I think I sold myself short last week when I said that I had only mastered “surviving” the holidays. Thanksgiving was wonderful. Thanksgiving weekend was full of quality time spent with my daughter as well as friends. The house has been enthusiastically decorated for Christmas inside and out, and I find myself embracing all that the holiday season has to offer. That’s when it occurred to me that I was beyond surviving. I had found my inner Mary Sunshine.
“Little Mary Sunshine” was a nickname bestowed upon me by my parents and it comes from the off-Broadway musical of the same name that ran from 1959-62. I came to my parents as a 2-year-old in 1967, so the title was still hip I guess. As the story goes, though, the title was not just because it simply fit with my name Mary, but also because it described my sunny disposition and my signature “sun” which I managed to include in all of my drawings as a young child regardless of the setting.
“Sunshine” was certainly who I was; a persona that reflected a sunny day, time at the beach, a walk in the park. “Sunshine” was care free, easy-going, self-assured, and always loved. Who doesn’t like Sunshine? Sunshine was someone that brought joy to others (“…you make me happy when skies are gray”), and found the positive in every negative situation (after all a cloud’s “silver lining” is produced through diffraction of sunlight).
I often refer to running as “chasing the sun” (I actually got that tattooed on my left shoulder blade to commemorate my 20th “run-iversary in 2016). “Chasing the sun” being something that is essentially endless (and maybe at times futile), but for me it means looking to be who I am at my best. When some life experiences made it challenging, “Mary Sunshine” was symbolic of my best self, and allowed me to rise above the clouds and find warmth, light, and calm.
We all need to find our best selves and create nicknames, or symbols, or mantras to remind us to call on them at the most challenging times. Who are you at your best? Listen for the sound of that voice you can trust; that voice that knows you have what it takes; that knows you are resourceful and resilient, strong and powerful, capable of making the choices that are right for you.
After having my pity-party for a day or two leading into the holiday, I found among the clutter of the past and fear of the future, my true, best self, focused on being present in the moment. All too often, the present moment is obscured by irrational fears of what might happen. When the pace is slowed down and we think, and communicate honestly, we live present in that very moment, and we find joy. I found Sunshine.
I have spent the last week making note every morning of a simple thing that I am looking forward to that day. Each evening I journal about just the things that went right that day. Leaving off the “buts” I found was powerfully positive. We can be too hard on ourselves. We need to embrace everything right, without looking for where we didn’t measure up, where the accomplishment fell just slightly shy of grand expectations. We need to celebrate our best selves, the simplest accomplishments, and stop selling ourselves short.
Yesterday, I was on the track at 5:30 am (no sun then, so I had to make my own!). Doesn’t much matter what else got done the rest of the day. That’s something worth celebrating. Twenty-seven days until Christmas and longer days. Less than twenty-two weeks until the New Jersey Marathon.
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