Keep Dismay Away

My heart aches when I hear or read about current wars. When I see the homeless folks on our streets, I feel sad, almost hopeless. For the people I love and myself, aging is difficult. Some friends and family dwell on both personal and political catastrophes with non-stop complaining and blaming.

In spite of their hellish clamor, I want to remain upbeat. However, bad news can seem overwhelming. Daily, I make a commitment to be optimistic which, I find, requires determination and discipline. When I review what I’m grateful for each day, the list is long: I’m safe, secure, creative, healthy and have loved ones I adore. Besides my morning and evening time I take to appreciate the good in my life, I’ve found that the following activities help me to remain positive each day.

1. Like many people, I give to charities and do volunteer work. Many hours are dedicated to a local art museum and to Al Anon (for the family and friends of alcoholics). My Buddhist temple often sponsors worthy projects (mostly for the elderly and homeless) in which I participate. 

2. I write humorous essays because life has its funny side. I like to share these online. I record quirky and delightful events in daily life to spread cheer. For example, a root canal procedure that I feared turned out to be pain-free. The dentist and I ended up giggling over the amazing sight and unusual smell of my extracted nerves. 

3. I love discovering new, happy societal trends. I recently learned about mermaid classes where children and adults (of both genders) don large fins and learn to swim like mer-people. In the large aquarium at the Silverton Casino in Las Vegas, for years, I’d enjoyed “mermaids” gracefully interacting with manta rays, sharks and other fish. I hadn’t realized the aquarium boasted a mermaid school. Maybe I’ll join them and write about it.

4. For me, daily meditation is an essential way to spread positivity. The calmer I am, the more composure I can contribute to those around me. I don’t startle as easily as those around me. People tell me I’m calm and even-handed when dealing with stressful situations. Because of these tangible results, I believe that my contemplative practice benefits others. In a peaceful state, I mentally send out healing light to people, a Buddhist tradition.

Meditation keeps me focused on larger spiritual realities. During a normal, day, I can easily indulge in worry (which can be used to control others) about loved ones’ troubles. Instead, while in a reflective state, I look for broader soul lessons. When I’m able to appreciate our greater journeys, I don’t need to intervene and solve problems for others. Rather, I find myself intrigued with the unique solutions they find that hadn’t occurred to me. During the tech layoffs, a friend had trouble finding a job and I worried about her. She re-designed her resume, something I never would have thought of, emphasizing her non-tech skills and landed a great job.

5. Another activity that helps me to be positive is drawing and painting scenes of nature and portraits of people in meditation. Creating art enhances my powers of concentration, insight, joy and serenity. An ink drawing called “Buddha in a Stream at Sunset” depicts a person meditating as the stream of life flows around and through them. Every day, I and my loved ones navigate our sunset years. I’m moved by this drawing, for it reminds me to focus on the spiritual during the difficult aging process.

K. Kauffman, Buddha in a Stream at Sunset, Ink, 20”x16”, 2022

As best I can, I stay informed on the travails around me and do my best to help. Keeping a positive outlook remains a daily challenge, one well worth maintaining. 

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Cate Burns is the author of Libido Tsunami: Awash with the Droll in Life, in which she unearths the ludicrous in the emotional live traps surrounding us — in families, friends and disastrous romances. Get it on Amazon today.