“Centuries-old churches, crystalline turquoise waters, rich historical and religious traditions, vibrant culture, delicious and colorful cuisine, joyful popular festivals, and warm and affectionate people.”
This is pretty much how Bahia is portrayed in the tourist publications I translate. Despite the sometimes excessively rosy picture painted of the state (listing the entire stretch of the state’s southern coastline an “open-air museum of the Discovery of Brazil” is a little much) – it’s actually good for me to be working with such optimistic text.
It brings me back to my early days in Salvador, when I saw everything through fresh, excited eyes; before I had to worry about bills to pay, overwork, and underwork due to police strikes. I may have lost my love over the years, but I am working to reframe my perspective of this city.
Part of the reason I moved this blog is to reframe everything as an adventure. There are two sides to every story, and something good can be found in every situation.
As I pondered this idea of “reframing,” I wondered: can the REALLY hard stuff be reframed? It’s one thing to put a positive spin on the challenges of adapting to a new culture or dealing with irritatingly and unnecessarily complex bureaucracy… but where’s the “good” to be found in disease, abuse, oppression, or death? Saying “just look on the bright side!” is like trying to put out a forest fire with an eyedropper.
In these cases, where there is absolutely no good to be found, the good must often be made instead. Even if it’s something as simple as not letting the suffering define you or fill you with bitterness. We know it’s possible, because there are people who do so.
They seem almost superhuman in their ability to maintain joy – or heck, even to just maintain sanity – through great pain. We say, “How inspiring!” – but we think God, I could never do that… – and then go right back to letting every little annoyance upset us.
Here’s the thing, though: anything can be reframed. But we have to practice doing it with the little and medium-sized things in order to be able to handle the big ones.
Reframing is not a “Don’t worry, be happy” bumper sticker. Nor is it trying to slap on a fake smile while avoiding dealing with the issues. And it makes no promises that everything will work out in the end wrapped up perfectly with a bow on top.
Rather, it is the conscious, constant, sometimes incredibly difficult decision to choose your attitude and to transform every experience – somehow, whether immediately or years later – into good.
It gets easier with practice.
What have you reframed lately, or what do you need to reframe?