Friday, January 24, 2014

Looking on the Bright Side

We call it lots of different things. Looking on the bright side, staying positive, counting our blessings, holding the right thought ( a quote from a great positive thinker, Nelle Hudson), taking an attitude of gratitude. No matter what we call it, it is a decision, a choice made in the face of life. Kind of like deciding to love someone, staying positive doesn't mean we don't see the down side. It doesn't mean we are not occasionally rattled by the anxiety of what-if-that-really-happens. And it doesn't relieve us of the work that needs to be done to address life, consequences, etc. But the payoff is so great that I really, really want to make the choice to look on the bright side.

Maybe it is my age and time in life, but it seems like so many people I know are facing tough times. Bad health, death, dwindling retirement funds, painful family relationships, loss and pain and suffering. There are times when the only response possible is grief. There is a wonderful line from a song by Connie Dover written about the bombing of London in WWII:
When tyranny is biting you do your best to try
And stifle all your heartache till it's safe again to cry
And when the darkness disappears and the light comes shining through
We'll gather up and start our fall anew.

Sometimes it is the tyranny of grief that rules us as frightfully as any tyrant. There are times when we are locked in a grief so tight that no light can shine through. The balm of a loving friend who can stand with you in that place can make such a difference. That kind of friend will not insult your pain by telling you to look on the bright side. There will be time for remembering the love and the light that has been part of our lives, and will be again. As my mom likes to say, this too shall pass.

Many times it is the fear of what could happen that blinds us to the blessings of this day. That is the time when finding a way to look on the bright side restores hope. For me, denying anxiety the ability to rob me of the joys of this day is the purpose of positive thinking.

Looking on the bright side, I like to remember what my brother says: any day that we wake up on this side of the grass is a good day. Making a gratitude list is a means of dealing with problems by putting them in perspective. There are tons of little slogans and cliche's that prove people from all times and all situations have made this effort to see the blessings. You have only to read bumper stickers and coffee mugs, calendars and desk signs to find them. People who put them into practice are the anti-grocery/store/tabloid. They are the anti-medicate/yourself/to/deal/with/life. They live their lives with courage to look on the bright side when it seems our society's standard response is despair and hand wringing. Fear may sell more copies, but gratitude puts them in perspective. It may be normal to live in fear of all the horrible things that could happen. But like my husband Bob says, why be normal?

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