Looking Back…and Ahead

I was once asked if my nickname had been Pollyanna as a child. It didn’t bother me. Isn’t it better to see the bright side of situations? And if there is no bright side, then isn’t it permissible to reframe things so they won’t seem so harsh, horrific, or horrendous? If that doesn’t work, it might be helpful to realize that nothing lasts forever and that you’ll just have to endure it (whatever it might be) until the end. The end could be the end of the Corona virus, the end of a semester, the end of a sickness…….lots of uncomfortable or stressful situations come under this heading.

Oh, I just thought of another strategy, one I often employ, thinking and even saying aloud: “It could be worse.” Because it could. Quick example. Since I’d been out of town for a few days, the cupboards were a little bare, not of essentials but of some of the yummy edibles we like. I didn’t have more than five minutes to think about our scarcity, though. That’s when a picture of a starving child slid onto my Newsfeed with the headline: “Starving Children Don’t Cry.” A glutton for punishment, I gulped and read the article, not so that I’d feel better but because I wanted to understand, to know, to learn.  

I know more now, but I still don’t understand. Why is it that some precious souls are born into extremely dark and dire situations that never seem to improve while others come to Earth with such excessive wealth (not necessarily material) that they can afford to whine about what kind of pizza they want or which pair of shoes (out of say, ten) they should wear to school.

I recall a situation in which teachers purchased some clothing as a Christmas gift for a student who wore an unvarying set of clothing every single day. Do I need to mention that the child was bullied and teased? When the holiday ended and school began anew, the child appeared wearing her old clothes, a little worse for wear, tattered and faded. A little investigating revealed that the mom had sold her child’s clothes for drug money. How can something like this happen when Santa is so darned generous to other kids even when they’ve been naughty?

One recent morning at church, I heard a wise man say a few things about the glass being half empty as opposed to half full, and I’ve been thinking about it off and on ever since. Actually. he was talking about popcorn bowls, but the concept is the same. The question is whether you look at life as basically good or basically bad. Are you grateful or ungrateful? Are you happy or miserable? Pleasant or bitter? Hopeful or despairing?

As the holiday season ended and a new year began, I couldn’t help reflecting a bit over 2020’s fall holidays compared to 2019’s. Both years, I saw Thanksgiving decorations in Hobby Lobby as early as August, and those orange and gold leaves, plump pumpkins, and colorful cornucopias put a little pep in my step. In 2019, my children and grandchildren gathered with us at Litchfield Beach from Wednesday to Saturday to celebrate the fourth Thursday in November, but in 2020 we were miles apart, connected electronically for a late afternoon Facetime visit.

Christmas. We gathered with children and grandchildren on a couple of occasions. Risky, yes. But we reasoned that since these were the people we engaged with on a somewhat regular basis, we’d be fine. And I wore a mask most of the time. That’s all I have to say about this.

I didn’t gather with friends, but I’m happily content knowing they were with kith and kin and am happy for the social media peeks into their lives. Absent were the get-togethers and lunches with friends. I’ve learned that no year represents my whole life. I have memories of fabulous gatherings in the past and hopeful thoughts of experiencing them again.

In the meantime, I enjoyed a lot of little things that I might have taken scant notice of earlier. Like the small cedar tree someone decorated on the Sweetgum Trail between Scott Park and Woodward Park. I added a string of garland and two bright shiny balls, and the day before Christmas I noticed that someone had dressed it up with a bright red garland…good thing since the first one was becoming a little dull because of rain and sun.

And before I forget, we had the awesome experience of seeing the Bethlehem Star over the ocean. It was a free experience that cost a few minutes of our time to don jackets, walk out on the pier, and look toward the heavens. Although people were separated from one another, I’m counting it as communal and spiritual.

Next year, I hope others who walk the Sweetrum Trail will add a little something to make it a communal tree lighting our path and bringing cheer along the path. In fact, I hope we’ll all do something each day to add light, beauty, and/or hope into others’ lives.

About jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer
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