We are in the middle of winter when days can seem awfully dark. Here in western Pennsylvania, skies are gray, gray, gray. Add in almost a year of a pandemic and a contentious political climate, and a gloomy attitude is totally warranted. We each experience difficult times differently, and those emotions are valid.
I feel the heaviness, too. However, I was built to be optimistic. I experience grief and sadness acutely, but I seem to be hardwired to find a silver lining, to look on the bright side, and to push my rose-colored glasses up my noes and get on with it. I am a sensitive person, but I also go through life assuming things will get better and all things are temporary.
Social media during the quarantine taught me a new concept: toxic positivity. Truthfully, the term scared me! Was I toxic? When I point out a potential good side effect of a terrible event, am I dismissing others’ experiences? Am I indicating with my own rosy outlook that my way is the best way or only way? I certainly hope not!
My work as a doula is all about encouraging new or expectant parents to examine emotions and own their experiences. I am teaching people to value their needs and to advocate for those needs. Through out this pandemic, I have been afraid to voice my experience for fear of splashing my “toxic positivity” all over my friends and family. Messy stuff.
And then a thought occurred to me. Toxic positivity is real, but it is also a concept that comes out of world that has been hurt and shamed for all kind of things. The term itself shamed me! I started to examine the many things I say from a very genuine place, and I can’t let this word, this worldly term, take away my joy or the joy that I share with others.
I will continue to be mindful, of course, to let people claim their experiences and dig into the ramifications of them. But I will not hide my light and my good cheer. Mathew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (ESV) God put a certain kind of light inside of me. I have experienced people noticing ME and being encouraged by who I am, and I have also felt the twinge of being pushed aside because my cheerful ways bring out something different–not so positive–in someone else. As a people-pleaser, not connecting with someone feels like a major FAIL, but I know that the Lord doesn’t want me to hide my light under a basket, especially when that feels like the easy thing to do.