{getting it} Bright Side Up

by Rachel on February 3, 2012

Two years ago, right around this time, I came across a blog called The Dating Optimist, written by a woman named Amy Spencer. I distinctly remember sitting on my couch in a pink sweatshirt and huge comfy men’s basketball pants, reading every single post and feeling like a light bulb was going off. I pre-ordered  Meeting Your Half-Orange that night, and, after reading it, changed my approach to love and relationships. I also put a picture of an orange on my vision board, and, two months later, was introduced to my half-orange.

Since then, I’ve become friendly with Amy through the magic of the Internet and feel a little bit of happiness every time I see her name in a magazine, whether she is interviewing the cover celebrity or, rather frequently, simply the author of the one article in the magazine that I found thoughtful, smart, and worthwhile. I look up to her so much as a writer, and when I heard she had a new book coming out, I was really excited for her.

Bright Side Up is all about applying that optimism to all aspects of your life, not just your love life.

The book is divided into several sections and each one features mini-chapters on how to apply optimism in these areas. The sections include the big stuff — your whole self-image, your career, family and friends, relationships — and the small — life’s little annoyances, technology breakdowns, and traveling snafus.

When I saw the format, I thought it would be a fast and easy read, with each mini-chapter similar to a blog post. But what I was delighted to find was that each mini-chapter is more like an article. They are short but weighty. Many of them include commentary from experts on topics like neuroplasticity (actually changing your brain’s structure through things like positive thinking) and human psychology. Of course, Amy uses a lot of her own experiences, and the experiences of her family, friends, and the celebrities she’s interviewed, to make her points too. I felt like there was a really great balance between the expert advice and the personal experiences.

I wanted to share some of my favorite chapters here, but there are so many good ones, it’s hard to even choose! But here are a few tips I really liked.

Take the tourist’s point of view. The same way tourists see all the best things about a city — while the natives have never even visited the main attractions — we should try to see the exciting, special things right in front of us. Think about how you’d talk about your life as if you were a tour guide explaining it to a tourist. What would you say about your job, your house, your relationship if you were looking upon them with fresh eyes?

See it through a “look up to” lens. The next time you catch yourself grumbling or growling ready to roll out your worst self among strangers, imagine they’re people you look up to. Amy says that by seeing other people as people who we look up to (like someone’s mom or teacher), the more likely we are to make kinder, gentler choices and not experience road rage, “you f*cked up my order rage,” etc.

Lower your standards. Sort of. A lot of times we fall into the trap that to do something, we have to do The Best Job Ever at it. But we can lower our standards for starting. “An imperfect effort is better than no effort at all…look at your next big goal and decide to do less than you think you can achieve, ” Amy writes. “Once you get started, you may find you can’t help but produce something better. But either way, a started something is better than nothing at all.”

Be your own gift with purchase. When looking for a partner, we often seek out the qualities we want to have; for example, we want someone who is creative and successful so we feel creative and successful too. It’s the gift with purchase, the easy way to get these things. But rather than expecting romantic partners or even friends to give us these things, we can give them to ourselves.

I loved the book and I think it’s because she’s so damn good at being optimistic while still being realistic. I cried reading the chapter in which she described how she felt after having three miscarriages, and then I laughed until I cried over the story of what happened to her husband when he was a kid and wanted to participate in his school’s day-after-Halloween parade. (His mom spoke little English and was not familiar with American traditions, so did not know that it was actually an All Saints’ Day parade, where kids dressed up as their favorite saints. Not their favorite Star Wars characters. I’m laughing again just thinking about it.)

While I love Amy’s work and had high expectations, Bright Side Up actually exceeded them. Right before I started reading it, I got a little nervous that it would be super cheesy, like a lot of “ways to be happier right now” advice is. But it’s not at all. To me, it’s a shot of optimism for smart, modern women with real problems who need a bit more than a “hang in there” poster of a kitten to feel better when life is sucking. I definitely recommend it; it’s sort of like a feel-good encyclopedia that you can reference whenever you need it, or read all at once if you feel like you could use a dose of optimism in all aspects of your life. It will come in paperback and Kindle editions; you can pre-order now and it will be available on February 7.

Now, some exciting news! Amy offered to do a Q & A for my blog and I suggested that you all could submit questions for her to answer. So if you have questions about half-orange dating optimism, all-around optimism, or — if you’re me –Andy Samberg (the day I saw she interviewed him for Glamour magazine, my heart nearly exploded), let’s hear them! She’ll pick a handful to answer next week and I’ll be giving away a copy of the book then too.

Note: Amy e-mailed me last week to ask me if I’d be interested in getting a copy to review and doing a giveaway. I honestly felt bad accepting because I was already planning to buy the book and I wanted to support her; however, I knew that my writing about it sooner rather than later would ultimately be better for her, so I went ahead and got the book early. After I finished it, I ended up pre-ordering a copy anyway as a gift for a friend who I felt like could benefit from reading it. Anyway, all of this is to make the FTC happy and also say that my review is not influenced by the fact that it was free. 

Leave your questions for Amy in the comments!

