There are days when my sense of all that is wrong in the world overwhelms me. From the small, everyday cruelties through to the epic injustices, there is so much to grieve over. I’ve had too much contact with sadists and sickos, people who hurt and use others, and feel entitled to do so. Any contact would be too much. The perception that the bad far outweighs the good, can be crippling. To keep going in any positive way, requires hope.
Looking for the good in things is a choice. It is about holding optimism in the face of experience, and the more crap life throws your way, the harder that gets. Refusing to be beaten allows me to stave off both cynicism and despair. Apathy and a defeatist attitude are not good tools to work with, even if lapsing into them may seem easier. Sometimes optimism is a full time fight, but the alternative is a loss of self, a loss of belief in the future, and a loss of belief in the humanity of others.
Sometimes you have to be looking hard for the good things, to spot them. The worst people I have known in my life had their moments, even. One, who went to prison, had a deep and abiding love of dogs. That doesn’t redeem him in any way, but I make a point of remembering that. Sometimes entirely selfish motives will push a person towards doing the right things anyway.
Sometimes the good in a day is small and subtle. It’s a burst of birdsong, or a smile from a stranger. It’s seeing the little plant that has managed to break through the tarmac, or the way the sunset catches the water. When you’re paying attention to these small things, they start to seem a lot bigger. Getting away from what is solely human to find the good in other things can be a great help. The trees are not thinking about the economy, only about budding and spring. The hills do not care for our laws and troubles, they just are. There are different perspectives to find, and solace to be taken from them.
Making a conscious effort to find the good in a day takes practice. However, there are aspects of misery and despair that are all about cutting ourselves off from everything, retreating deeper into the self. It may seem like a protective move, to disengage, but it also deprives us of the connections we need. Seeking the good is also about an attitude shift, because it assumes there is good to be found. Often it’s easiest to find what you’re looking for, and expecting the worst brings it into focus.
When you find something good, share it. Celebrate it. Even the smallest gestures towards making better, are precious. A kind word, a tiny gesture of compassion or friendliness, a joke shared. These are all ways of fighting back against the forces of misery and apathy.
When something or someone seems impossible, you can still change how you think about it. Every set back, every new problem, is a challenge to rise to. Every idiot and asshole making your life difficult gives you opportunity to be a better sort of person. Every difficult thing is an opportunity to prove something, and to shine. Often no one else will notice, but in singing your own triumphs you can get something useful out of the crap. And sometimes, when you voice the little wins, the things faced, the idiots well handled, someone else will share that with you in a good way.
Today I am ill, but when I looked up from my editing job, I saw an egret fly past my window, its form a magical, ghostly white against this dingy sky. It looked so pristine, like an emissary from the otherworld. And yes, it is cold, but I have a man who has brought wood in and made me a fire. I’ve lived in far harder conditions than this, having to build a reality out of crumbs. It can be done, and often there are more than crumbs to work with, especially once we start passing them around. Good things have a habit of growing and expanding, if they are given the chance.
This is all about belief. We can choose what we believe. If we choose to seek the good, to believe in the existence of silver linings in clouds, and frogs who turn into princess, and wool that turns into gold, then perhaps we can make it happen. The only thing I am certain about is that the person who keeps striving has a little hope of success, but the person who gives up, has none.
And it’s a bit of an irony, having written that this morning, and sat here the recipient of yet another slap from reality, and wondering how not to give up. But life goes on, somehow.