I finally made it to my airplane seat. Normal fare… tired, rushed travelers, journeying their separate ways, ready to reach their final destinations. It was an older, dirty plane with as many unpleasant smells as there were travelers. It was loud and chaotic, with a sense of malcontentedness. I sat down and squished myself between two passengers and braced myself for the uncomfortable ride home.
Before catching my flight, I came directly from my grandmother’s memorial service, just minutes away from the airport. I watched as my 6 aunts and uncles mourned their last parent, their mother, in the same cemetery where my grandfather, a former army soldier, lay. My father and my five aunts and uncles stood over her casket with sadness weighing on their hearts and eyes overflowing with tears. I sat on the plane half-tired, half-shocked at what I had just witnessed over the past few weeks… My father, aunts, uncles, and cousins all saying goodbye to our much-loved matriarch as she transitioned from life to death.
While at the memorial service, there lay a beautiful arrangement of flowers on my grandmother’s casket. I was able to break off a single yellow rose from the bouquet to take home with me. I held the stem tightly in my hands all the way to the airport. Having this beautiful rose made me feel as if I was holding one last piece of her, as she always loved flowers.
As I sat in my seat on the plane, I reflected for a moment and gazed at the vibrantly-colored, delicate flower. The beauty drew me into it. I slowly lifted the rose to my nose to deeply inhale its fragrance. In… out… in… and out. The smell of its rich sweetness swiftly grabbed my attention from the all-encompassing unpleasantness around me to solely focus on it. I inhaled the flower’s essence a second and third time, continuing to breathe it in repeatedly. It amazed me how the rose’s intoxicating aroma was able to bring me into wonderful moments of respite, transcending my surroundings and creating a sense of quiet peace in me. What the rose gave me was a sense of warmth and bliss in the midst of absolute pain, chaos, and discomfort. I continued to focus on its loveliness and take in its fragrance for the duration of the flight, staying in awe of the beauty it provided when I needed a hefty dose of it.
Such is true in life. We can often be found in places we would rather not be, with people we would prefer to avoid, or in a multitude of other trying circumstances. In those instances, we can choose to make the decision to choose to focus in on the negatives of our situations or take a moment to observe our surroundings and seek to find beauty in or around it.
So, how might we achieve this feat? Here are several tips on finding beauty and respite in difficult circumstances:
1. Step Away:
Sometimes we can become so entrenched in our circumstances we feel as if we are drowning in them. When artists are painting, drawing, or sculpting, they will often take breaks to step back from their art to observe their perspectives and to check if what they are seeing up close is achieving their desired result as viewed from a distance. Find some time to step back from your situation. You may accomplish this by spending some time alone in nature or in a quiet space or engaging in an entirely different activity that interests you.
2. Observe the Good:
Did you know our brains’ experience of negative events has a greater impact on our brains than positive experiences? It is referred to as the negativity bias. The negativity bias is based on people’s tendencies to not only register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events (Cherry, K., 2020). Knowing this information, it is helpful to recognize how our brains have a tendency to magnify the negative and stay stuck in those thoughts. To find a way out of this type of thinking, take time to see ALL that is going on in your world, not just the difficulties of your current situation. There may be trying circumstances surrounding you. However, there may also be beautiful, happy, and joyful experiences simultaneously happening alongside the difficult ones. Take a moment to reflect and write down all of the good things in your life (i.e., friends, family, job, a home, a sunny day, good health, etc…).
3. Practice self-care:
In the midst of difficult circumstances, we are often so distracted by our pain, anger, or other trying emotions, we forget to practice self-care. By practicing self-care, we are showing ourselves compassion.
Happy seeking and may you be able to find beauty in the midst of your present circumstances.
Written by: Jennifer Heggem, LPC
Cherry, K (2020). What is the Negativity Bias? (https://www.verywellmind.com/negative-bias-4589618).