Most people who know me would be aware that I am a pretty positive person. I always look on the bright side of life. I’m optimistic of the future, always hopeful that things will indeed get better. Always seeking the good out of the bad.
Positivity does come naturally to me but there are times when it can be hard, even for me, to keep my chin up and move forward. I posted yesterday on my own blog about the 10 most pivotal events of this year and reading them again, together with the many comments I received, it is obvious that I’ve had a challenging year, by anyone’s standards.
Positivity has pulled me through each and every one of those challenges during 2014 but there have been moments where even the ability to look for the bright side has deserted me. Following those moments I’ve had to be mindful and consciously practise being positive.
For instance, last Friday I found out my father has been diagnosed with cancer and will be undergoing surgery next week. He will have his larynx (voice box) removed and will have to learn to speak and breathe and swallow all over again. Until the surgery we will not know his full prognosis nor know for sure how long he will be in hospital for.
I was devastated. I cried, then googled his cancer and just sat and wept some more. I was shattered for him, for my mum and for my family. I was sad that he may have to spend christmas in hospital, angry that cancer had chosen him and already grieving for his soon to be lost voice.
I was also feeling for my kids who still are unaware of the diagnosis and who had plans to come and stay with my parents during the upcoming christmas holidays. My mind was (and is still) awhirl with questions. How do I tell them? What do I need to do so I can stay down in Sydney with mum next week? How can I just go through life like normal when it most definitely isn’t normal anymore?
I gave into the pain on Friday. I ate and drank my feelings. I cried and cried some more. I hugged my family and allowed myself to be sad. I gave myself permission to not look at the bright side – it was too soon and how CAN there be a bright side to cancer?
But on Saturday, I woke without tears. I still have a ball of grief in my chest that surprises me with it’s intensity at times, but I’ve made the conscious decision to practise positivity. We don’t know the prognosis. We don’t know how he’s going to recover. We don’t know what’s to come. But I’ve had to accept all these unknowns and concentrate instead on the things we DO know.
We know the doctors think it is treatable. My father is 75 and has a history of heart issues – they wouldn’t be operating if they didn’t think there would be a chance of recovery. We know my Dad is a fighter. We know he is the worst patient in the universe which should keep the medical staff on their toes and Mum and myself amused for his hospital stay. We know we have the support of amazing family and friends. We know we can get through this.
My Mum and Dad are my inspiration. I am in awe of how they have handled the news so far. Practical and realistic with a dash of humour and with lots of positivity. Clearly my tendency to look on the bright side has a genetic basis!
To help me (and you) practise positivity here are my 5 keys to finding the good, even in the face of tragedy:
1. Acknowledge your pain. You can’t move on and see the positives if you are in denial or not prepared to face what has occurred. Acknowledge and accept the situation – don’t ignore it.
2. Allow yourself to grieve. Once you’ve accepted the situation, give yourself permission to feel the pain and do what you need to do to relieve it. Don’t deny yourself the basic right to grieve.
3. Look at the facts. After you have acknowledged your pain and given into the grief, look at the facts of the situation. Try to be as objective as possible and identify what you do and do not know. This will form the basis of how you find positivity again.
4. Put aside what you don’t know. My husband always reminds me that we can’t control what we don’t know and there is no rational reason to worry about it. This can be hard for control freaks like myself but it does really help in finding the positive. Try not to worry about the ifs and buts. Focus your energy instead on how you are going to deal with the certainties and leave the unknowns until they become known.
5. Choose to find the positives. Once you have cleared your mind of the worry of the unknown, look at what you DO know and identify the positives. There will always be something there, however small and seemingly insignificant. Choose to find a positive and cling to it – other positives will come along once you open yourself to the possibility of their existence.
It’s not easy to practise positivity, especially if it’s not your natural response to life’s challenges. But learning to open yourself up to the possibility that there might be good amidst the bad is a life skill we should all try to cultivate.
How do you practise positivity?
Joining up with the always positive Jess for IBOT.