I got kind of excited when I read that my homework for this week was to write about positivity, something I could prattle on about endlessly. I won’t. I’ll keep it within reason, but you get the idea. I have plenty to say on the topic.
My family has been through a shit period of life recently, a set of circumstances that feels like the never ending story. We were stuck in our own version of Groundhog Day before the pandemic even hit. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have asked me over the years how I stay so positive, and how I manage to avoid succumbing to bitterness because of our situation. My answer usually sounds something like, “If I don’t stay positive, then they win. I will not let them win.” The way I see it, positivity equals hope and no one will steal my hope.
When life is challenging, as it’s been lately for many of us, maintaining positivity is an active choice, triggered by our own actions. Every day, I seek out something that makes me feel grateful. Sitting outside with a cup of coffee, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. Having a chat with a friend, a family member, or even a random stranger on the street. Listening to my children talk to me about their dreams, both large and small. Laughing at a silly video with my family. My cat curled sleeping in my lap.
Lately, I seem more drawn to people who have also experienced difficulties in life, many far worse than my own. I’ve discovered that those who have suffered are often the kindest and the most willing to listen. I’ve also learned, through sharing stories of both heartache and joy, that it’s not a competition – every journey is valid. Connecting through compassion makes me feel less alone and makes me stronger; it makes us all stronger. Maintaining connections is crucial to staying positive.
This doesn’t mean that it’s always easy, or that staying positive feels natural every day, because it sure doesn’t. When I say that I look for something positive in each day, I don’t say it glibly and I don’t think it means boundless happiness 24/7. Some days I want to stay in my pyjamas, bury myself under a blanket and never move again. Sometimes I do just that. For a day. But then, I move. I bake. Or I lace up my sneakers and head out for a run. Sometimes, if I’m really desperate, I even clean. Man, how I hate cleaning, but it gets me moving, and clears my head. When I do these things, I am reminded that life, even in its harsher moments, is filled with little slices of happiness.
I also have days where I feel rage. White, blinding, heat-filled rage. My children have been hurt and I want those who hurt them to pay for what they’ve done. I hate when I feel this way. Vindictiveness and anger don’t define me, they never have, and I am ashamed at myself when those feelings saunter in, cocky and full of themselves. When the anger comes, I realize it’s because I feel I’m not in control. I’ve learned I need to channel the anger and get to work instead, to take charge. This is often when I do my best writing, which brings me back to calm. I remind myself of our larger mission, a mission to effect change and to influence an entire system. Yes, I have lofty goals. Negative feelings like anger might seep in, but by facing them and turning them into something productive, we can stare them down and force them to cower in the corner.
I think about a recent period where my days were full of dread and worry, and the memory that sticks out the most is that of my 12-year-old son coming home from school each day, making tea for both himself and for me. He’d sit with me for a bit and we’d catch up on the day. Little rituals are important when life is difficult. Small acts of kindness also stand out -- friends and family who made the effort to check in regularly. During that period, those gestures gave me hope and reminded me of my purpose. Never underestimate your power to lift someone else’s day by simply reaching out.
Positivity during challenging times takes constant attention. You might need to go looking for a reason to smile, because it’s not likely to fall from the sky. But, it’s out there. I challenge you to seek it out, like I did while out running one day, when I stumbled on a lawn carpeted with tiny purple flowers and a sign that read, “Children, please pick these flowers! They are for you!” Your flowers are out there too – go find them.