Here’s the harsh reality: The world is not an easy place to live in sometimes. Not with all of the human suffering and violence and tragedy we see so often everywhere around us.
We’re still fighting wars all over the world, in spite of the fact that we should all be evolved enough by now to just love thy neighbor as we love ourselves. We’re still fighting terrorism and radicalism around the globe, in spite of the fact that we should all be able to live and let live. We’re still watching diseases like cancer claim the lives of people we love way too prematurely. We’re still getting beaten up and attacked at political rallies simply because people have forgotten that everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. We’re still being terrorized by zealots shooting up night clubs and killing innocent, peace-loving people. And that was all just over the course of a few days.
Not good. Not. Good. At. All.
And because we see these kinds of things happening constantly, it’s often hard to focus on anything else. I mean, there’s such a constant flow of misery in the news, on social media, and in every office lunch room and playground, that it can be challenging to sift through all the negativity and keep at least one eye on all the positive things that are also all around us.
The truth is, all this toxicity in the world can be draining and exhausting when you can’t get away from it (uh, not to mention depressing). And it completely detracts from all the other beauty that lives all around us at the very same time.
But it’s because we’re all so conditioned to be emotional rubberneckers, that we tend to fixate on the negative stuff instead of focusing more on everything around us that’s positive. And we do that because it’s human nature. Right or wrong, it’s just what most of us are inclined to do, myself included.
That’s because the draw factor of drama and pain and suffering is, for whatever unknown reason, disproportionately larger than the appeal of happiness. And why this is, I have absolutely no idea because you’d think it would be the opposite. Should be the opposite. But, sadly, it’s not.
So here’s the plan: Because so much of what goes on around us is beyond our control, we have to make the collective, conscious, concerted effort, as often as possible, to focus on the positive pieces of our lives. To treasure the people and experiences that matter most. We need to force ourselves.
And not just when tragedy strikes or we lose someone we love or when the chips are down. But all the time. No matter what.
Here’s the perfect example of what I’m talking about…
One of my close friends lost her husband earlier this month. Her husband, also a close friend, relentlessly battled enough terminal cancer for ten people for three long, hard years. But what makes their situation so powerful in my eyes is how they did it. In the face of immeasurable loss, they underwent every treatment available to prolong his life. They always stayed positive, even when there was no good reason why they should. Even though the pain and suffering he endured was endless. Even though they knew the ultimate outcome would be the same.
But he never complained. He never pitied himself. He never saw anything but the beauty of the gift of life flowing around him. He was ever present. Ever grateful. Ever humble. He lived squarely in every moment that he was here, despite the knowledge that he was moving all too quickly toward the end of his days.
He treasured every second he was alive with his family and friends, even though his pain was unimaginable. And although my girlfriend was always on the verge of losing her husband, she did the same. And because of it, he rallied. And he rallied. And he rallied. For almost two years longer than expected. Somehow, he found the strength to push on because all he saw in front of him was a beautiful life that needed to be lived. Fully. So he did. They both did.
See, they discovered that once we purge ourselves of the things that are irrelevant, all the things that really matter come very clearly into focus. And that’s how they lived, with everything in crystal-clear focus. A reminder to us all that we need to be doing that as much of the time as we can.
We need to ignore the negativity that we can’t control; we need to be present and mindful and grateful; we need to treasure the moments we have in spite of everything else that may be happening around us. And if we don’t, we’re fools. Because at the end of the day, every one of those moments is a gift. And gifts are meant to be treasured and enjoyed.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.