I’m not much of a movie buff anymore. These days, I don’t even go out to a movie theatre except on rare occasions. I don’t watch many movies at home, either. In fact, my daughter was astonished when I told her that, this weekend just past I watched two movies, one on Friday night and one on Saturday: Arrival, and Trolls. Thinking about this past weekend has brought to mind those times long ago when the kids were younger, and our weekends completely predictable. Every Friday, we’d head to Blockbuster, and pick out four, or sometimes six movies as our weekend entertainment. Every once in a while, there would even be snacks and soda to go along with those movies.
Then, for the next two nights, we’d gather together on the sofa (the boys liked the floor) and watch those movies together. That was family time for us, and those times were golden. They inevitably led to our other great family time, Sunday Morning in Mom and Dad’s Bed. The kids would pile on, usually waking us up, and we’d talk and laugh, tickle and snuggle and read stories. At the time of our lives when we had precious little money to spare, we did what we could to promote family unity.
Supper time, our other great instance of family time, was always all five of us at the kitchen table, every night, together. It was a time of communion, with the television off. You can be certain if cell phones existed then, they’d have been off and away from the table as well—as ours are now when we sit down to eat, just the two of us.
This was our life in those lean but not so dismal years, according to my own recollections. I don’t doubt the facts of those memories. It’s possible, of course, that the beauty of them, the degree to which they were at the time of making them, cherished, might be open to interpretation. We’re all human, and our memories, our experiences past and present are inevitably colored by our own perceptions. We all have filters, built in filters and biases that have been molded and adjusted according to our own life experiences—and how we’ve reacted to those experiences—through the years of our lives.
The most vivid example of this I can give you is something to which I’m certain we can all relate. We all know at least one optimist who, no matter what, clings to their positive outlook. Conversely, we all know someone so miserable that they even complain about the whipped cream and the cherry on top.
It could be said that striking a balance between those two forces, pessimism and optimism, has been my life’s work. I’m not naïve enough to believe that life is all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, to quote a song from my youth. But it’s not all doom and gloom, either. I’ve lived long enough to understand that our perceptions have a lot of power. They have a huge influence on our emotional well being and how we react to everything we experience.
You might not believe this, but the reason I focus so much on this topic is because, from my early twenties, right through my thirties and even into my forties, I really had a crappy outlook on life. When I would look back on my younger days, or past incidents, I had a tendency to recall every time I was dissed or disappointed or hurt. It wasn’t the sunny days I recalled, only the rainy ones; not the joy of a friend’s company I remembered, but the hurt of that same friend abandoning me.
That I was able to change my perspective was no mean feat. It required hard work and prayer, which is to say, I learned to get out of the way, and let God do the heavy lifting on that one.
Once He opened my eyes to the fact that having that negative perspective in the first place was the source of most of my misery and heartache, I finally got on board with mostly looking at the glass as half full.
That’s why I try so hard to encourage people to have a positive attitude now. As long as you practice that tenet, as long as you tell yourself that no matter what happens to you, you’re going to choose to smile instead of cry, then your emotions will be your friend, and not your enemy.
And as long as you continue to choose to be positive, to smile instead of cry and step out on faith instead of cower in the shadows, then, no matter the minutia of the details, you will have won.