“Life sucks, then you die.”
- Every pessimist ever
“Always look on the bright side of life.”
- Monty Python
“I’m looking for rainbows.”
A few weeks ago, my friend Donna posted on Facebook how she came upon her friend George who is on Autism Spectrum. It has been raining what seems like every three days in my pocket of the world and many others. George was sitting on the side of the street and when she asked him what he was doing, George told her, “I’m looking for rainbows.”
That hit me like a glorious ton of wildflowers, that simple statement of the potential for joy in our lives. It was such a pure, unadulterated outlook that just happens to be what I aspire to be my modus operandi of my life in sobriety. It encompasses the Zen Buddhist philosophy of living in this moment and being truly happy with where we are right now. The true self doesn’t exist outside of this moment and if you don’t have the beauty of a rainbow to truly make you happy, you must be truly happy with the potential to be happy. The potential of the rainbow. That’s the key. That’s what it’s all about.
My sister, who is also on the Autism Spectrum, has many moments like this. Every week, she goes bowling and a couple weeks ago, she posted on Facebook a (lengthy) account of bowling over 200 and how happy she was with herself. I can personally attest to the fact that she doesn’t bowl over 200 often. And yet she goes bowling all the time because of the potential of bowling over 200. Meanwhile, she makes Facebook posts congratulating my sister-in-law on my brother and her’s 10th anniversary, not to mention her wishing a Happy Birthday to virtually every person she has ever met if they have a Facebook account and her uncanny ability to remember the address, phone number, social security number, Zodiac sign, Chinese Zodiac sign and what she had for dinner every single night since she hit puberty. She looks for rainbows in her life and shares in the empathetic joy of others. I cringe and recoil every time I hear something akin to the sentiment “My life didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.” It used to be that someone saying this made me angry and bitter. Now, it just makes me smile and feel just a little sad for them. Angry and bitter because whose life is the way they ever wanted it to be? And more than that, having that thought is the complete and utter lack of acknowledgement of all the things we do have in our lives now as a result of how life turned out. Inherent in that sentiment is the root of anxiety and regret. And for me, regret has become the ultimate in self-indulgent pity and self-absorbed narcissism. Regret is the bitterest of fruits and the number one killer of ambition and contentment.
Trust me, I’m not so evolved as to be just as culpable is anyone else of bouts of regret self-pity. The trick is to see it when it’s coming and dodge it. The trick is to ignore it.
The trick is to look for the rainbows.