You been casting, casting, casting and casting all morning. No luck. No hits. Nada. Are there even fish in this river? Wait obviously there is. This is the Mighty Mo you Space Cadet!
I have found so much value in mornings like that. It requires for me to stop being overly positive in what I have tied to the end of my line and to look around and see what I haven’t taken in. What bugs are out right now? Do I have a fly convincing enough for a fish? Am I mending my line so my fly is keeping pace with the right water? Oh crap, maybe if I slowed down to take a look I might have noticed that I’ve had a bunch of slime caught on my fly for the last half hour. If I were a fish I wouldn’t want fresh water kelp on my breakfast either.
I can also see the times when I have been stubbornly casting the same fly I had tied on that morning because I simply don’t want to switch out what I got on. You could say that I was staying positive about what I already had. I’ll admit that sometimes with a bit of patience I might get a hit eventually by staying positive but it usually doesn’t pan out as well as the other times when I took in what I needed to adjust and did.
The funny thing is that this conversation just became a lot more than fly fishing. Lately I have heard and seen so much where people are throwing out the mantra to “stay positive”. Oddly, I have found a recoil in my gut every time I hear that and I have been asking myself why for the last few days. Isn’t it good to stay positive? Shouldn’t we keep persevering by staying upbeat, happy, and positive? Do I think negativity is a healthier alternative? What am I missing? What the heck does staying positive do for me when I need to stop, breathe, and take in what I need to process in my life?
I guess where I get the recoil from is that there have been times that I have been told by well meaning friends to “just stay positive” that did more damage than good or did nothing at all for me. It was like they were throwing out words that have the same effect as comfort food in the way they look good, taste good and are empty calories. I knew that there was something I needed to get through a time of learning, but being positive wasn’t all of it. That advice made me feel inadequate.
I feel like if I were a soldier running into the fight I wouldn’t need my commander to yell “stay positive!!!!” to me. What the heck does that do for me when my army is getting torn down by the enemy and I have to survive despite my wounds, the blood on my face and the odds stacked against me? I think I would want him to tell me to “stay present!” instead. A battle might be a dramatic example (especially when this started out as a conversation about fishing) but for a few of us, life might be a battle as we sift through anxiety, disconnection and depression.
It seems like people who have stayed present in their circumstances have the ability to see their end game despite of what is casting a shadow over them. I feel like the times when I had to go through growth that hurt I had to just look at where to place my footing next. When I stopped telling myself to be positive and instead acknowledge when I was lonely, anxious, or belligerent I was able to see life without rose colored glasses. I could see what I need to develop and even to extent of admitting my need for help that otherwise might had been lost if I just kept telling myself to see the bright side. If I “stayed positive” I never would have walked into my therapist’s office. I never would had called my mom when I needed advice. I wouldn’t have asked my husband for forgiveness when I needed to ask it of him.
By choosing present over positive I found something deeper than an exterior perception to aim for. I found hope instead.
Hope. Let’s talk about that. I feel that’s a concept that has a bit more meat on the bones than positive. Hope can always be within you even when you are seeing the reality of what’s surrounding you. It can be in your soul even when you can’t smile and doesn’t have the shallow requirement to be happy the way that positive does. You can see the light at the end of the grief, trial and pain. I don’t think you can just step into hopefulness but rather it’s the product of seeing what needs to be done and finding the tools to do it. It’s the assurance of things unseen by having the audacity to get through today. Hope is the souls gumption to survive.
My sincere desire is to let you know that you are not failing for not seeing the bright side today. Please stop feeling like a letdown because you haven’t been able to smile as brightly as you used to. Maybe we need to stop making others feel inadequate by throwing around shallow advice but instead just sit down, let them verbalize what they’re processing, tell them we love them and say that it’s okay to cry. Maybe this means looking at yourself in the mirror and saying “I’m done doing this alone”. It could mean walking into a therapist’s office for the first time. Talking to your spouse about the hidden addiction. Or to put on those gym shoes collecting dust. It means doing whatever it is you know in your heart needs to be done and finding the support to do it.
Like fly fishing maybe we can be done with casting that same old fly that worked last week. Look around, see what’s actually happening on the water and tie on something new and see what you land.
With so much love,