Much like Annie, the main character in my novel Finding Annie, I have always searched for silver linings. The more dire the situation, the more important it has always been for me to find something positive; I simply can’t stomach the thought of something dreadful occurring and having only terrible takeaways. Some aspect of my nature has always prompted me to do this, no matter the experience at hand.
Does this mean that I think there’s a positive spin to every situation? Absolutely not. A positive spin is not the same thing as finding a silver lining. For example, I can’t imagine anyone being able to cast a tornado ripping through and devastating an entire county in a positive light. However, witnessing people uniting in a time of need and tragedy, helping each other with generous and compassionate behavior, sharing with those in need, and donating time and resources to rebuild? That is proof of the beautiful humanity we are capable of—a humanity in which we may have lost faith.
I have yet to encounter an experience from which I couldn’t manage to mine at least a sliver of a silver lining. Sometimes it’s as simple as a reminder of how lucky I am to have financial security or a loving husband, or realizing how important it is to show kindness to others. Or reaffirming my faith that there are heroic, brave, selfless people in the world.
I guess this means I’m a glass-half-full type. I’m not perfect—I have my periods of the-glass-is-completely-empty mentality—but mostly, I’m an optimist. My husband on the other hand? Not so much. So his recent comment when we were sitting together quietly with a cup of coffee before the kids were up was especially poignant. We were preparing to dive into our new daily routine of chaos with a 3-year-old and 5-year-old at home while we are both still working during this pandemic, and he said, “You know, it’s so easy to get caught up in the small annoyances and irritations in life. But we are so incredibly lucky. If you think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we don’t even have to think twice about our basic needs.”
And you know what? He’s right. We don’t have to worry about our basic needs, and we are so incredibly lucky for it. It really isn’t like that for everyone, and we truly understand that because we both came from childhoods where our basic needs weren’t met.
It’s more important than ever to practice gratitude.
We—like many—have some challenges as this raging global pandemic shows no signs of slowing down. And though it’s been consuming a lot of my thoughts, I didn’t want to write a blog post about that. Instead, I wanted to contribute something positive in the ever-growing negativity surrounding us. But it also didn’t sit well with me to write about the same topics I would normally; I have no desire to feign ignorance about something that’s impacting every single one of us.
I found myself feeling a little lost. I generally have an abundance of inspiration for writing, either for my books or my blog posts, so this was uncharted territory for me. But then my husband made his comment about how lucky we were.
In that moment, I realized I hadn’t been practicing gratitude as much as I should. That despite my efforts to the contrary, I had allowed myself to be swept up in the chaos of today’s world. But starting now, I’m going to shift back into practicing gratitude and actively searching out the silver linings in an overwhelmingly challenging and negative situation.
Practicing Gratitude: My Top Three
1: We do not have to worry about providing necessities. Because we are both still employed and able to work from home, we don’t have to worry about providing basic necessities for our family. And I don’t mean goods that disappear from shelves as soon as they appear—like toilet paper or tissues. I’m talking about food and water and shelter; the items on the bottom two tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy.
2: No one high-risk in our families is unwell. My husband I both have aging family members—some of them already unwell, battling physical injuries or cancer—as well as relatives who may be young but have underlying health conditions. More than we are concerned for ourselves (both in our mid-30s and healthy) we are worried about one of our higher-risk family members contributing to the virus’s mortality statistic. But so far, no one from that category in our families has gotten sick and they are continuing to take precautions to prevent it.
3: We live somewhere we can still easily go outside without risking exposure. Our home is in a neighborhood where it’s relatively easy to go outside for a walk, jog, or bike ride, or even to simply sit down and enjoy some fresh air, while not risking exposing ourselves or our children.
I stand by my earlier assertion that there is always a silver lining, however difficult it may be to find. Sometimes, it may even take years to find one, but I have complete confidence they exist if I’m simply willing to look hard enough. I’ll take some time to talk about those I’ve found so far in my next post, as well as how I was able to uncover them.
In the meantime, be well. Stay healthy. And I invite you to take a moment to share in the comments what you’re grateful for today.
Katherine Turner is the author of Finding Annie, a contemporary romantic women’s fiction novel that explores the power of love and human resilience in the wake of trauma and abuse. She blogs about mental health, trauma, and ways we can be more compassionate as a society. Sign up for her newsletter to stay up to date and get the first five chapters of her novel Finding Annie free!