I come from a long line of cynics. On my mother’s side with low thyroid issues, we tend to be complainers. The glass is always half empty so we’re never satisfied that there’s enough to drink. On my father’s side with anger issues, we tend to be critical. The half empty glass isn’t clean enough to drink out of so we’re bitter that we’re still thirsty. Consequently, I’ve struggled most of my adult life with a gray outlook, like a dark sky with an occasional patch of blue. It took me years to figure out that persistently looking at life with the glass half empty was actually depression. I’ve struggled to see the positive things in my life, even when they were abundant. If things were going well for a time, I tried to savor the moment because I assumed it wouldn’t last. If it sounds like a dreary way to view life, it is! I’m a living (bad) example of how your attitude determines your altitude.
I’ve been fortunate that no matter where I’ve lived, I’ve had a friend or two with a bubbly, positive personality. For them, the glass is always half full and the sky is always blue with only an occasional gray cloud. You know the type of person I mean because you’ve probably met a few in your life. If you’re really blessed, you were able to marry or parent someone who sparkles. They’re friendly, positive, and fun to be around. I’ve always wanted to be that kind of person, but since modern medicine hasn’t devised a personality transplant, I’m just grateful I’ve been able to associate with a few sparkly people. Their happiness is contagious, like a rising tide that lifts all the boats.
I want to mention of few of these special souls, as a way of thanking them for their influence on my life. A friend who sparkles is worth hanging onto, so thank you, Paula Wiggins Jones, Christy Martschenko, Patti Maxwell, Torie Sue Jacobson, and Debbie Stahmann. There have been other good friends, but these five stand out to me as wonderful examples of the power of positive thinking. They are grateful for everyone and everything in their lives, and count every problem as a blessing in disguise. Skies always seem to be blue and cloudless when I spend time with them.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one man I was grateful to know who sparkled: Derek Davis. He was so positive that anyone who met him came away feeling uplifted. The little town I lived in has a 5K race every summer to honor his memory.
I once heard Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President, Thomas S. Monson, speak at a BYU Women’s Conference. Something he said really stayed with me: Be sure your list of regrets is short. Sure, we all make bad decisions sometimes or lose our cool and have to apologize later, but regrets tend to shackle our progress if we view them as liabilities instead of lessons. Being negative is one of my biggest regrets. Negativity often distorted my view of opportunities and experiences. However, whenever I’ve shared anything on my regrets list with one of my sparkly friends, they’ve helped me to see my stumbling blocks as stepping stones. Here’s one example:
In 2003, my husband and I adopted a ten year old boy from Thailand. At the time, we had five other children, ages twelve to three. We were completely blindsided by the challenges this boy brought to our family. We struggled for a year to parent him, but for the safety and well-being of the other five, we made the painful decision to disrupt the adoption. Another family who had more experience with our son’s overwhelming special needs offered to adopt him. We learned later that this troubled young man had RAD -- reactive attachment disorder. Any attempt to parent him, except by those with special training, would have been a disaster, as it was for us. I don’t mention his name at the request of his adoptive family.
During the dark year with our son, one person remained a ray of light for me: Torie Sue Jacobson. She buoyed me up when I felt weighed down. I don’t exaggerate when I say she kept me from losing my sanity that year. I had nothing to offer her except a litany of endless complaints, but she radiated positive energy, helping me focus on the things going well in my life, no matter how small. Torie’s family moved away the day before our son went to live with his new family. I felt like God sent her at this specific time because He knew I needed a sparkly friend.
Yes, there’s a spiritual message woven into my ramblings: God knows each of us, individually. He knows our strengths and weaknesses, and often answers our prayers for help by allowing us to find someone to lighten our load. In my case, those answers have come in the form of friends who sparkle. Aside from naturally exuberant personalities on the outside, one thing they also have which makes them shine from within: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They all have powerful testimonies of the Savior and follow His example in everything they say and do. I aspire to be a little bit like them by being grateful for my blessings and trying to focus on the positive things in my life. With my gray-sky outlook, it’s hard! I try to appreciate the little things, whether it’s a son who does the dishes without asking or a student at work who compliments me on my shoes, I’m learning to savor the little moments.
My father (yes, the critic I mentioned earlier), who passed away thirteen years ago, often told me the best way to forget my own troubles was to serve someone else. He was a good example to me because he often stopped to help friends and strangers alike, even if it wasn’t convenient, or he was running late, or he didn’t have a dime in his pocket to assist them, he always made the effort. I need to do this more. I often feel bogged down in the day-to-day chores no one seems to notice at home. I try to look at what I do as serving my family. If I get a thank you or a hug once in a while, I try to feel grateful someone noticed.
While I know I’ll never manage to have a sparkly personality, I can attempt to shine a little bit, and maybe lift someone else. Jesus Christ was the perfect example of service, and when we serve others, somehow the sky seems a little bluer. The water in that half-empty glass tastes a little sweeter. I’m grateful for Him, and for the sparkly friends in my life who glow because they know and love Him. I appreciate their examples, and that they’ve been there for me when I needed a light to see my way.