The blessings beneath the surface
As I write this, it is the last day of 2016. It’s been a year that many have named “dismal,” “depressing," or “the worst possible ever.” Beloved musicians and celebrities have kicked the bucket one after the other, the election (and election results) drove most people bananas, world tragedies such as Allepo and the Syrian crisis pull at all our heart strings, while the threat of climate change continues to hover like a menacing shadow on the forecast.
OK, so yeah. It’s been a rough year.
But while social media and the news continue to tell me how awful 2016 was and predict an ever spiraling downward over the coming years, I happen to feel strangely optimistic. Because the thing is, when I look at my life and look at the lives of my friends and loved ones, about 90 percent of people seem to be doing fine. Not just fine, but better than fine.
Over the past year I have watched friends grow their own business, heal from long term illnesses, get their dream jobs, become crazy passionate about new hobbies, fix their broken relationships, have beautiful babies, buy houses, go back to school, and so on and so on.
Despite the perceived chaos of the world, tons of people have been totally kicking butt in their own life.
What is fed to us mostly by the media is fear-based, and contributes to a general population of anxiety and unrest. We’re told that crime is worse than it’s ever been, when crime is actually at an all time low. We’re told to fear terrorists, when the chances of being in a terrorist attack are 1 in 20 million — there is literally a greater chance of you being killed by your own furniture falling on you or drowning in a bathtub. As far as the economy, our depressed American outlook on it (fed by Presidential candidates hyperbole during election season) is not actually totally warranted, as studies show the economy is actually improving, with 2.6 million jobs added this last year.
I’m not suggesting that concerns over any of the preceding are without ground, but what I am saying is that we have to be careful of what we choose to believe in. If we buy into the idea that 2016 was nothing but a big, sloppy mess and thus feel cautious and pessimistic of 2017, we’re not looking close enough at the beauty and blessings that surround us in our own lives and the lives of those we love.
At times of uncertainty, the biggest challenge facing us is whether or not we will rise to the calling of hope and love, rather than descending into the temptation of despair and self pity. We must look to achieve clear sight in all things, and that will often mean thinking for ourselves rather than taking things at face value. We must peer beneath the surface of the news on our televisions, the articles being shared on social media, and the stories passed around by word of mouth. And instead of looking for and expecting the worst, admitting that maybe, just maybe, things aren’t always as bad as they seem.
Just look to your friend who is in love and getting married this summer, look to your partner who just got promoted at their job, look at your beautiful child and family, the roof over your head, the food on your table, look at the sun rising each morning and setting each day over the mountains.
Because whatever they say about 2016, I know that I was blessed in it and so were you, probably.
And I, for one, dare to hope that there are only more blessings to come.
Monica Bethelwood is a writer and new mom. She lives with her husband in Asheville with their daughter and furry entourage of cats and dogs. She is also a part time rockstar, fine artist, kitchen experimenter, retired hitchhiker, athletic wannabe, and secret modern dancer.