Can You Learn to Be Positive during a Pandemic?

Some people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and I am definitely an old[er]…person. I’ve always thought of myself as a realist, in that I see the beauty and good in the world, but I don’t deny the sadness, sorrow, injustice and pain that’s around me, either. Life is suffering, after all, says the Buddha.

Top that off with a healthy dose of empathy and sensitivity to the moods of others around me, and I end up not being the biggest little ray of sunshine in Central Texas. I have even railed about “toxic positivity” and “non-toxic positivity” right here in this blog, not that long ago.

For me, there’s room for each.

However, in the last few months, life has been conspiring to teach me new ways of walking through life, thanks to some people who just sorta showed up, or I just started paying closer attention to them. And it’s not just reading all those Buddhist articles that help you see that living in the moment is key.

You see, I used to avoid the relentlessly optimistic if at all possible. Always seeing the bright side of things, ugh. “Oh, no, I have the flu.” “That’s great! You can catch up on your reading!” I also got tired of the relentlessly negative, too. I know people who can suck the life out of any conversation by pointing out the negative consequences of anything: “It’s such a pretty day!” “Yeah, but you’ll get skin cancer if you stand in the sun.”

Depending on how you look at life, this may well be true.

I probably have mentioned before that I loathe being told to smile when I am, at the moment, not actually happy. Sure, I’ve read that forcing yourself to smile can make you happier, but sometimes there’s good reason to be unhappy, at least temporarily. Okay, fine.

Look at that happy face!

I’ve been watching the positive people in my life more closely, though. Here’s one you can watch yourself: go follow Emma G on Facebook. That is one positive woman. I happen to know that she’s faced some challenges in the year I’ve been reading her posts, but she never fails to find something good, some way a challenge has helped her grow, or a way something she’s learned can help others. I look forward to that smiling face every day, as she shares how she’s working on her musical career while minimizing danger from COVID-19.

Here, wine is helping us stay positive.

Living with Kathleen the past few months has also been a lesson at looking on the positive side of things. I have never seen anyone post so many cheerful memes in my entire life. Sometimes I’m like, geez, you have insomnia and are sick to your stomach, but you’re still posting “everything’s GREAT” all over Facebook. I see, though, that she’s trying to draw in the good stuff by sharing it (guessing it’s the power of attraction or something). Whatever it is, even when it irritates me a little, I can’t HELP but be reminded to look at what’s good in my own life, which is leading me toward a more positive outlook. She’s another person who’s had some real challenges to deal with in the past year but is finding ways to see the good. She’s never afraid to go talk to someone about our business and get some sort of positive outcome, too. Also, she’s one amazing idea generator. Now she wants me to have a donkey ranch.

This was taken just after Pam gave me a positive pep talk.

Another beacon of positivity is my friend Pam B. from the Breakfast Club here in Cameron. She’s another person who just radiates happiness and works hard to cultivate good in the world. Every time I talk to her, she says something about wanting to “elevate the good” or find joy or something to that effect. She is amazing at bringing people together for the betterment of this small but quite vital community (and is really fun to watch in community theater). Seeing how she works so hard to bring happiness to her friends, neighbors, and families is a real inspiration.

Here’s Eva with the sun behind her, making her even sunnier.

A final source of positive vibes is my coworker, Eva. I’ve known her since I started working at Planview, so I’ve had plenty of time to soak in her attitude. Especially in the past few years, she has provided a great example of how to take feedback that might upset someone or get them down, and turn it into an opportunity to learn more, find a new way to present information, or create a better product. She’s confident in the skills she has, and doesn’t take it personally when I mess with her grammar, because she knows perfectly well that the actual ideas are great. But it’s not just about work, but all aspects of her life that she brings along a sunny attitude and a lot of gratitude. It’s rubbing off, slowly but surely.

Here’s one of Kathleen’s memes.

People like this have been in my life before, some for many years, but I must be in a position to be more open to their input and to learning from them (thanks to those Enneagram books, I guess). I’ve been told that people come into your life for a reason, which is hard for someone like me, who has mostly been convinced that life is random. But, maybe there’s something to it, and something to the idea that if you surround yourself with positive people, you’ll be more positive, even if there’s a pandemic going on.

Another thoughtful meme that I have taken to heart. Some people may wish I hadn’t.

Do you know a relentlessly positive person? If you do, THANK them, and see if you can let a bit of that attitude rub off on you. Things in the world won’t change, but you may be better able to cope with it. I am, thanks to Emma, Kathleen, Pam, and Eva (and all you others I didn’t mention).

Okay, let’s all be SUPER HAPPY! Be a ray of sunshine like Emma, Kathleen, Pam, and Eva!

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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