{ 24 comments }

1 Parvin February 3, 2012 at 10:56 am

I can’t wait to read this book. In “Meeting Your Half Orange,” Amy Spence distinguishes between the type of guy (you think) you want and the type of relationship you want. Until I read her book I never noticed the difference or understood that they were in fact two totally unrelated things. I’m just getting over a break up right now and this concept is helping me understand how a guy could be WONDERFUL, but the relationship can be just so-so. Thinking in these terms makes it easier for me to let it go and move forward. It’s not about finding your dream guy, it’s about finding your dream relationship! Anyhow, thank you Rachel for helping me find Amy!

2 Sarah @ The Cyclist's Wife February 3, 2012 at 11:01 am

Yay! It makes me happy to know there is a book in the world like this. It took a traumatic experience for me to (finally) learn how to truly live my life in a positive way, that heavy sarcasm can often equal pessimism and that by really letting go and looking forward in a positive way will bring you what you really want in life. My question for Amy would be: how do you get yourself out of a slump? While being optimistic and positive is a good thing, it takes work and sometimes life likes to beat us up a bit. So, if you’re having trouble finding the good, where do you go to get it?

3 Kate February 3, 2012 at 11:36 am

I guess my question is, how do you remain optimistic when there truly isn’t that much to be happy about? My relationship is great – but everything else sucks! I’ve been laid off three times in the last two years, I’m struggling with bills constantly – I currently work two jobs and am seriously looking for a third. We can’t even CONSIDER moving forward with a ring or wedding because of financial constraints. It’s hard to see all my friends getting married, buying houses and having kids when we can’t even keep the cable on.

4 Aly February 4, 2012 at 4:26 pm

that was my same question — ive run into similar problems with you and the truth is, it sucks. when you dont have a stable income or are constantly interviewing for positions, it is so emotionally draining despite having the support of friends or family.

5 Aly February 4, 2012 at 4:27 pm

*similar problems as you

whoops!

6 Melinda February 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Ooo girl, that was the same question on my mind. My husband is out-of-town for his job 70% of the time, we’re having to dip into our retirement to make ends meet, all but one of my good friends have either moved or disappeared from my life, my job is sucking the life out of me and a year-long job search hasn’t helped, I lost my church community (long story) and haven’t found a new one yet, AND my relationship with my father is at a standstill of a mess, a painful situation for a former daddy’s girl. Currently fending off depression as best I can, ’cause I’ve been there before and don’t want to go back.

PHEW. (Rachel, I apologize for word-crapping all over your blog; I just haven’t been able to say ^all that^ to anyone IRL and it feels slightly good to get it out of my head.)

Still going to preorder this book though; I’ll try anything at this point.

7 Melinda February 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm

(For the record and perspective, except for 6 months of depression in college due to family issues, I’ve always been quite the half-glass-full optimist…so this is not my usual way of looking at things. But as Kate referenced, apparently there may be seasons in life when there’s not much to be happy about — and as much as I try to appreciate “the little things,” they don’t always add up to be enough.)

8 Lori February 3, 2012 at 11:47 am

I really need some happy in my life. I just preordered this book. Thanks for the review, Rachel.
Lori´s last post ..DIY Jewelry RackMy Profile

9 Melissa February 3, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I’m so glad you did this review–I didn’t even know about Amy’s new book and I think I really need it! My question is how do you maintain your happy once you “get” happy? I feel like I’m at a place where I should be happy–my life is pretty great all around–but I still have a lot of down times where I beat myself up or don’t feel confident. I can see the things I should be happy about, but I tend to focus on the negative, and I don’t like being that way!
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10 Jacki February 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Kate and Melissa took my questions! Hehe. :)

I LOVED “Meeting Your Half Orange” – and I think I heard about it here first! About a month after I read the book I got an email from a long-time friend who I’d been romantically interested in. Things had never worked out for us and I’d moved on. But it turns out, he had not, and tomorrow is one year since our first date :)
Jacki´s last post ..living with intention in januaryMy Profile

11 Rachel February 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Ahhh! I didn’t know that was how you met…so awesome!!

12 H February 4, 2012 at 2:26 am

First-time commenter here – love Rachel’s blog and am an avid lurker. But all this talk about optimism finally got me to comment!
I was barely surviving at work when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, so I quit that project, and then had to withdraw from a 2-year work/travel agreement I had worked on all of last year (while getting over a broken-off engagement), and moved back to Hickville. So, far from friends, surrounded by family hounding me to “get settled down already – you’re almost 30!”, and right now, looking for at-home work so I can look after Mom.
I try to keep busy with art and reading, but goddamnit, it’s turning out harder than I thought. And I’m the sunny one in my group!!

I am not sure what to ask Amy, really. See, I do have it easier than most people but knowing that still doesn’t get me out of a funk. Any suggestions, Amy?

13 Emilia February 4, 2012 at 8:03 am

Though I consider myself quite a happy person (with a decent dose of those days), I’m always looking for ways to improve my outlook on life. This sounds like just the kind of book I would love! I’m putting it on my must read list straight away :)
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14 Christina February 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Rachel,

Thanks for another great post! I’m looking forward to checking out Amy’s book and am taking a peek at her blog right now.

