I have cried every day for three weeks.
When I haven’t been crying, I’ve been worrying, or feeling guilty for crying and not being able to focus fully on all the things I should be focused on. Things like work, signing my son up for ACT classes, buying groceries and cooking meals, remembering to feed and walk the dogs, being present for my friends, taking care of myself…all the things that make up a life.
I suppose I’m not the only one feeling the weight of this dark and turbulent time. I think many of us are lost in the gloom of sorrow threatening to swallow up the world right now. Multiple wars being waged around the world. Innocent civilians dying. Children dying. A divided nation. Continued fallout from the pandemic and a disease that just won’t go away. A surprise hurricane that left destruction in its wake. Another mass shooting which, by the way, brought the collective sum for 2023 up to 565.
It’s just too much.
And that’s not even considering the weight of the personal burdens you’re carrying. Maybe you’re fighting a chronic illness or caring for elderly parents. Maybe you’re living paycheck to paycheck and the looming approach of winter and heating bills has you worried. Maybe your marriage is moving into a difficult season. Maybe you’ve got an empty nest and your heart is aching. Maybe you’re suffering burnout from your job, or like many moms, burnout from the combination of work and the mental load you carry for your family and home as well.
Whatever it is, every one of us carries some heavy burden. And those burdens are just made heavier as we witness and take on all that is wrong in the world.
No one can blame you for wanting to stay in bed and cry all day if only it were an option. In fact, I’m giving you permission to cry. Some things, like the loss of innocent lives, deserve our sorrow.
But, sweet friend, I do not want you to get stuck here. And it’s too easy to do that when you focus solely on the darkness.
Instead of only looking at the sorrow in the world, I want to encourage you to look for the glimmers…the small, often fleeting moments of joy that show up in our lives when we are present to them. You might call them “little happys” or “small wins.” Whatever you call them, they can bring light to the darkness and illuminate a path out of despair and toward more happiness.
But what exactly is a glimmer? Well, they can be different for everyone. For me, one of my favorite glimmers is literally light. After my weeks-long bout of crying, one of the things that has lifted my spirit has been watching the sunrise as I drive down Signal Mountain after dropping my son off at school. Lately, I often awake feeling anxious, worried about my sons or husband, with a running list of all the things I need to accomplish – and probably won’t – in my day. The list plays on repeat, swirling around with all the horrors in the news I’m listening to, while I do all the things to get us out the door and then drive up the mountain in the dark. But, as I pull into the parking lot, the sky above the school is starting to lighten. Shades of pink and lavender often take my breath away. And as I make the turn out of the school driveway, I can see the bright orange sun peeking through trees and the sky above the football practice field becomes a spectacular painting…little grey clouds drift against a dazzling palette of rosy-golds and soft oranges. I have literally gasped at its beauty before. And in those moments, I feel such great joy at being alive, at seeing this wonder of creation, that I forget the deadlines and the GPA and the sink of dirty dishes and I feel hope for the world. For myself.
Of course, being present to and marveling at a spectacular sunrise doesn’t make any of those challenges disappear. But what it does do is remind me that there is still beauty and magic and wonder in the world. It gives my brain a respite from working so hard to solve all the problems (even the ones I can’t solve) and gives me a chance to reset so I can come at the things I can tackle with a fresh eye and rejuvenated spirit. Glimmers can boost your resilience by reminding you that you are capable of happiness and joy, even in challenging times.
A form of mindfulness, glimmers can also help ground you in the present moment, which can also lead to more happiness.
When you pause to savor a hot cup of cinnamon tea and delight in the flavor instead of mindlessly downing it so you can get back to work or when focus on the warmth of the water and the tickle and shine of the bubbles as you wash the sinkful of dirty dishes instead of getting lost in the swirl of thoughts in your head, you are training your brain to find peace and feel happiness in the now. It’s a valuable skill and one you can improve at every single day. It’s also a critical lesson to instill in your children to help them build resilience and gratitude.
I try to set an example and even though the last few weeks have been harder than normal for me, I have made an effort this week to share my glimmers with my son. Driving home from school, I’ve pointed out my favorite trees with their golden, red, or purple leaves. I’ve noted how much I love certain songs that popped up and noted specific lyrics that I found beautiful or clever. I’ve laughed aloud at silly things our dogs have done and said how thankful I am for them. I’ve told him how grateful I am for him.
Another great way to teach this skill, especially with smaller children, is to make a gratitude practice part of your bedtime routine. If you pray, ask them to include a prayer of thanks for anything in their day that made them smile. Or just ask them to share with you anything in their day that they were grateful for and you can share with them some things that brought you joy during your day.
These small strategies can help your child – and you – develop the skills to find joy in everyday moments that, when added together, create a more positive and resilient outlook on life.