Today, I got to thinking: we are bombarded by negativity, from our Facebook feeds to the everyday, mundane occurrences we can choose to absorb or ignore. I challenged myself today to find the beauty in everyday life and to open my eyes only to the positive things happening around me, and to say it was eye-opening is nothing short of an understatement. For those who know me well, I am a very observant person and prone to over-analyzing and occasional cynicism. Whether its due to the non-stop election coverage or the national divide with current events, I’ve simply reached my threshold. Here’s what my experiment showed me:
- I woke up this morning fresh from a dream about my dad, who died from melanoma five years ago. I will occasionally dream about him, and in those moments, his presence is as real as it was when he was here. I hear the sound of his voice again, and I see him look into my eyes and smile. It brings me a sense of peace that words truly cannot articulate.
- My daughter hugged me extra tight when I dropped her off at Pre-K today because she knew that we wouldn’t see each other until Wednesday, since they will be at their dad’s house the next two nights. I got extra kisses and nosey’s, which is a special little goodbye just between the two of us. As I left her preschool, the marquis on the church she attends reminded me, “Let your smile be the one that makes someone’s day.”
- When I got home, I had a little time before running some errands, so I brewed a fresh pot of coffee and got to cuddle up in bed for about a half hour, savor that sweet caffeinated nectar, snuggle with my dog, and chat with my mom for a bit. I also watched the sweetest Facebook video of two young children helping each other, which I shared to my own wall.
- The weather is chilly for the first time this morning, so I busted out my new pair of jeans and a cardigan to run errands instead of the usual tank and shorts this humid and hot weather has necessitated.
- Running a little late, I barely breezed into the lobby of my doctor’s office for a follow-up appointment, and just caught the elevator with one little old lady and a woman my age. The woman held the elevator door for the older lady, who slowly shuffled in without a word. The woman winked at me, and we shared a smile.
- Traffic in the busy Harding Place area was being rerouted for construction work, unbeknownst to me, and at the last minute, I got caught having to squeeze my way into the left-hand lane, along with the truck in front of me. The man in the truck rolled down his window purposefully giving a hearty courtesy wave for the driver who let him over, and I followed suit with the Camry that graciously let me in.
- I decided to hit up Panera for a salad before heading home, and the most adorable baby with her father stood in front of me in line. I couldn’t help but notice her big, squishy brown cheeks and beautiful brown eyes as she gently rest her head against her dad’s shoulder. I chose to sit outside and enjoy the weather with my food, and as I ate, I watched two little Dachshunds play at their owner’s feet, their huge bellies nearly dragging the ground among the shortest little legs and paws. Almost on cue, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” came on the speakers outside, assuring me that “every little thing will be alright.”
- I’m now at home with the back doors open listening to the rain gently fall on my back patio and the quiet sounds of Ray LaMontagne’s “Like Rock and Roll & Radio” play in the background as I write.
It’s only 12:30, and all this beauty has already happened – because I chose to pay attention to it. Chances are, all of these things happen every single day around every single person. But do we see it? Or are we so caught up in our own heads, choosing to focus on the negative energy that seductively pulls at our hearts? To illustrate, let me recount how I could have chosen to view this day.
- I hit my alarm several times before accidentally turning it off, causing me to oversleep and rush getting the kids ready and out the door to school on time. It was a harried fifteen minutes of bargaining and berating until all the clothes were on and seat belts were buckled – not my favorite way to begin a Monday morning. But, I kept hitting snooze, willing myself back to sleep so I could spend another precious minute with my dad in my dream.
- My daughter clung to me today because she was sad – sad that she has to live a life split between two houses. She cried that she would miss me, and I honestly didn’t feel like peeling her off of me because I didn’t want to let go either. She is the light and laughter in our lives, and I miss it dearly when she is not here. But, those extra hugs, kisses, and noseys won’t last forever, and that is her special way of showing me how much she loves me.
