online retailers no longer have it, and on Amazon, it is already marked up to $650.

I recommend from time to time on my site sewing notions or other items (like irons, and sewing machines) which I like; I see now them going out of stock quite often, and I am no longer surprised to see an item go out of stock today, I replace it with a different item that I know and I tested, only to find that this new item is also out of stock next week. For me (and for us, as users) this is not really an issue in North America, the market is large and there is always a replacement. But I wonder how people in relatively isolated regions are faring, where because the market is smaller, the choice of vendors is not huge. Probably they really have a supply problem because of slowing commerce.

And we have of course the Covid-19 health menace that is over our heads like a huge, oppressing dark curtain. Will I get it? Perhaps I did get it, and I didn’t even know, that week when I got the sniffles in June? Will my father get it? For my father (he is 90 years of age), that is a really “will he survive” kind of question, because of his advanced age. Can I go out? What if I bring the virus back with me to my family?

Vaccine? Yes, sure. But will a vaccine be effective, will it last, or will it be just a political tool used by governments to avoid mass panic? Who will get to first? The world is not ready to mass distribute worldwide 10 billion doses each 4 months.

Looking at the flu vaccine, it is also possible that we will get only a couple of months of immunity, if at all. Because making a vaccine takes one year as we see and nobody can guarantee that next year the virus will be identical to what we have this year. The flu viruses are not, they mutate all the time, and the guesswork of the vaccine makers is not always correct.

CDC has published past articles about vaccine effectiveness, and it is not really encouraging for an individual. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm. Yes, society, seem to show that the vaccines work, but, my family, we are not a statistic. We are individuals. Finding out that vaccines work 60% of the time is not helping, because I know somewhere in a corner of my mind that I (or my loved ones) might be in the 40% category. In fact, it is even likely that for a family some people will BE in the 40% category, statistics pretty much ensure that.

Will we, humans, be ok the long term? Probably yes, human history has seen much worse events, and we still live as a race. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, I might say; that I heard that humans have only one effective predator on Earth: other humans.

But what does “long term” mean? Will it be two years? Will it be 10 years? Will we learn how to live with the virus, as we learned how to live with the HIV virus? Will the traditional way of life remain with us? What about tourism, will it return? There are places in this world (and one of them is Florida, where I live) where tourism is integral to the way of life and a must, how will this change?

Disneyworld has become one of the symbols of “the American Way” and almost every child wants to see Micky, Snow White, etc; I read that Disneyworld either closes some of its attractions or reduces activity while laying off many workers. Is this not a sign of our old way of life going away?

Then there are the more important questions: will I be able to support myself and my family in the coming years? I see very few writings about the ways this epidemic will change us, perhaps it is too early for extrapolations., but there is no doubt in my mind that IT WILL CHANGE US.

I have heard – and I partially agree with it – even more worrying questions: with the world becoming less inclined to accept outsiders, will this inflame nationalism again? Not that nationalism is dead, mind you, even before the current events the anti-immigrant sentiment was alive and well in some places (and sometimes this was even justified because too many immigrants CAN alter society and its fundamentals if immigration is not planned properly).

Will we have wars? With many governments busy with their own internal issues, concerned about stability and internal problems, what if someone decided it is time to make a preemptive move and secure something they wanted for many years, but were unable to get? It happened before, and I am really scared by the possibility in this era when one single action might kill millions before anyone has even time to blink.

All these are very valid questions, and I do not really see anyway and answers will be available soon. But there is a bigger question here:


How to stay positive during difficult times?

As individuals, short term we are powerless (stress short term). But do we have choices? Oh yes, we do.

We can panic. We can hide our heads in the sand. We can pretend nothing is wrong and all is a hoax. We can overreact and make mistakes that will harm us. We can try to escape reality by any means available. I have seen all of those happening.

Or we can act like intelligent beings and take the middle road.

We probably have to accept our losses, both as individuals and in society, no matter how painful they are, and march forward. Next time this year, some of us will no longer be here; that would have probably happened anyway, to some extent. But we can not allow ourselves to despair.

I believe we need to do our best to mitigate the consequences, accept that there WILL be consequences, and move on. Cautiously, but move on we must.

I heard a joke that stays with me to this day: “he who does not move forward, it means he does not advance”. It was intended to stress the bombastic way of speaking of politicians, but it contains a grain of truth: we have to do something. And one of the things we can do is act responsibly.

One example: I have read recently that one US state (Mississippi) abandoned its “mask is mandatory” policy which was seen by most (rightly) as an attempt of the state to curtail their rights. The state might or might not have been right in imposing the mandate, I do not want to debate this.

But at the same time, the governor stated that the absence of a mask mandate does not mean the mask is not MORALLY mandatory; in my mind, it means that any sensible person WILL wear a mask when in public, and will avoid going places where masks are not worn. I know I will, not because someone tells me to, but because I CHOOSE to act like this.

And this brings me to my original question: how do you see the current situation? Do you see it as leading us to our doom, or do you have hopes for the future? In other words, is your glass half full, or half empty?

