By: Nan Smith
I am taking a little time away this summer. I have been asked to join my daughter and her family for a week of vacation. Our destination is a beach, specifically a beach in Florida, in southern Florida, in July. At this point, I’m guessing that all of you are wishing you were taking this very same trip! Actually, every person I have mentioned this vacation to has responded in a similar manner. Something like - “Really? Florida? July? You know it’s going to be hot!”
Oh yes, I do know that it is going to be unbearably hot, along with being steamy and sweaty. I do know that my muscles will ache moving between the heat of the outside environment and the cold of the inside air conditioning. I do know that there will be ravenous saltwater mosquitoes to contend with and those daily afternoon thunderstorms to just make things a little muggier. And, I do know that my energy level will wilt in all that humidity.
But would I miss this trip? No way! Will the weather be miserable? Oh yes, but time with family overrides it all.
Now I suppose I could go into this trip thinking it will be pure misery and do my fair share of complaining. Or I could approach this trip differently by having an attitude of anticipation and curiosity; eagerness to see what it has to offer. It all comes down to attitude and that’s certainly something that I have control over.
Attitude does make all the difference; however, this goes much deeper than seeing the glass half-empty or half-full. I don’t want you to misunderstand me, as I am not suggesting some blanket approach of “isn’t life great” achieved by avoiding or burying the uncomfortable parts. Our lives are far more nuance than that. They are rich in the many emotional textures our different life experiences bring.
My mother is probably one of the most positive people I know. When my father needed to be placed into long-term care for his Parkinson’s, her positivity didn’t allow her to face the actual reality that he would not be coming back home again. She was so sure he would get better and then come home. So much so, that she was unable to enter the pain and suffering that the actual reality brought. Later, after he died, she told me that she wished that she could have faced the reality that he wasn’t coming home. It would have allowed her to be able to have those deeper conversations she wanted and needed to have with my father.
When we try to shelter ourselves from the difficult parts of life, then we miss the fullness that life has to offer
In my church, it has been hard to have those deeper conversations around the fallout of the pandemic. I have found that some people wear that positive mask, wanting to believe that all things have returned to normal now. Those individuals are ready to move on and are unwilling to unpack what has happened. On the flip side, I have those individuals who are trapped in the sadness or the anger and so are unable to experience any of the blessings that surround them.
I long for the middle ground where we just embrace life for whatever it brings –the joy and the tears; the laughter and the despair; the anticipation and the dread. In any situation, all those different emotions are always mingled together.
Florida in July with family means heat and heart for me. It means memories, sweat, good conversations over good food, and no energy to do much of anything. Sounds absolutely perfect!