So glad I started reading your blog. Your posts are always thought-provoking and fun. Thanks!

15 Mel February 4, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I bought “Meeting Your Half Orange” in Fall 2010 and really enjoyed it. I decided to reread it in February 2011 and after took Amy’s advice: putting good vibes into the universe by blogging about what I envisioned to be my dream relationship. One month later, I met a man who taught me some very important lessons on who I wanted to be in a relationship and how to be that person – tearing down walls, emphasizing communication, showing affection openly, etc. He wasn’t the one for me, but that man’s presence in my life sparked something (jealousy? realization?) in the guy I had been “seeing” prior. We hadn’t worked out at first because while we had an amazing connection and a longstanding friendship, we couldn’t seem to get over our pride to quit playing games.
Needless-to-say, it was a crazy year in the love department but I am so thankful for all the steps that brought me to where I”m supposed to be with my guy right now. I agree with Amy’s belief that being with the right person is a process because I can see now neither of us were ready for each other…until we were.

My question is similar to Melissa’s: I think there’s more to being with your half-orange than just meeting them. What are her best advice for “keeping” your half-orange? For keeping positive through the rough patches and maintaining that spark?

Also, it sounds like some of this is answered in her new book so I’ll really look forward to reading it! I’m sure there’s a lot of principles I could apply to my career sector, too.

Also, Rachel, I recently read this article with a psych perspective on relationships and I found it both fascinating and terrifying. I’d love your input! To me, it definitely stand for why I think some celebrity marriages and divorces are so unrealistic (cough) but it made marriage seem very daunting. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201112/are-you-the-right-mate
Mel´s last post ..Discovering Grown-Up RelationshipsMy Profile

16 Rachel February 7, 2012 at 9:08 am

@Mel I have the same question about “keeping” your half-orange! I was secretly hoping Amy’s next book would be all about that.

Off to read that article now…I’ll probably share my thoughts in the next Friday Night Social!

17 Heather February 4, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I read “Meeting Your Half Orange” last year as well–and loved it. I’d spent a lot of time getting settled in my new city <3 Chicago! and my new life, but that book had so many great ideas and inspiration for finding that other half I’d always wanted. Unfortunately, I’d always stood in my own way.

Something really crappy happened in my life on 12/9/9, so on 12/9/10, I wrote to two of my best girlfriends that “by this date next year, I will be with someone amazing”–and sure enough on 12/9/11 I was! It was a little bumpy (standing in my own way again!), but he stuck in there and I am insanely happy.

Honestly, I can’t think of any questions–but I will think about it–and I’m DEFINITELY ordering her new book!

18 Krista February 5, 2012 at 8:39 am

Thanks for the book recommendation! I immediately read “Half Orange” when you first wrote about it.

Speaking of recommendations…do you have any new Mashups recommendations?? I’ve been listening to MochiBeats and GirlTalk a lot and am ready for some new beats to get me movin’ and groovin’. Thanks!!

19 Rachel February 7, 2012 at 9:12 am

Yes!

Major Lazer & La Roux (this album is SO GOOD!)
The Knocks
E-603 (Torn Up, Something for Everyone, and Smokeshow)
Super Mash Bros. (All About the Scrillions, Fuck Bitches. Get Euros)
Milkman (Circle of Fifths, Lactose & THC)
DJ JewBoy (Boy vs. Goy, Gin and Jews, Chrome Kippur)

20 Rachel February 7, 2012 at 9:19 am

I thought I’d add a couple questions of my own here for Amy!

1. Once your optimism has led you to All The Wonderful Things, how do you deal with the fear that you’re going to lose it all? I seriously am turning into a crazy person with my fears of death of a loved one, something horrible happening to my pets, losing my job, the world ending, etc.

2. Now that you’re branded as an optimist, do you feel pressure to be optimistic all the time? I feel like there are a lot of cynics in the world who might be hoping to “prove you wrong” so to speak.

3. I consider myself an optimist but I feel like I can’t always get there in a day. Sometimes you just want to wallow for a little while, right? How much time should we give ourselves to just feel upset/angry/cranky before we start utilizing the tips in your book?

21 Jenn February 8, 2012 at 12:18 am

Great review! I wouldn’t have normally gone near this, out of fear of “cheesy optimism,” but the points your brought up all sound so great, I think I’ll be missing something if I don’t. And, you said paperback, which is speaking this starving college student’s language!

22 Stephanie @ LoveLaughterLight February 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm

After I read this post, I went to Amazon to read about Amy’s book, “Meeting Your Half-Orange.” I immediately bought it for my Kindle and blazed through it in record speed. I have never been more optimistic about finding my big love as I am now! I am going to re-read it, make my lists and prepare my dream board.

23 Rachel February 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm

That is SO exciting!!

24 Kate February 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Thanks for the review. I really need some happy in my life. I just preordered this book.
Kate´s last post ..Better Job, More JobsMy Profile

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