The Challenge of Staying Positive
As I think about next year—what I want to accomplish and what my challenges will likely be—one thing pops to mind immediately in the challenges department. Staying Positive. This may very well be challenging you as well.
An uneasy feeling has been growing in me over the past several weeks as I’ve been writing my newsletters. Each issue has information about a type of animal. There’s a reason for this. One of my goals is to promote and validate love for animals. So far, so good. But I’ve found that nearly all the animals I research are facing the same threats.
Of course, some are natural, such as drought or severe storms. But it seems the majority of pressures on animals come from humans: hunting for trophies, the exotic pet trade, or just for “fun;” loss of habitat by human encroachment on formerly wild areas; predation by non-native species introduced by man; and sometimes, though I think more in the past than now, sheer wanton destruction for its own sake. Obviously, especially for those of us who
value each and every life, this is discouraging, and painfully so.
Sometimes I feel dishonest by omitting this information or, at least, not emphasizing it. Then I remember the overall purpose of my communication with you is to “bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart.” It’s easy enough to find things to bring us down—they’re all around us! And even though things to feel blessed by are all around us, often enough it's too easy to overlook them. Sadly, it can feel harder to remain positive than indulge in the negative.
So how to do it? I think first and foremost is to focus on positive things and express gratitude for them. The plentitude of amazing animals with whom we share this planet and the wondrous ways each have found to live in their environments is right up there on my list.
Also, I frequently remind myself this is not a perfect world. Tragedy exists alongside happiness, carelessness alongside awareness, hatred alongside love, and evil alongside good. I can choose the side of happiness, awareness, love, and good, and live that choice through my actions and words, but I can’t change the fundamental nature of the world.
Finally, feeling bad about the tragic, careless, hateful, and evil isn’t a virtue on its own. Nor is it helpful. My feeling bad doesn’t relieve your suffering, not one little bit. It only makes me feel bad. But transforming such feelings into actions, however small, and then releasing myself from the pain knowing I did what I could, is positive all around. Holding painful emotion about things we can’t fundamentally change is wasting the life we’ve been given.
By the way, as I think about it more, these last two paragraphs are basically a restatement of the serenity prayer. “O, Lord, Grant us the serenity to accept that which cannot be changed, the courage to change that which can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.”
But there’s a another great gift which we all have—imagination—which can be powerful to help us through hard times.
One of my favorite uses of my imagination is the create a world that’s the way I wish this world would be. And once imagined, I can express it in my art and writing. For me, it’s a great way to stay positive.
I remember a question the leader of the writing group I belong to asked us each a question: where are we when we write? The answers were things like “in my big, overstuffed chair,” or “in the little writing corner I’ve created for myself.” My answer came quite spontaneously. “I’m in the forest behind Milkweed Manor with the animals.” Yes, imagination can be a freeing, almost magical way to bring the positive into our lives. Exercise your imagination!
Best wishes for a positive 2023!