- When I got home, I sighed surveying the house in disarray, with toys and dishes strewn everywhere. My first instinct was to drop everything and get the house back in order. I wisely thought, “But first, coffee…” and checked my Facebook while it brewed, opening my news feed to a barrage of memes and commentary in anticipation of tonight’s big presidential debate. While important, I simply couldn’t handle that kind of divisive, back-and-forth rhetoric anymore, at least not Monday morning sans coffee. But, I saw the video of the two children helping one another, poured my coffee, closed my browser, hopped in bed with the Saadie dog, and decided to catch up with my mom on the weekend’s activities. I talked to her about how our weekend was filled with family and football, which is why the house was in such a disarray – because it had been filled with family, friends, and food as we watched the Vols win and celebrated a six-year old birthday.
- Because the weather was chilly, I was forced to dig deep in the closet for some warmer clothes, realizing that hardly anything from last winter still fits because I’ve put on ten or so pounds since then. I couldn’t find a thing to wear and ultimately settled on the new jeans I bought recently because I can’t fit into the old ones, and I chose the cardigan to cover up the mid-section of which I am very critical these days. But, the reason why I’ve gained this weight is because I am happy. This time last year, I could barely force myself to eat a few bites a food a day, and now I eat three square meals, have created my own new life, and am in love with a wonderful man. The weight is happy weight, not “bottom of my existence” weight loss.
- I was running late for my appointment due to said wardrobe issues, and that little old lady initially frustrated the hell out of me as she sllloooooowwwwwwlllllyyy shuffled into the elevator. But, seeing the kindness and patience of the woman who held the door for her and winked at me reminded me that maybe being a few minutes late isn’t the worst possible thing to ever happen. And perhaps that little old lady walking in her nightgown might have it a little worse than me.
- If you live in Nashville, you are well-versed in construction traffic and its frustrations, and that intersection at Harding and White Bridge is one of those places that cause the blood pressure to rise on a normal day, let alone with a lane closure. But, seeing the enthusiastic and genuine appreciation in the truck driver’s gesture reminded me to settle down, not get frustrated, and see that he, too, made a choice. The guy could have cut him off, and fingers easily could have been what was waving instead of hands. Instead, his gesture literally waved down the traffic line like a domino, causing all of us to be more patient and gracious with one another in a situation that, honestly, we can’t control.
- I was bummed because I went to Panera hoping to catch up with one of my friends who manages that one that I hadn’t seen in a while, but she wasn’t working today. I decided to sit outside in lieu of taking it to-go, and I was equally as bummed to see right next to the patio a large construction project in progress, making noise, and taking up the view. The sunlight quickly was covered by dark, ominous clouds announcing the coming rainstorm, and I knew I needed to eat quickly. But, I stayed longer watching those little short-legged Dachshunds playing and listening to my favorite feel-good Marley song. And I was thankful that I am self-employed and can eat lunch whenever I want to now, not just during 20 minutes on a bell schedule like when I was teaching.
- I got home, hoping to beat the rain long enough to sit on the back patio and write, but as soon as I sat outside, the raindrops began to pelt the patio umbrella. So I took my laptop back inside, opened up the doors instead, and sat on the couch. But, in here I’m able to listen to my Pandora radio on the TV, and the cool breeze and sound of gentle rain has drifted inside, reminding me that fall is coming. The leaves are changing, and so am I. And I am thankful.
Before you assume that I perpetually take a Pollyanic view of life, let me assure you I don’t. Before you assume that I don’t know what real-life shit looks like, I do. In my 35 years, I’ve survived a horrific sexual assault, had three miscarriages, lost my dad to cancer, and got divorced. I get it. There are some days that life just plain sucks, and on those days, I allow myself to lean into the pain, anger, or grief to feel it fully. I used to avoid it and try to manufacture a false placebo to lessen it; I realize now the folly in doing so because the more I allow myself to feel pain and loss, the more room I have to absorb love and beauty.
I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t need to win the lottery, take a huge trip, or have some big event bring happiness to my life. It’s always been here – I just don’t always chose to see it. These next several months especially will be fraught with negativity and division. But, those things don’t define us. We choose to define what life is for ourselves, and we have a choice each day to choose the lens through which we view our own lives and the lives of other people. Choose wisely, friends. There is much beauty still to be found.