The Free Dictionary defines a silver lining as “ A hopeful or comforting prospect in the midst of difficulty.” And let’s face it, during those challenging times it helps to think about the silver lining — and even more so to identify one. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had days that have felt cumbersome and bleak — to the point where finding the silver lining is the last thing I want to do. But I do it anyway, persisting in discovering one thing that helps guide me through the day.
Perhaps it started a few years ago when I embarked on the 100 happy days challenge. I came across it on social media and thought “why not?” It had been a trying year for me. My mom had passed away and with it came a profound sense of loss. She had always been there — my rock, my confidant, my champion. I was her “Sunshine, ” and she was mine.
She was my cheerleader who imparted nuggets of wisdom such as “don’t let the turkeys get you down” and “you’re made of good stuff.” And then one day she wasn’t there to be any of those things (not physically anyway). I had experienced loss before, but nothing came close to how I felt when my mom passed away.
It was a hard pill to swallow, and there was an adjustment period as I processed and worked through my grief; albeit with a caring support system by my side. Some days were easier than others. On the tougher days, the loss felt like a vice grip on my heart.
I suspect that’s one reason why, when this challenge entered my universe, I jumped on it. The premise behind it intrigued me and beckoned to that part of me that needed something. Granted, I didn’t know what that something was, but this sure seemed like it could help. It was the beginning of July and 100 days seemed doable. By early November I’d slay it. After all, I could identify with something happy each day, right? I could be happy for 100 days in a row, couldn’t I? How hard could it be?
I was on a mission, and in theory, it was simple. I had my mind set on making it not only to the goal line but also going in for the touchdown. All I had to do was take a picture of whatever made me happy that day. At first, it was easy, and anything was fair game: food, flowers, sunsets, family, friends, my husband and canine child — and yes, even my running shoes. So many things.
But I have a confession to make.
100 consecutive happy days was not easy. At least not for me. In fact, at times it was challenging. Blame it on being in a funk, blame it on a bad day, blame it on any number of reasons or excuses. They were there. Life’s hurdles were on my playing field with spectators commentating from the sidelines as I tried to block and tackle. So, yes, on those days, I neglected to capture what made me happy.
Was I discouraged at times because I had lapsed in the challenge? Absolutely. In fact, I even beat myself up internally about it a few times.
Did I question happiness in general? At times.
Did I question my happiness? Definitely.
Did I think about quitting the challenge altogether? I sure did.
Did I quit?
And that’s what mattered. I didn’t throw in the towel because of a bad day (after all a bad day doesn’t equal a bad life) or because I didn’t make time. Regardless of what obstacles got in my way, I remained steadfast in my decision to pursue this challenge and see it through to the end; albeit not regularly. It was important to me, after all, and I would get there. Eventually. Do you remember the little train who could? That was me at this time.
As I reflected back on this experience along with viewing my 100 pictures of happiness, I smiled, and my heart was happy; not just because the pictures are cute or funny or memorable. It is more than that. It’s the realization that I learned along the way, which surprised me on the one hand but didn’t on the other. There are pros and cons to everything. And this challenge was no exception.
In the end, however, it was eye opening; which is funny because going into it I thought that my eyes were wide open. I thought that I was happy every day. But when all was said and done, I realized that my eyes weren’t as open as I expected and happiness wasn’t as much a part of my life as I thought. It may be presumptuous of me to believe that we all seek happiness and I hope that we do. I try too; which is why I was perplexed when it eluded me periodically. And that’s when I started to connect the dots (something my friend Karthik Rajan is excellent at).
Maybe we need the bad days to make us appreciate the good ones.
Maybe we need the wounds to teach us how to heal.
Maybe we need the crappy jobs to lead us to the right ones.
Maybe it’s okay to be in a funk — as long as you find your way back out.
Maybe we need the long run on a hot summer night to remind us to stop and watch the sunset over the mountains.
Maybe we need each other more than we ever thought possible.
And maybe it isn’t about chasing happiness but rather choosing it. Wanting to find the silver linings — however big or small they may be — in each day. Even in each hour if you have to. Let’s face it. It’s not always smooth sailing. Sometimes the water may be too rough. And some days you may even capsize. But perhaps by choosing to be happy and embracing the moments, we may very well lead ourselves to unexpected happiness.
I didn’t always subscribe to this mindset; especially before participating in 100 happy days. Either because I didn’t want to or I didn’t know how to. But I do now. And I try hard every day to find that silver lining. Do I stumble occasionally? Sure. But stumbling has given me perspective along the way.
It’s been rainy and chilly where I live for days. I wanted to hide away. I longed for a good old dose of natural Vitamin D. I was downright depressed at times with the gloomy weather. But the silver linings were there. Honestly, an evening walk in the rain was never so rejuvenating as it was the other night. It’s a mindset for sure and I am committed to making my happiness. After all, we owe it to ourselves to do that much.
Originally published at medium.com