When my daughter was in her darkest hour, she asked me, “What’s the point? Why should I keep trying to feel better about things when the world is such a mess?”
I have to admit, it took me a minute… or five, to answer her. I struggled to come up with something, anything to tell her. I went blank and felt guilty because I’ve never had any reason to question why we should continue to power thru life and keep living. I had loving, kind parents, wonderful siblings, amazing friends throughout my life, an incredibly patient, loving, not to mention handsome husband and two beautiful, healthy girls. Why couldn’t I come up with one good reason my daughter should try to stay positive and fight thru her depression?
From the time I was in college until about ten years ago, I always believed abundance and joy was possible for anyone. Looking on the bright side came naturally to me and the only thing keeping me from having all I dreamed of was… well… me. I believed I had control of how my life would go because as long as I was healthy, I could accomplish anything… and I usually did.
Without much effort, I managed to get work in any field I wanted. I started my own business from nothing and grew it into a respectable, small enterprise and I believed all I desired would show up sooner or later. People call this manifesting, and yes… I believe in that, but I never consciously did it. I just always expected things to work out, and for most of my life, they did… until the day my banker brought an investment guy with him to our office.
I realize now, this investment guy was brought to us so we would buy more of the bank’s products, but at the time, I honestly thought, like my banker, he had my best interests in mind. I remember sitting down in the back of my shop slash warehouse with the two of them, going over our finances and looking at how we were going to either expand the business or possibly sell it. I began feeling uncomfortable…maybe that’s because up until that day, I believed that even if my bank account wasn’t impressive, I was wealthy.
The day that investment guy walked into my life, the always-look-on-the-bright-side part of me died. Like a storm front rolling over a field, I could feel the air changing as he reviewed our numbers and looked around our shop. Sure, we had sales in the millions, but I knew he couldn’t grasp the amount of money it took to create a clothing line, much less a sustainable one. I knew our bank accounts looked a bit anemic to him, and after what felt like hours…but was probably minutes…he blurted out, “I sure hope neither of you ever gets sick! You guys are living on the edge and frankly, you have too much wrapped up in this business. You need to get investors or sell, ‘cause you’re in trouble.”
We weren’t in my eyes. I’d never been late on a bill, always lived in a beautiful home and had an 850 credit score… still do, by the way. We had a cushion of money in our account, but then again, we’d been operating our business for almost 15 years and we still didn’t have any major investments, and according to him, not enough stashed in savings.
In an instant, his words changed my perspective and from then on, all I could think of was “What if?”
What if he’s right? What if one of us comes down with cancer or gets in a bad wreck? What if one of my girls gets hurt or our house burns down or something totally out of my control happens?
The day that guy walked into my shop, my way of looking at the world changed. My rosy attitude started to pale and ever so slowly, I started noticing all that was wrong with the world. I began to feel bombarded by bad news. I saw all the ugliness that happens to innocent people who’ve had way worse lives than I. All the damage stupid humans have inflicted on other people, helpless animals, innocent ecosystems and god knows what else. I paid close attention to everything that scared me and I began feeling as if nothing was in my control, regardless of how healthy I was. All of a sudden it dawned on me that I could fail…
And then the bad news got worse…I felt helpless every time I heard about a violent storm washing away entire towns, blowing over trees, and demolishing ecosystems. I started noticing the amount of useless plastic lining every store shelf, obsessing about where it would end up and wondering how we’ll ever get rid of it. I watched the news filled with stories of shootings, pandemics, tragedies and death. I became keenly aware of how so many corporations made money by pumping out poisonous products no one needs, but for some reason, (expensive marketing??) we all seemed to want. Probably the biggest and most distressing was watching dishonest world leaders encouraging us to be on our worst behavior. Since when is it ok to be unkind, selfish and outright obnoxious to our fellow human beings? Watching man “kind” disintegrate as those in power kill innocent people for land and greed felt impossible…especially when for most my life, I thought our worst days of war were literally history.
So when my daughter asked me “Why? Why bother to keep going?” I was stumped. My first reaction was to say, “You’re right. The world is a mess,” but I knew sharing my feelings of despair would have been the worst thing for her, so I dug deep to come up with something…
Trying to sound convincing, I started with the basics, “Because one day, you’ll fall madly in love with someone who loves you madly back and that feeling is beyond amazing.” She gave me a look of defiance, and I realized she was in such a dark, lonely place that falling in love felt too far off and impossible.
So I took another stab. When she was in high school, she took the most beautiful pictures. “OK, what about all the inexplicable beauty in the world you still have left to experience? Like flowers blooming in the dessert, hummingbirds bobbing over a garden or clouds floating against a deep blue sky?”
Still nothing. So I decided to make it more personal, and dug back to the day she was born.
“I believe happiness and joy beyond our limited imagination is possible for all of us, especially you.” Now she was listening.
“When you were born, the nurse handed you to me and said you were the healthiest baby she’d ever seen. You were pink and round and beautiful and your big blue eyes were full of wisdom. It felt as if you’d come from a world loaded with color, joy, happiness and peace. When I looked at you, I knew you had traveled from a place that was filled with the energy of a thousand suns, strong enough to light the joy in all of us. An energy even the word love could not describe. You showed me that we are all born with tremendous love and wisdom and that our only job on earth is to be grateful and to live happily ever after so we can naturally spread that happiness to others. That joy is still in there, I’ve seen it radiating from you.”
