Sunday, 14 April 2013

Staying Positive

I was asked recently how I stayed so positive and upbeat while dealing with ALS. First of all I don't see myself that way at all. I am a glass half empty kind of a guy. My brother Peter says I can find a cloud for every silver lining. On of the my past bosses referred to me as the "designated worrier".

I wasn't, and am not, always this way; to this day I would have to say that fear and negativity do not dominate my life. It's just that I have an innate ability to see what can go wrong, what things are bad and how things can get worse. I am not a sad sack, pulling the grey cloud along behind me. Nor do I wallow in misery. I just see things from my perspective. My life's lessons have taught me to watch out for what might go wrong and be ready for it.

To those of you who see me as "brave", I am not. What I see is simple pragmatism. Carrying a cloud of misery around with me and raining it down on others is neither practical nor helpful. Dispensing fear and doubt will do nothing to advance my life, nor the lives of those around me. To be sure, I have sadness in my life; I simply refuse to be the operatic clown, face painted with laughter yet tears inside and out.

Staying positive is difficult, especially on my bad days, and there are enough of those you can be sure. Yet pragmatism is the only way to move life forward, at least on the outside. Inside I may be crying, angry, depressed. Sometimes I share those feelings. When I do, I almost immediately see the difficulty it creates for those around me. If I cry, it makes life hard for them. If I laugh, it makes my condition easier for them to accept and understand. So I try to find reasons, both inside and out, to smile and laugh.

Life is easier, even with ALS, when you are upbeat and forward looking. In my view, staying positive doesn't mean being happy or glib all the time. It doesn't mean you never have down days or negative moments. Staying positive is more about your direction of motion, your aims and actions. Fear immobilizes; positive thought moves you forward. Fear stops you; positive thought takes action. Laughter, even in the face of fear and outrageous odds, is the best way to keep perspective.

My goal is to turn this perspective, these feelings, into positive actions. When you really look hard at life, that positive action means moving forward, finding solutions, solving problems, making things work. If you want to lift yourself up out of the morass, it starts with that first step forward. Then take the second, then the third.

And then you just keep going.

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