Birds Still Sing
Do you know those people who make you smile whenever you think of them? The people you associate with joy? The people who seem genuinely excited to be alive and being around them makes you appreciate things you otherwise wouldn't?
Those are my favorite kind of people. I strive to be one of those people. As I've tried, I've realized the key isn't to be happy all the time. The key also isn't to become an annoying optimist who tells everyone to look on the bright side.
The key is where your focus is. You still need to see the horrible parts of the world. Being happy isn't pretending like everything is fine. It's knowing things aren't fine and trusting good will come from them anyway.
It's knowing the darkness in the world, but choosing to focus on the light instead. You don't ignore the dark, but dwelling in sadness does nothing and fixes nothing. Dwelling in possibility, in joy, allows you to turn around a bad situation or a hard day.
What we focus on impacts our mood. The more good things we find in a day, the better that day will seem. I've mentioned this before, but I have a journal my sister gave it to me called a five-year memory book. There's a page for each day of the year and five sections on each page. You write what happened every day for five years and you can see what you were doing exactly a year before.
I only write good things. I've been using it over a year now, so I can look back at what I did a year ago. I remember some of these days. I remember some of them being awful. I remember getting terrible news and crying on my way home from work. I remember sitting on the floor of my friend's room doing nothing for five hours straight. But all those spaces are still filled with good things.
I wrote things like "spent time with Kim" and "saw a pretty flower" and "there were birds." I wasn't okay. Life wasn't okay. But good things still happened. There were still gems worth writing down.
I gave one of these books to a friend (I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to be more optimistic) and she told me "It feels good to get to think about what happy or wonder-causing things happened in a day. It helps me pay attention. It's kind of amazing that even if I feel like a day sucked, there as always been at least one good moment."
In that same message, she told me that I "take little things and make them important." That's what this book taught me to do. I've gotten used to looking for good things. I stop and point out flowers or trees or giggling kids or dogs. I'm more likely to fill my day with little happy things that together make a big, happy day.
I've started doing this on my Instagram story, too. For the last two weeks, I've been posting a picture each day of something that made me smile. Just one small thing. They're all in the highlights on my profile if you want to check them out. (@rachelpaigeauthor)
And friends, that's joy. I'm not happy all the time. I don't think it's good to be happy all the time. I'm a big fan of knowing when it's time to sit and cry and feel the pain of life. You don't even have to look at the bright side of that situation. That's not what I'm saying. But nothing exists in a vacuum. All good things don't vanish when you get bad news. There is still good somewhere.
I wrote a line in one of my novels, said by my favorite character. "Even on the worst days, the birds still sing."
And that's what I'm talking about. Life is hard and bad days exist. But that doesn't mean everything is terrible. Being one of those people others associate with joy is learning to notice the birds still singing.
I promise, no matter how crummy the day was, something good still exists in the world. I urge you all to find them.