Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.

Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.Walt Whitman

Face the sun, and let the shadows fall where they may.

What does that mean?
Many people find shadows kind of scary, and they are a metaphor for the things that would bother you if you saw them regularly, or focused on them.  Many people also find the sun on their face to be rather pleasant, when done in moderation.  Put together, facing the sun puts your shadow behind you (you aren’t afraid of your own shadow, are you?).

To me, it is a way of staying optimistic.  I think may be part lizard (or part cat), and love having sunshine on me (up to the point of burning).  If I go any length of time without clear bright sunshine, I get sad and depressed.  So I accentuate the positive by keeping the sunshine on my face to feel better, and eliminate the negative by facing away from my shadow.  Smells like optimism to me.

Why is optimism important?
If you are a pessimistic person by nature, you may be asking the question with a straight face.  Most of the rest of us kind of giggle reading the question.  We want to be optimistic, because the opposite isn’t much fun.  Things tend to go in cycles, so no one expects to be perky and positive for their entire life (unless you have a doctor writing scripts for some interesting medicines).

To me, the trick of being an optimist is (drum roll, please) to not focus on the negative.  A few years ago, I lost my job (a cyclical thing).  The down side was it was a tight time, both for the sector I worked in, and our household.  I ended up having to take a job in another town about 2 hours away, and only see my family on weekends.

It was unpleasant, but necessary.  Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have, I tried (and mostly succeeded) in focusing on the weekend ahead, and what fun I would have with the wife and kids.  I also worked extra hours during the week and (with permission) counted the extra hours against Friday, so I could leave a little early.

Where can I apply this in my life?
If you lose your job, perhaps you can use it as a reason to get a better job, or the same job at a better company.  Perhaps it’s time to do some volunteer work or to take some classes (either to improve present job skills or to start something new).  Perhaps it’s an opportunity to explore what you really want to be when you grow up.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but have a nice career that affords me a comfortable lifestyle.  Perhaps you can look at the ending of that chapter of your life and reflect on the things you did right, and where you might have been able to do your job a little better.  It isn’t a complete loss if you learn something that will make you more valuable in your next position.

I’ve known pessimists that were sure they were going to die a slow miserable death when they got a chest cold.  I’ve also known cancer patients who were terminal, but were in great spirits.  I met one a few months ago who was working on her bucket list, and had about 6 months left. She was in Vegas, seeing the sights before she was done.

My maternal grandmother died of cancer and enjoying the time she could spend with her grand-kids and her church group friends.  Her husband had died a few years prior of emphysema, and he was fighting to the very end, always positive, even when he was wheezing too hard to talk (get the pencil and the notepad, grandpa wants to say something).

Another optimist trick is to be careful with wording.  Even if the bad news was unexpected, will it hurt more to say “he stabbed me in the back” or “I just wish they’d have told me sooner, so I could have improved”?  Your verbal descriptions to others, as well as how you discuss it with yourself, can have a profound impact on the level of emotion you feel.  Use this as a technique, be really graphic with the things that were good, and to minimize the things that went badly.

So, what has YOU down?  What are you going to focus on?  Every dark cloud has at least a hint of a silver lining, just keep looking for it.

From: Twitter, undocumented feed (my bad)
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Photo by shannonkringen

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