In times like these when what’s going wrong is far more obvious than what’s going right, and being afraid is easy and can even seem sensible, we need to infect one another with whatever optimism we can get hold of.
It’s funny where it comes from, that feeling of uplift that can just take over and make you float like a helium balloon. Sometimes all it takes is a sunny day. We had one of those today in New York City. It was cold as the dickens but so bright the city sparkled. My first task this morning wasn’t a happy one: I took Aspen, our lovely dog that I mentioned in yesterday’s post, to the veterinary oncologist for her chemo. But she was happy to greet everyone at the clinic and smell smells only a dog can enjoy, so I left her with the thought, “This is helping her get better.”
I went into a coffee bar for a chai tea and a New York Times. One of my to-do entries was to buy one of those “body shapers” so I’ll start wearing a certain clingy dress instead of leaving it in my closet. I went out of my way a bit to purchase it at a shop that’s not a big chain. That felt good—kind of like “Put your money where your morality is.” Then I picked up some groceries at Fairway Market on Broadway and at some point there—before the groceries or after, I’m not really sure—the helium feeling took over and I was filled with gratitude, and joy, and that lightness of being that seems to come of its own accord.
I spent the afternoon with my most positive friend. She’s helping me book speaking engagements for the second half of this year. And when the optimism she has every day collided with the optimism I had this day, it was as if we went from helium to jet fuel. Although we worked all afternoon, we glided through it instead of trudging through it.
Neither one of us is unaware of the state of the world. (I did buy that paper this morning and at lunch I actually read it.) My job today, however, seemed to be to appreciate little things that, if I lost them, would seem a whole lot bigger. I appreciate being in New York City and being able to walk at a steady clip. I appreciate that, for the price of a body shaper (which is, incidentally, called “Higher Power“), I really got a whole new dress. I appreciate that the people at the animal hospital like Aspen so much that they don’t put her in a cage, but rather let her hang out with the staff like an intern. And I appreciate that my husband will be home in half an hour and we’ll have salad and baked potatoes and asparagus (and that the asparagus was on sale). I appreciate that I had the privilege of working today with someone who is so full of the Light that she lights up every place she shows up, and I appreciate that today she lit up my home-office, and the good feeling is still here.
Being able to experience and delight in personal pleasures doesn’t mean ignoring those whose day had very little pleasantness in it. We’re all intertwined and interconnected. Francis Thompson saw this exquisitely when he wrote, “Thou canst not disturb a flower without troubling a star.” And yet, some days the best any of us can do for others is to notice our own blessings. They’re the well we draw from to be able to help. And in noticing them we acquire an optimism that can grow and stretch and spread and catch on.