Call me an incorrigible optimist. I spent so many years of my life in melancholy. But I have surprised myself – and my friends, too – that, with age, I have made an effort to see the silver lining in things. That may sound counter-intuitive. As one gets older these days and things start falling apart, body and mind, to say nothing of the craziness going on in politics, global warming, a scary pandemic, it is easy enough to believe the sky is falling and going straight to hell in the proverbial hand-basket.

But as you look around today, you have two choices. You can see the glass half empty or the glass half full. Negative, with the sapping of psychic and emotional energy. Or positive, with the lifting of spirits. I mean, wouldn’t spirit-lifting be a better choice? Wouldn’t you kinda want that?

Yes, the COVID-19 scares the bejessus out of me. So does a president who seems to want things only to benefit himself without facing reality. But I am beginning to see that, even during the darkest times, there’s a silver lining. The bad stuff going on today, instead of pushing us apart, is pulling us together in the most wonderful, poignant ways.

On the news today, there was a story about a girl at home from school for weeks who decided to teach her older sister to play the guitar. And another story about a boy who is teaching himself Morse code. People are getting in touch with each other through phone calls and Zoom and Skype. A well-known Maine artist, Alan Magee, perhaps best-known for his painting of beach stones, confronted the world crisis and created a documentary film based on one of his songs “Singing in the Dark Times”.

The film directors saw hope out of despair in the song and elevated it to stand on its own.

This reminded me of a story I read recently about Shakespeare who, during the plague’s darkest hours, wrote King Lear. Okay, so we’re not Shakespeare. And few of us would garner the fame of Magee. But we all (and I do believe this) can be creative. We all have at least a few creative bones in our body. We now have the opportunity to create our own messages, to help eleviate the despair of these dark times and look for the silver lining.

For me, who used to get disgruntled having to stand in line at the post office or the grocery store,

am now finding it ain’t all bad. I’m starting to talk with someone standing in line with me, me — the introverted introvert. And what I’m seeing is that, even in these scary times, I’m connecting with people I would never have thought of connecting with before. And I’m also finding joy in my major creative outlet, writing. The silver lining for others might be making masks, or journaling, or creating things with wood or clay or paper or paint, or getting outside to walk. I’ve heard that many people are turning to cooking, with kids or significant others. I know from experience as an artist that being creative can be a huge mood elevator. These dark times present us the challenge and opportunity to counteract despair, to create our own messages of hope, and to find the silver lining.

Carolyn Dow lives in Brunswick.

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