Looking for the positive
Do you ever have that feeling of panic when you realized you haven’t
done something on time … and furthermore there is no real space to do it
with any urgency? I woke up yesterday morning, realized November was
over, and felt that kind of pang. For me, the feeling is always quickly
followed by some mild berating and judging of myself—assuming that I’ve
disappointed everyone and that I’m not good enough to gain back their
So, that was yesterday morning. Having my anxiety to propel me, I tried to fit in five-minute periods of concentrated writing between appointments, meetings, and responding to emails. But only bad writing and more stress came out of my fear-driven attempts.
In the afternoon, despite the work piling up on my plate, I kept a promise I had made to myself. I attended a World AIDS Day Vigil called the Medicine Wheel that is hosted every year here in Boston. At first when I walked in, I saw a big empty space with a few lights and metal fixture low to the ground. It didn’t seem as impressive and moving as it had been in past years. Walking up with my son whining about needing a snack, I thought I had made a mistake in taking the time out of my day to attend. But as we walked up closer and explored the depth of the pool of water—a pool filled with seashells and reflecting the windows above as well as the surrounding memory boxes made by families friends of people who died from AIDS—I realized why I had come.
When I first entered, my stress closed off my mind to the positive, to the beauty, to the more subtle elements of the exhibit. I seemed to see all of the negatives—the ugly space near the entrance, the loud group of kids who had just finished lunch, the unfinished information table. I could not see or feel the positive until I took the closer look. We walked around the wheel of memory boxes that carried images and prayers. Then we sat next to the pool of water for a few moments of silence, and some of my previously lost serenity was restored.
So, my missing the writing deadline has a silver lining… I relearned a lesson that I can share with you. When we assume that we have failed or disappointed and proceed to beat ourselves up for it, we hinder our ability to move forward productively. Sometimes life gets in the way of our plans. Sometimes we mess up. Instead of just powering through driven by a fear of failure, try first to find the energy to forgive yourself for your very human imperfections. We all have them.
So, yesterday, when I finally found the time and the place to let go of the negative internal voice, I was able to open myself up to the experience surrounding me. And in that experience I found the inspiration to write this note to you. I woke up this morning with a smile on my face and writing was pouring out of me. The fear of failure only motivates so far—better to acknowledge mistakes, confront challenges, AND be kind to yourself all along the way. The real power to overcome and persevere will likely come from building on the positive and opening up to the world around you rather than dwelling in the negative.
Happy [Day After] World AIDS Day,
-- Perry, Associate Director