Someone asked me recently how, in the face of so much negativity abroad in the world, I seem to stay positive all the time.
First of all, I said, I am not always positive—I have good days and bad days like everyone else, and the daily news makes me angry with a fury I have never known in my life to this point.(But of course, anger in the name of God’s compassion is not negative at all!}
But then I share the real secret of my positive outlook: God and God’s gifts. Let’s start with the gifts. Two in particular, alcoholism and bipolar.
Did I say gifts? Yes, gifts which like all gifts, can become poison if we do not accept them humbly and joyfully and use for the further glory of God. But if we do, and it has taken me many years to do so, even these heavy-weight gifts can become sources of great joy. Now of course I am well aware that these two gifts can also kill—both alcoholism and bipolar are gifts whose very nature is to feed off of negative energy. The number of hours I have wasted in my life by giving in to the soul-crushing negativity of deep depression and the enervating mix of shame, guilt, and ego trips that is alcoholism’s particular cocktail is countless. So I know negativity.
And I know that for me, giving in to these negative sides of my gifts can kill me, literally, and has on occasion gotten me quite close. I have discovered that in order to live, I must not give in to negativity, not give it even an inch. When I have been wronged, or even (wrongly) perceive that I have been wronged, I cannot indulge in resentment or self-pity even for a little bit, or it can kill me. When I see the mess of the world and give in to despair or think why bother doing anything at all given the massive evil abroad and its seeming triumph over good, my bipolar and my alcoholic demons can grab this little thought and take me, willy nilly, down a dizzying labyrinth of further negative thoughts and land me in a pit of despair so deep that there too I am literally at death’s door. Suicidal ideations are for me a real threat and so I simply cannot afford to indulge in despair over the world. Plus, there is God at work each day to remind me that love created the world, love sustains it, and that my very flesh is suffused with God’s desire that I be free to love and to sing praise.
What it comes down to for me, given my ‘special’ gifts of bipolar and alcoholism, is that there is only one choice, a choice I must make every day, every minute, when it would be especially easy for me to go negative.
I must choose life, and I must choose to trust God and God’s desire of good for me. I learned this many years ago from Sister Cecilia who quoted to me Deuteronomy 30:19:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”
And so I make the choice, and I have learned that the secret of life is to choose life, the way to God’s glory is to choose to see God’s glory in every moment, even in every shadow of death. God loves us beyond compare, and that is a positive energy that is simply no match for the ‘devil and his pomps,’ as the old prayer book puts it. God reigns and so for me every day is joy at this victory. That’s my story because it is God’s story, and I for one am sticking to it!
For great is your love toward me; *
you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit. –Ps 86:13
Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us *
and the years in which we suffered adversity. –Ps. 90:15