I’ve been fixated on the sun lately. Probably because spring has finally sprung and I’m seeing a lot more of that beautiful glowing sphere in the sky! While most of us have been going about our busy lives these past months the earth has been actively tilting toward the sun. Yay! All thanks to the spring equinox the sun passed the equator and has moved from the southern to the northern hemisphere. Sorry Brazil, Australia, South Africa and all you other folks living in the southern hemisphere it’s our turn now!
What’s to enjoy about winter? Cloudy skies, brown lawns, and naked tree branches. Ick.
Give me green grass, buds on trees, warmer temps, and sun any old day! Just thinking about more sunny days ahead puts a smile on my face and makes me want to dance!
True story: When my kids were little I’d sit on the couch and binge-watch “Barney” videos with them. That show was one of my favorites so don’t roll your eyes at me if you’re a purple dinosaur hater. I especially loved it when Barney would belt out Mr. Sun with the rest of the cast. I can’t speak for my sons, but I loved that song. I’d dance around the room and sing it at the top of my lungs (I’m actually humming it right now). Why? Because my silly dancing made my sons giggle and, more importantly, I really, really love the sun.
To clarify…I especially love the sun on my face (with plenty of sunscreen applied of course!). There’s just something about feeling the warmth of it on my skin that can brighten (pun intended) my day.
If you’ve read any of my blogs you already know that I’m not a “seeing the world in black and white” kind of gal. I see the world in color with lots of rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns. So, in keeping with my colorful worldview, feeling the sun on my face fills me with lots and lots of bright red rosy feelings of hope, peace, and joy with heaps of gratitude sprinkled in for good measure.
Thoughts of more sun coming my way are getting me excited about starting my garden. I’ve been plotting on paper where I want to plant vegetables and flowers. I’m making notes about which ones need shade and which need full sun. I plan on canning this summer so tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are a must. As for flowers, I’ve decided on zinnias to help deter the deer and sunflowers to attract birds.
Speaking of sunflowers…
Have you ever seen a field of sunflowers? It looks as if they’re all standing at attention and saying “don’t mess with me”. Their vibrant yellow color, their bold brown middle filled with developing seeds, and their elongated stems can take your breath away.
Did you know that sunflowers track the sun? They do! Their flower heads turn towards the sun as it moves across the sky (heliotropism). I guess you could say sunflowers and I have something in common. We both love the feel of the sun on our faces
Hang with me as I attempt to connect my thoughts about the sun with adversity…
In early December I received disappointing news about one of my side businesses. The projections that I had for year-end came up short. The news was particularly upsetting because I had spent the last year working very diligently for it to grow. On top of this, right before Christmas my husband and I received news that a dear friend had died suddenly from a massive heart attack and then in January our vacation plans were canceled due to problems at our company. It felt as if one storm after another were overtaking the sunny skies that typically hung out over my life.
Death, accidents, health issues, losses, financial worries, unmet expectations, and dashed dreams are all a part of life. It’s not a matter of if, but when the storm clouds of adversity will come our way.
When I feel overwhelmed I often retreat to a chair in our house that gets a lot of sun. I crave sunshine so it was there that I found myself sitting a lot this winter while I tried to make sense of all the bad news. I’d sit and think of the conversations I’ve had with my coaching clients. Conversations about surviving storms and not letting adversity get the upper hand. I’d remind myself that even though adversity is often associated with doom and gloom, giving up, and negative outcomes, it doesn’t have to be.
The fact of the matter is that you and I can make it through the storms in our lives and come out stronger than ever before. How do we do this?
Six words: We. Decide. How. We. Will. React.
We get to decide what reaction we will have when we find ourselves in unfortunate circumstances.
We can let the storms of life:
- Paralyze us. We can remain stuck and feel sorry for ourselves. We can let life pass us by while others thrive around us. *It’s perfectly okay (and probably good for us) to give ourselves a day, a week, or a month to grieve what’s going on around us, but after that picking ourselves up and slowly moving again is the answer. Life is too short to stay paralyzed.
- Consume us. We can let circumstances define us. We can make them the center of attention. They can monopolize our conversations, relationships, and our thoughts. But what good will that do? We are more than our circumstances.
- Strengthen us. We can look for lessons within the circumstance that we can learn from. We can choose to toughen our mindset. We can disaffirm every negative thought by replacing it with something positive going on in our life. There’s always, always, always something we can be grateful for.
- Motivate us. We can determine to turn our mess into our message. We can share the lessons we learned through our misfortunes. There are people in the world that need to hear our story of overcoming. This will show them that they’re not alone and that their situation isn’t new.
