Over the course of my adult life, I’ve worked hard to be a positive person. On the Enneagram, I’m a Four, which means (in part) that I’m susceptible to depression and negativity. In fact, I struggled with depression for many years. Fortunately, some gifted professionals and my work with the Enneagram have helped me tremendously.
I do have to work at being positive, though less than I used to. Positivity has become an intentional habit. I am grateful to God for the strength to sustain it, and for help in picking me up off the floor (or dragging me out of the dark dungeon) when I used to want to dwell there.
I still remember a moment when I realized that the hard work was evident to others, even if they might not understand the reasons behind it. We were traveling with my parents and my father made a comment, which I recall as him saying I was “aggressively positive” or “relentlessly positive.” As I recall it, I was rather pleased that he noticed it, because it meant that I was, indeed, able to appear positive. (I hope and trust that my work is a lot less evident now!)
Later, on that same trip, I made a choice that I then regretted, and my mind wanted badly to spin downward, into depression over a lost opportunity and subsequent disappointment. I worked hard, aggressively and relentlessly (!) choosing to hold back the tide, trying one tactic after another until I found one that worked (playing foosball with my niece and nephew in the basement of the house where we were staying!). That incident has stayed with me as a model of many things, including: (1) recognizing I’d made the best choice I could in the moment, (2) remembering that we can’t do everything in this life, and (3) recalling that physical activity is a good antidote to depression.
All of this has come to my mind and heart as I work, intentionally, to bring love and a positive attitude to a community and a world that are struggling with COVID-19. Yes, there is much to get angry, depressed, or hopeless about. But I have learned, through many years of trial and error, that I do no good to myself or anyone else if I dwell there.
So, I am relentlessly choosing to be positive. Some still react to my intentionally positive outlook with confusion and misunderstanding. For the most part, I simply state that I intend to spread love. I don’t need to share the gloomy backstory (which would be a less-healthy version of myself as a Four). But it’s there. Every day, I get to make choices. Most days, I don’t regret them. On the days I do, I work at living through it and moving on.
I also give thanks to God for the community of beloveds (including my husband!) who have supported me over the years and taught me that a different perspective, a different outlook, is possible.
My prayer today is that everyone who needs it will have (or find) such a community, especially during this coronavirus pandemic. Hopelessness is rampant. If you’re feeling hopeless, pray about who you could reach out to. Perhaps you might reach out to someone who always appears positive. Despite appearances, they might also know what it means to feel despair.
If you’re in a more hopeful frame of mind, what can you do to be positive and loving for those around you? You never know who might need it.