Because I know so little about deserts, it’s hard for me to have any insight into anything positive about a desert. So, I turned to those who are more familiar with the beauty of the desert. Here are some of Jeff Parker’s comments: “…one reason I love the desert is its clean, stark simplicity. Deserts provide room to breathe. Even the plants give each other some space…Desert sunrises and sunsets deliver some of the most incredible color… And, regardless of rainfall, cacti generally put out breathtaking – and to the wildlife – life-sustaining flowers.” Ah…so many negatives I knew and so many positives I didn’t know. I’ve been thinking a lot about life events that happen – the ones that are distressing and difficult to navigate – the ones we didn’t choose. And how about a life experience that we did choose, thinking it would be positive but turned out to be a terrible decision? In either case, what typically comes to the forefront are all of the negatives…the scary things, the fear, the regrets. And positives seem non-existent.
Think about one or more difficult experiences in your life…a job loss, divorce, death, fractured relationship, financial loss, cancer diagnosis, unrealized dreams, the pandemic, loss of trust, loss of autonomy and so many more losses that hold so many negatives. Would you include any positives with those negatives? I’m not talking about looking at life through rose-colored glasses or being pollyannaish (putting a positive spin on everything), but seeing life as it is – both negatives and positives.
Let’s look at a cancer diagnosis: so many negatives and scary thoughts. It’s nearly impossible for someone newly diagnosed to see one positive, yet months after treatment ended, I heard hundreds of survivors talk about positives – things like “This diagnosis forced me to look at my priorities.” Or “I’m finally making time for self-care and time with my family.” Or “I’ve found a whole new group of friends through this diagnosis.” They are not thankful for the diagnosis, but they are able to see positives in the midst of negatives. That’s what resilient people do. They are not pollyannaish or negative nellies. They are realistic. They learn and grow from the experience: “I’ve learned to set boundaries.” “I’ve learned I’m stronger than I thought I could be.” “I’ve learned to ask for and accept help.” “I’ve become a more spiritual person.”
I saw a quote this morning on social media that says “People who wonder whether the glass is half empty or half full miss the point. The glass is refillable.” We can fill our glass with all negatives or all positives – neither is reality. We can view the desert as all danger or all safe. Neither is reality.
We can experience difficult circumstances yet see the possibility for growth and change. We can see the beauty in a cactus as well as grasp the potential for pain. We may be given a cactus, but we don’t have to sit on it.
SUE'S GIFT BLOG
Sherry Martin is the Patient Services Director for Sue's Gift, a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty years of experience in the field of oncology social work, and author of the book, Beginning Again: Tools for the Journey through Grief: A Step-by-Step Guide for Facilitators of a Grief Support Group. Sherry lives with her husband in Woodland Park, Colorado.
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