Lately I’ve been thinking about how as much as history is filled with stories of human suffering, it’s also filled with stories about overcoming it. In my own life, I’m prone to tell the former more than the latter. For instance, I’m quick to tell people I was hit by a car as a pedestrian, but rarely do I mention the strangers who stopped for me, who drove me home, who copied down the license plate number. Nor do I mention my friends who rushed over to comfort me, to ply me with arnica and rescue remedy.
Instead of a testament to the kindness of others, I broadcast the tragedy. Even now I notice it’s easier for me to get stuck in the present moment in a bad way. I think the present moment will last forever and have trouble maintaining perspective. It’s hard for me to feel optimistic about my personal future.
I’m reminded here of my maternal grandmother. During the Holocaust, she hid in a potato cellar with a rabbi and his family for 11 months. The living conditions were hellish, as I’m sure you can imagine. Not to mention she contracted typhus and couldn’t get proper medical care because, well, she was in hiding. She wanted to die and the rabbi said to her, “You will get through this. Your life will get better.” My grandma thought he’d lost his mind. She did get through it and her life did get better. Not every moment was a party, but she experienced joy again, which she didn’t think was possible.
During hard times it’s difficult to remember things change, but they do. Even if I look at the coronavirus as an example, I see that’s true. A month ago I didn’t know it existed and now schools are closed, events are canceled, flights are grounded. A lot has happened very quickly. The same is true for us. Our lives can change in an instant. When I say that, I usually think of it in the negative, as in, forecasting terrible things, but the reality is life can change for the better in an instant too. I could sign a new client tomorrow. I could bump into my future husband on the street after we’ve both emerged from social isolation. A year from now my novel could be a bestseller. I truly don’t know.
Again taking the coronavirus as an example, the air is clearing in China, CO2 emissions are down, and eating wild animals is banned. People are singing across the street to each other every day in Italy. We are all learning how to slow down and connect with one another in new ways, which is beautiful.
I realize we all have a negativity bias and it’s a protective mechanism, but what if we started to skew in the other way? What if we started to search for the positive? For the hope? What if more of us could be like that rabbi in hiding with my grandma and fiercely believe the world would get better? That our lives would get better? Maybe believing it would make it so.
I dream of a world where we maintain our perspective. A world where we remember the present moment is fleeting. A world where we acknowledge suffering as well as the overcoming of it. A world where we hold on to hope for the future as much as we can.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.