“Energy flows, where attention goes.”

Recently I have been around a lot of people dealing with challenges; a cancer diagnosis, a job loss, a college rejection, a physical beating, a terminally ill dog, an unexpected divorce,  unexpected death of a parent, and various other life altering events. As my high school friend told me after sharing her 11 year old son had a rare form of cancer requiring 43 chemo treatments and daily radiation, “I am an adult now.”  Her words hit me because they reflected the Rite of Passage she had been through. Her journey included one of those passages in which the fire burns off all but our inner mettle; a passage where there is nothing else left of us and we have been laid bare and vulnerable. It is times like this when falling into the pits of fear and despair is super easy.

Our darkest hours are when we find ourselves at one of life’s most important crossroads, and the choice we make is one that will ultimately define us and our experience. With the armchair quarterback of our mind yelling such unhelpful things as “This is not fair!” and “This sucks!” we are forced to make a choice between looking up or looking down.  My advice: look up with every fiber of your being.

Looking up means forcing ourselves to focus on all that is working in our lives and world. This is a conscious choice – we must literally grab our attention by the lapels and make ourselves focus on the positive, even if the only positive is that we have clean water to drink. Looking up means taking the high road. It means finding and creating ways to be grateful, to love, to appreciate, and to affirm ourselves and others.  While looking up still means there will be the same challenges, it also has many more rewards, including more appreciation as well as joy.

My friend’s son’s treatment has forced her and her husband to make some incredibly tough parenting decisions such as “Do we amputate part of his hand or hope the radiation works?”  In the pits of despair, this decision can be played back over and over again and is usually paired with the armchair quarterback’s voice rendering judgment and reinforcing what went wrong. However, on the high road, forgiveness and support are readily available. On the high road, there is space to feel happiness even in dark times.

Next time you are on a dark, bleak, windy path, look up. The light is there, I promise. 

Keep your focus on the light.