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Happy Negatives

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Happy Negatives

Tom Elenbaas

This Christmas, my wife bought me a wonderful book called Notes from a Public Typewriter. It’s a book that came about quite literally from notes that people like you and I typed on an old typewriter in this bookstore in downtown Ann Arbor called Literati, our former hometown. We used to frequent used bookstores, and I have a strange fondness for a good used bookstore.

The book is a wonderful piece of reflections by the author, Michael Gustafson, and everything from profound little notes, to haikus, to confessions, to proposals, to jokes, to my favorite - correspondence between the werewolf violin monster and a 7 year old boy.

Just before the chapter on the Violin Monster, there’s a short poem that goes like this:

i keep realizing what i am not:

not a doctor,

not straight,

not even beloved,

but each time i get closer

to realizing who i am. and so

all these are happy negatives.

Happy negatives.

That’s not a phrase that I’ve heard before, but I really like it. I think of my kids right now. They try a sport. They try to dance. They stand on their heads. They play instruments, work at math, read books. As they try new things, they find what they enjoy and what they don’t, what they’re good at and what they’re not, what they could be and what the won’t. Happy negatives.

Too often, we look at the things that aren’t, that won’t, that can’t, or that we just don’t and they work themselves into a strange narrative of failure, negative difference, or of not good enough or not right. What if these are just happy negatives, moments of learning along the path to personal discovery. In this case, maybe one or two or three negatives do make a positive because we can’t be all things, aren’t like everyone else, and shouldn’t be.

Maybe we are each fearfully and wonderfully made and God said, “brilliant,” when he put the final touches on you; and when he did, you were not like something else.

And maybe that’s ok.


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