The world sucks – but only sometimes. Sometimes it is all pony rides and party hats; lately not enough. Like everything, it is a balance – forever wobbling between good, bad, and indifferent.

I’ve written about balance before, as it pertains to travel, and the need to stay positive as you wait in the TSA line, while you get stranded on the tarmac for several hours, or during an argument in three languages (two of which you don’t speak) after getting mugged.

Positivity (is that really a word?) is a big deal to me. It makes a grey day better and a failure easier to take. It can help put world events into perspective, although that’s getting harder to do. To set you up for the weekend, I am going to give you something to help cultivate your positivity. I know it is challenging in the wake of Charleston, Barcelona, Manchester, London, Turkey, etc. but let’s soldier on, shall we?

Before I get to this little bit o’ wisdom, I have to go on record and state that I have not always been a sunshine-y person. Being positive and finding the good in things are muscles I’ve developed over years of ‘taking it on the chin’.  I had the good fortune to grow up privileged with opportunity and love, but I still had a chip on my shoulder. After a few epiphanic moments in my life, and some resonating wisdom of my grandmother (I miss her every day), I can honestly say that I am happy all the time and positive about 94% of the time. This is a great place to be and I highly recommend it. That is not to say I don’t have days where everyone annoys the hell out me or where I don’t wonder why I even bother putting on eyeliner. It just means that in the grand scheme of things, my life is better when I keep it on the sunny side.

Please note that happiness does NOT come from a large bank account or swanky digs. It can’t be found on a Facebook page or in a reality show. Happiness comes from:

  • Exercising the choice to find the good in a negative situation.
  • Working your bum off in pursuit of your goals and ignoring the naysayers.
  • Finding your tribe (your tribe can even be you and a cat).
  • Believing in yourself and cultivating your personality through travel, self-education, volunteerism, or just reading a good book.

You can be happy, you can be positive, and you can overcome what weighs you down. Okay, here is the little nugget of awesomeness for today. Ready?

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of that candle will not be shortened.”
                                                                                                                                                 – Buddha

Beautiful, isn’t it? A simple and profound statement. Go out into the world this week and be that candle for as many people as you can find. We need more happiness and we need more light, even in the time of a pandemic

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I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next and how that will shape all of us.

We have been wildly disrupted by COVID-19. There is not one area of our lives untouched by this global pandemic. We are locked down, in quarantine, or self-isolating. We are working in new ways, socializing across video platforms, homeschooling to the best of our ability, and trying to find our balance.

You didn’t ask for a pandemic.

Or to lose your job.

Or to suddenly teach 7th grade math.

But here it is. Now comes the real work.

That work isn’t about the WHAT it’s about the HOW.

The WHAT is this new way of living, the uncertainty of when things will return to normal or if they ever will return to normal. The WHAT is the situation that is forced upon you. But here comes the fun part – this is the time when you decide HOW you will react.

The HOW is your view your situation. Will you crumple into a ball and lay on your floor until the sun comes out? Will you beat your chest and scream to the skies about the unfairness of it all? The HOW is the mindset you have. Do you take comfort in the fact that (hopefully) your family is healthy? Will you use this time to take stock of what really matters?

We didn’t ask for any of this but here we are. Amor fati, as the Stoics would tell you.

When you accept your fate – when you lean into this situation – you realize that you have to make the best of the situation. I think of my grandparents who lived through the Depression and through World War II. They made the best of it. They knew there was no other option.  We are in the same situation today – there is no other option than to accept our fate and move forward. You can’t control what happens to you, but you sure can control how you react.

A few ideas to help include:

  • Practice mental toughness – Don’t succumb to victim mentality. Dig deep and find your toughness.
  • Study philosophy – We are not going through anything that humanity hasn’t experienced before. Study the philosophers for some perspective.
  • Choose the optimistic path – Keep on the sunny side. There is plenty of scientific evidence on the positives effects of optimism on both mental and physical well-being.
  • Turn off the news – Take a break from the whiplash of good news/bad news and the swirl of rumor on social media. It is a slippery slope and can lead to (mis)information overload.
  • Realize that things can always get worse – It may sound bleak, but let’s look to the Stoics again and consider memento mori. Even in the worst situations, it is important to recognize that things can get worse, so we should…….
  • Keep focus on the good things in your life – Find a bright spot in every day. It may be that you have a job, or your flower garden is in full bloom, or you connected with a long-lost friend, or your child woke you up with giggles. There is always something beautiful in every day, you just have to look for it.

The world we knew will likely never be the same.

But I think there is opportunity there to transform it into something better. The things we thought we needed may become obsolete. The kindness we are seeing around the globe may (hopefully) become habit and remain long after COVID-19 becomes a manageable situation. The care we take of ourselves and those around us may result in more empathy.

The murky waters of confusion, isolation, and uncertainty will eventually clear. How will you embrace the new?

Me? I hope I embrace more opportunities to exercise my empathy in a meaningful way for others.

Remember to stay home, be kind, and look to the future.

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