In the left corner of my brain we have Anne; a fierce contender with long red braids, a penchant toward the dramatic and a taste for raspberry cordial. Her opponent in the right corner, Pollyanna; a missionary kid who appreciates the finer things in life, sees the good in everyone, and isn't afraid of climbing very tall trees.
DING DING DING. LET THE BATTLE BEGIN.
Yesterday I had the blues and the threat of going dark loomed large. As I often do, I felt torn between two desires: choose gratitude or allow myself to concede to my negative emotions. The conflict only crescendos as I vacillate between the two tendencies- both of which feel like appropriate responses.
As a girl, I probably read Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables three times each and watched the movie version of each story COUNTLESS times. My childhood was basically an endless loop of those films along with The Wizard of Oz and The Parent Trap. Those spunky gals left an indelible impression on my adolescent life. It's no wonder that on my blue days-not quite the dark night of the soul days, but the long, thick days that I trudge through- that these two fictional literary characters vie for my peace of mind.
When things look bleak, I can take a rather dramatic, pessimistic stance and resign myself to "the depths of despair" that my girl Anne would feel after Gilbert Blythe teased her or just a really bad haircut. During financial stresses and parenting woes, I too, want to lay myself down in a row boat with garland of flowers on my head and float away. ( as Anne did when dramatizing a poem by Alfred lord Tennyson) In this way, Anne and I are "kindred spirits" but sometimes her antics can induce an eye roll and a "Come one Anne, get it together, you didn't know your BFF, Diana would get drunk when you served her the currant wine!"
That's about when Pollyanna's voice with her delightful—but hard to pin down accent—chimes in: "What about the GLAD game?" For those who are unfamiliar (I'm sorry) Pollyanna had much to be sad about, but she always managed to find the good in things and encouraged others to do the same. Sound annoying? It was. I sometimes feel that because others might have a "harder" existence than me (um—like most of the world) that I feel unable to express my own struggles and difficulties. "I'm just so frustrated with my kids right now, but at least they are healthy, I shouldn't complain." Yes, give thanks they are healthy and try not to complain, but why dismiss the human emotion? It seems as though we are afraid of expressing discontent, unhappiness or sadness for fear we will appear ungrateful. I think our feelings give us a lot of clues as to what is and isn't right in our life and in our spirit. We miss important details when we brush off our grievances as inconsequential complaints too quickly.
Back to yesterday. I berated myself as I felt myself slowly succumbing to Anne's melodrama. I tried earnestly to look for the silver lining but felt flat and phony like I was dialing it in. My husband encouraged me not to dwell on the showdown going on in my brain, but instead to get out of the house and find a change of scenery. On days I am not working outside of the home, I try to stay in the apartment and prioritize cleaning, writing and recharging. (I've learned over the years solitude is so important for me to maintain the pace of our family's schedule.) But I knew none of those were going to get done yesterday, so with leaden legs, I headed to the subway with no plans but to wander Central Park with a book.
Both Anne and Pollyanna reveled in nature. In NYC, and specifically where I live in Queens, it's more urban than jungle and I forget that I can access natural beauty with very little effort. I get swallowed up by the noise, the construction, the swearing, the movement, and the action packed ( more accurately, activity packed) days. Just being in Central Park with no agenda freed my mind and lifted my spirit. I no longer had to choose between Anne's darkness or Pollyanna's positivity. I could acknowledge that life is hard, but I am still grateful. It doesn't have to be an either/or, but a both/and. Staying in one place for too long- the dark, 'woe is me place', or the 'everything is coming up roses place', is not really authentic or sustainable. We must tread the fine line on this earth where suffering and joy rub elbows all the time everywhere.
Embracing both Anne and Pollyanna's point of view helped me make the next choice. When I saw the bike rental stand I balked. "I don't have the physical energy to ride the 3 mile loop- it's been years since I've done it and I'm too sad to ride a bike, besides I'm not a tourist.."
Moments later I was panting up the hill, sweating and grinning like an idiot. The the descend came and I grinned like a bigger idiot. I took a selfie which was reckless and unsafe, but I wanted to capture the moment because I knew I looked different than I did earlier that day.
Obviously, Anne and Pollyanna aren't real people. I'm a little crazy, but not crazy enough to think of them as my spiritual guides or anything. They simply serve as markers to indicate when I am allowing Resistance (evil, the Enemy, darkness) to overshadow Love. (God, good, light) And yes, I fancy myself a highly sensitive person like Anne with just a little of Pollyanna's desire to see good prevail. And because me and my family are really into watching The Voice right now, if I had to choose an actual WINNER of this battle—I would have to say Pollyanna; the girl could rock a drop waist dress like a BOSS.