Friday, February 12, 2010

The Queen of Silver Linings

A couple of weekends ago, I was with my Academic Decathlon team at our first Saturday of competition.  We arrived at the hosting school at 7:30 am and the temperature had not yet reached 50 degrees.  Two of the girls from the team and I were walking around the campus trying to locate the rooms in which they would deliver their speeches.  We were all three shivering and making comments about how it would be nice to feel our toes again someday.  "At least it isn't raining," I said. (At the following week's competition we would not be so lucky!) One of the young ladies responded, "Oh, Mrs. Elliott, you are always the optimist."

Lately, I have begun to refer to myself as the Queen of Silver Linings.  In some respects it is a title I claim with pride.  I like being the Pollyanna of the group.  I like believing that no matter how difficult a situation is that God's plan is to prosper me.  I like turning someone else's sour perspective around so that she can enjoy the sweetness life offers. Not surprisingly, when I look for the good, I often see the good.

However, being the Queen of Silver Linings comes with its own share of challenges.  I can be irritating.  People need to wallow sometimes, and when I chirp some sweet tune, they don't want to hear it.  I can also be ineffective.  When I am the person who always looks on the bright side, who always thinks things can work, who always is willing to give new ideas a try, then my opinion becomes less valuable.  And even worse than being ineffective, I can also be wrong.  As much as I attempt to convince a student that he can do well in a particular class or encourage a colleague to take her concerns to someone with whom she's had a conflict, those situations do not always end in the way I'd hope.

But I think the most difficult part of being the Queen of Silver Linings is wearing the crown.  It is awfully heavy and makes one quite noticeable.  Though finding the good comes naturally to me,  it causes me an undo amount of fear.  I think I try so hard to focus on the positive because I don't want to face the negative; I don't have the confidence in myself to be assured that I can actually survive the negative.  I also feel substantial pressure to be the one who keeps her spirits up and helps others to focus on the positive.  My family, my friends and my students often look to me for the reassurance that everything will be okay.  And as much as I smile and find ways to make them believe it will be, inside I am crying out for the same reassurance myself.  I wonder if being the Queen of Silver Linings is worth it and consider handing the title over to someone else.

Last night, the Academic Decathlon Team attended the Awards Banquet.  We didn't win as many medals as I was hoping for and we didn't place as highly as I had imagined we would.  Each time I think about those kids and how hard they worked and what incredible people they are and how much they deserve to be recognized for their efforts, heaviness clouds up my heart.  Part of me, a bigger part than I would like to admit, wants to immerse myself in the "we should haves" and "why didn't Is," wants to be upset and defeated.  But each time one of those thoughts tries to color my heart, I imagine that little crown on my head.  And I know that the right thing to do is to push away the weighty shadows, and allow the sunlight to appear.  We had a number of students earn individual medals and we won first place in math.  I want those students to enjoy their accomplishments and inspire us to do even better next year.  I want them to have spirits of joy and hope, not pessimism or fear.

So, I smiled and I hugged and I patted them on the back and told them time and again how proud I was of them, because I really am.  They smiled in return, patted each other on the back and contemplated what ice cream shop they should go to for a celebratory treat.  I realized, heavy crown or not, it's good to be Queen.

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