She took a moment and I knew that I finally got thru to her.
The horrors of war, the destruction we’re witnessing as species and the planet suffer, that’s all caused by really bad people who’ve had that innate joy and wisdom physically and mentally beaten out of them. All the atrocities of war, the killing of innocent people, the inhumane things we witness others going through, that’s the result of people who have suffered or been tortured themselves who only know how to continue doing it to others. They’ve forgotten what they knew before life broke them.
We can’t let those who are living in the dark destroy the rest of us. Deep down, I think she knew staying hopeful and positive was the best way for her to proceed. Humanity needs those of us who have not suffered through insurmountable tragedies to push through our struggles, because we need to provide the balance that will help us and others overcome the horrors of the world.
We must find a way to be grateful for all we have and find a way to keep fear and depression from engulfing us. I can’t imagine what people are going thru in Gaza… horrors… in Ukraine… in Haiti or anywhere else… and I’m not saying we can simply snap out of it after experiencing trauma or pain. Anything we experience that brings us to our knees must be acknowledged. Humans do horrible things to other humans, but those of us who can, must do our best to remain hopeful and positive, regardless of the information we absorb. It’s the only way we can help those who are not… but how do we do the impossible when we’re constantly bombarded with bad news?
I saw a quote used in meditation circles that says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
My stress caused by focusing on everything bad happening in the world is suffering. Yes, I can acknowledge all of it, but when I obsess over all the atrocities and stifle my happy memories and appreciation for what I have, I’m useless to myself and others.
Practicing gratitude is the only way out of darkness. It’s the only way to surface from the deep, dire corners of our mind. Being grateful is the only way we can reconnect to who we were at birth before we experienced pain, sadness or fear.
When my daughter asked me “What’s the point?” she woke me up and made me realize, I’m not living happily ever after the way I used to and my negative view was impacting every part of my life. I was focused on what I thought I didn’t have instead of focusing on all I have… like my health, my beautiful family, my warm home and even my goofy cat and dog.
My daughter pulled through that dark period. She found meditation to be more powerful than medication and once she practiced clearing her head she learned to live in the moment. She began practicing gratitude, which combined with therapy, helped her find more reasons to stay positive.
So what does practicing gratitude have to do with making a sustainable clothing line? I realize I have a tendency to write about stuff that appears to be disconnected from my sustainability mission, but I believe gratitude is closely connected to my passion for preserving our environment.
That’s because Climate Change and all things related to it is a heavy subject. Reading about dying species, the damage clothing manufacturing has on our planet and plastic pollution can turn anyone into a Debbie Downer. I’ll be the first to admit that I still struggle to stay positive. I’m human after all, but when I feel myself slipping, I know I need to realign my perspective and shake out my brain. So, like my daughter, I pull myself up by meditating, and practicing gratitude.
I continue to make a conscious effort… daily… to get back to the mindset I had in my twenties reminding myself that change is possible as long as I appreciate all I have and live in the here and now.
As for my daughter, she is in the process of getting her Masters in Nursing while working at one of the world’s most renown rehabilitation hospitals. She works on the brain injury floor and her patients have had such traumatic brain injuries that when she first meets them, many appear unresponsive and stare into space… but they are not brain dead.
A week or so ago, she told me of a younger patient who had been admitted after having a horrible accident. When she walked into his room, the patient’s father was getting ready to head home and although he didn’t come out and say it, she felt he had given up on ever seeing his son “normal” again.
His son was sitting in bed, staring straight ahead while his father spoke to my daughter. “He loved sports,” the dad said, “anything having to do with them. Now I don’t know what he’ll do.”
“I’m sure he still loves sports,” my daughter replied, “I’ve seen incredible things happen after our patients go thru therapy.”
The dad sighed, said his goodbyes and left the room. My daughter proceeded to do what she does with every patient. She spoke to him as if he were a friend.
“What music do you like?” she asked him. “I love so many different types,” and she began to hum a popular song as she readied his shower and changed his bed. After cleaning him up and settling him into his clean sheets, she picked up the TV remote and asked him what he wanted to watch. She looked closely at him as she flipped thru the channels and when she landed on The Office she saw a flicker in his eyes, a tiny movement of his head.
“I love this show too,” she said to him, “How about we leave this on and I’ll check back when it’s over?” She swore she saw another tiny nod.
She’s mentioned to me before that so many family members, and care takers don’t communicate with these patients and some even talk about things they shouldn’t in front of them, compelling her to give them a look of, “Shhh! They can hear you!” so they stop.
“Mom, I know they understand everything. They know when we’re speaking to them and I am confident every patient who starts out with those blank stares is in there… somewhere… and I never give up on them. Never! I see so many patients come out of that state and leave being able to communicate.”
This from my daughter who a few years ago asked me “What’s the point? Why should I keep trying to feel better about things when the world is such a mess?”
Because my sweet girl, we, the incredibly lucky ones, are needed to spread the light when the world gets dark. Focusing on the dire events we have no control of doesn’t work. We can only help others when we appreciate and feel grateful for what we have. Gratitude is the foundation of happiness and we, the incredibly lucky ones, can’t spread joy and change without it.
– Germaine Caprio, MAJAMAS EARTH Company Owner & Designer
Let ME know:
How often do you practice gratitude?
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