Did you ever live with a family member who was under a sentence of death? I did. Someone in my family had a terminal illness and we pretty much knew it is only a matter of time. And it was. Did she stop enjoying life because of that? No. Yes, the situation was limited, but I have witnessed firsthand the “glass is half full” attitude and to this day I pray I have the moral strength to act like that if I will ever be in a similar spot.

I believe it is our duty to us, our families, children, and parents, to have a positive attitude. Bad things may happen when we don’t expect them, but bad things may happen even if we do expect them. So why to raise your blood pressure while waiting for the other shoe to drop; if it is to do so, it will do so with or without our black thoughts.

For me thinking positive thoughts means most of the time sewing, and that is probably true for many of us sewing enthusiasts. Someone pointed out that for me this is not new and I always had this attitude – when something goes bad, go sewing! One of the first articles I have written is this: “Sewing therapy for healthy living“.

This is (in part) why I started looking into Bargello quilts, I was always mesmerized by how beautiful and eye-catching they are. Surely creating beauty will lift your spirits!

This is also why I started making masks for my friends’ kids, a child – and excuse me here please, but I am talking mostly about girls, boys want strength and explosions! – will appreciate the beauty and it is a joy to see the smile in their eyes when they see it. They mostly don’t see the mask and what it represents; they see the whiskers, the bunny or the cat hiding inside, and the mystical unicorn, with whom they can identify. They have a better capability than us, battle-weary adults, to see the good in any situation and to live the magic of the moment.

I am now working on a Bargello quilt pattern (a preliminary image below) and I hope I will have it ready in time for Christmas, but there are so many things to do! What I can promise you is, that I will never let myself drown in sorrow and self-pity!

My glass is only half full; I need something to fill that glass, right?

What they say: life is giving you lemons? Make lemonade!

Let’s do it together!

Save this pin (see below) on your sewing board so you don’t lose this article, and follow me on Pinterest for more tips, tutorials, and inspiration!

How to stay positive during difficult times

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Susan Ramsay

Wednesday 14th of October 2020

I can't find the post with "F.A.I.L" I forgot what it stands for.

Olga Balasa

Wednesday 14th of October 2020

The article is Is Learning To Sew Hard?


Monday 12th of October 2020

when I`m in a bad situation, I always think that there are individuals better than me ( good luck to them) and others are in worst situation than me ( for example : mother seeing her child sick because of hunger) . Therefore I always consider myself lucky and try to see the positive side of the situation I`m in.

Olga Balasa

Monday 12th of October 2020

Thank you! This is exactly the idea: try to see the positive side in everything. And in the end perhaps we can even see a grain of good in whatever happens.

Roslyn Heywood

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Olga- Thankyou for food for thought. Absolutely middle road and kick out the dumpsters for making matters worse. Man is incredibly creative, like His Maker, whose handiwork is visible in skies and wild natural things. How and where is my focus? Light dispels darkness.

Olga Balasa

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Roslyn, one of my friends told me once "I reached the bottom of the pit, there is no lower" he was in a bad spot). Another common friend said "well, you have to trust humans to find ways and invent machines to dig from here". The point is, we should reach for the light, use that creativity to climb out of the pit, not for infighting and power grabbing. And I believe we have it in us to do it.

Mary Milligan

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Thank you Olga for this. I haven't had any tragic events in my life but have just found myself feeling sad about the current state of affairs. It's mostly politically driven so your words to just keep sewing were perfect for me. Get off my laptop - except to read my emails! - stop watching the news, fake or otherwise and go do some sewing!! Thanks again for all your tips and tutorials!

Olga Balasa

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Mary, could not agree more. It is difficult to avoid all the noise, everything from the printed ads, newscasts, internet ads, news feeds on the phone (which I get no matter if I want or not) - everything bombards you with a "message", someone has an agenda to sell to you. Seldom this agenda includes what is good for you though. When I want to see a sewing video on YouTube, I have to sit first through a politically-inspired ad. I would prefer to be presented the facts and be left alone to make up my mind, as it used to be 30 years ago. Yes, I know, it was a different millennium!

Phaedra T Ellingson

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Oh my gosh if I didn't have my sewing machines They would probably put me away. With the VOVID 19, my husband having leukima , been on CHEMO, Son now living at home, etc. Not being able to go anywhere I would have certainly gone nutso. Sewing is a sanity saver.

On the machine your looking for try the Heavy duty Singer sewing machine. Some fancy stitches, but a great little machine. I think it is around $200.00 dollars with attachments. I love mine and use it a lot. My computerized machine just sitting here.

Olga Balasa

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Phaedra, thank you! I really hope your husband will recover, that is a very serious problem. My experience with Singer is mixed, you may be lucky - and about 70% of the buyers seem to be - or not. But if not, and the Singer acts up, the reviews that I read say Singer is pretty much not helpful at all. True, at $200 the loss is not great, but if you are left without a machine, that is clearly not good. So I prefer to spend a little more and get one with a better reputation. On the other hand, I have a Singer serger from the early 1980s, and it still works well, so you never know.

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