Fred the Tree
I’ve been fortunate enough to escape the cold in the Midwest these past few months and live in Marathon, Florida (located in the Middle Keys). If you’ve ever been here you may know about Fred the Tree. Fred grows out of the Old Seven Mile Bridge (it connects the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys). He’s an Australian Pine that defies nature by growing with no soil. Amazingly, he’s thriving despite the almost constant splashing of saltwater, winds, and the occasional hurricane.
For the people in Conch Country, he’s become a symbol of surviving and growing in adversity. As the story goes, Fred probably sprouted from droppings (aka poop) of a passing bird. But, despite the lack of friendly soil, Fred has grown tall and lush in the searing hot sun and salt-swept landscape of the old bridge.
Fred the Tree teaches us a valuable lesson: we can most definitely grow through what we go through.
I’m no expert on overcoming adversity (I’m really just a work-in-progress like you are), but as I get older (wiser?) I’ve come up with a few strategies for surviving the inevitable storms that come my way. Here are a few that have helped me:
- Focus. I focus on what I can control instead of what I can’t. I refuse to become myopic so that all I see are the bad circumstances right in front of me. There’s a whole lot of good out there. I grab a notebook and write down the blessings in life. I focus on my gifts and talents and find ways to use them for good.
- Believe. I believe in myself. I tell myself that “I’m tough and can do hard things”. I recall the difficult things I’ve done before and let them validate the fact that if I did them before I can do them again.
- Walk. I put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. Nothing productive happens when I sit with a posture of woe-is-me. God invites me (us) on adventures every day. Some of those adventures will cause me to get out of my comfort zone and do hard things and some will be easy. I need to walk and find out what they are.
- Community. I purposely surround myself with people who will encourage, affirm, and pray for me. There’s no room in my life (there shouldn’t be any in yours either) for naysayers and critics.
- Rest. I check to make sure I’m getting enough sleep. My mind plays tricks on me and makes me think the worst when I’m tired (plus, things almost always look better in the light of day). Sometimes I use the Calm app which helps lull me to sleep even faster.
- Breathe. I breathe in through my nose for a count of 4. I try to make my exhale last a second or two longer than my inhale. I do this for about 6 or 7 breaths. I slowly inhale and think of what’s good and right in my life. I exhale all the fears or feelings of helplessness that are inside of me and let them go. It’s incredible what a few deep breaths can do.
- Trust. As a woman of faith, I know that “this too shall pass”. The Bible tells me: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18) Knowing that God is working on my behalf encourages me.
- Look Up. I look up (toward the sun) and surrender my worries to Him. He tells me to “Be still, and know that I am God; (Psalm 46:10) I know that much more is resting on His shoulders than on mine. He can handle my storms.
Turn Your Face Toward the Sun
Every once in a while a quote will come my way that I can’t stop thinking about. The quote usually gets copied and taped to my refrigerator or pinned to the bulletin board in my office. This Maori proverb is one of those.
“Turn your face towards the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.”
When I read this I can’t help but think about how important it is to look at all the wonderful things that are right in front of me. The good always overshadows the bad. The sun will overtake the storms. I will survive.
The reality is that bad things happen to good people. I’m not naïve and I’m not living with my head in the sand. Storms happen in life and some can be downright devastating. But, when storms come my way (and they will again) I can’t let them win. Life is speeding by and I want to make the most of every second I have. I simply choose to turn my face toward the sun and not let adversities get the best of me.
I’ll end with this blog with a reference to the song “Put on a Happy Face” from the play “Bye Bye Birdie.” You may have heard it. If you haven’t, click here. Do you get the “better days are coming” vibes like I do when you listen to it? Here are just a few of the words to the song:
Gray skies are gonna clear up,
Put on a happy face;
Brush off the clouds and cheer up,
Put on a happy face.
Take off the gloomy mask of tragedy,
It’s not your style;
You’ll look so good that you’ll be glad
Ya’ decide to smile!
Pick out a pleasant outlook,
Stick out that noble chin;
Wipe off that “full of doubt” look,
Slap on a happy grin!
And spread sunshine all over the place,
Just put on a happy face!
Put on a happy face
Put on a happy face
As the song says “Take off the gloomy mask of tragedy, it’s not your style”. I love that because it’s true! Turn your head toward the sun, my Friend, and let the shadows fall behind you. And don’t forget to smile. Life is too short not to.
I’ve enjoyed getting feedback from so many of you. Part of my morning routine is to read your emails and shoot back replies. So tell me, what are some strategies you use when storms of adversity come your way? I love learning from others so I look forward to hearing from you!
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