Isn’t impossible to read the title of this post without singing the beloved lullaby? Of course, I sang it to my son when he was a baby. We enjoyed reading the lyrics in one of his board books, on pages bursting with thick shiny golden rays behind an adorable teddy bear. We read that book often. One of the reasons, among many, was that I loved the feeling I got after I was done reading it with my sweet boy.
Tommy would be snuggled on my lap, while I sat in a comfy rocking glider in his bedroom. He would be cozily dressed in a blanket sleeper adorned with firetrucks or monkeys or puppies. I would lean my head into his, so I could lovingly smell his damp, Johnson & Johnson baby shampooed hair. We would read 3 or 4 books every night, but You Are My Sunshine had transformative properties over me. I could have just endured a truly awful shitshow of a day, but after I read that book to Tommy, I would take a deep breath and release a long sigh of relief. Somehow those 60 seconds transformed my bleak perspective to a more optimistic one. Somehow I felt better. Somehow my gray sky was now sunny.
Recently, a friend had posted on Facebook an image with a quote from Lisa Currie, “Be a ray of sunshine in someone’s cloudy day.” There are other variations of this sentiment, such as, “Be someone else’s sunshine. Be the reason someone smiles today,” source unknown, and my favorite, “Sometimes we get to be the sunshine on someone’s cloudy day,” by Katrina Mayer. I love the last one because it uses the verb “get” which implies it is a not only a choice but a privilege. No matter the variation, they all contain the same theme. They all push one in the direction of selflessness. Not too difficult, right? The Judge often finds a way to make it hard.
A common way that the Judge makes it difficult is that he will try to convince me to abandon a sunshine opportunity. Recently, I almost missed the chance to spread sunshine to a friend. Before I explain the almost-missed opportunity, I must describe my small obsession with the mermaid sequined pillow. I had been stalking them on Facebook for a while. Not only were they pretty and sparkly, but they also seemed to offer a therapeutic sense of calm. The best way I can describe it is, Pet the pretty pillow and all your troubles will drift away. I wanted one, but I didn’t take any real steps to buying one. Then my nephews surprised me with one as a birthday gift. I LITERALLY jumped up and down and clapped because it was something that I wanted, but didn’t tell anyone, and somehow they knew. Moreover, all the Facebook advertisement promises were true. I loved it. There was a sense of soothing distraction that it provided. It was like a diva inspired calming jar.
After I had my pillow for a few days, I thought how it could help a friend. I thought of how having a pillow like this would distract her while she is going through a horrifically, painful time. It’s so hard to know what to do when one of your witnesses is in a crisis. Sometimes we fear we’ll do the wrong thing, so we do nothing. I think it’s The Judge who influences that Do Nothing part. I had the idea to get her the pillow for a few days before I acted on it. I delayed buying one because I listened to the Judge. He told me it was stupid, and weird, and what the hell is she going to do with a cast-off from the Mariah Carey home decorating collection. Then I listened to The Witness. She assured me that it was thoughtful and might be just what my friend needed. So I took a leap of faith and gave my friend a mermaid pillow. The result? She loved it. She had never seen one and instantly began to fixate on stroking the sequins back and forth, changing colors in a hypnotizing way. My end result? My witness was right. That little bit of sunshine was the right thing to do.
The practice of giving moments of sunshine is addicting. Once you begin to shine for others, you begin to shine for yourself. When you give moments of light to others, it prompts them to continue that beam of light to those in their circle. Another outcome is that it demonstrates that we are all in this game of life together. There are no solitary problems. There are no solitary solutions. Giving sunshine doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a mermaid pillow. More often, they take form in the act of texts or phone calls. “I’m thinking about you today,” are powerful words.
When looking for sunshine opportunities, be sure to seek those who are difficult to find at times. If you’re surrounded by strong women like I am, you often assume that they are able to handle their life loads independently. Not so. I believe that when a crisis, big or small, hits a strong woman, it’s even more important for her witnesses to step in and say that she doesn’t have to tackle it alone. She can rely on help and she needs to accept it because that’s what we do for each other. We shine with each other on sunny days, and break through the clouds together on gray days.
Shining together is even more important during our current times. National and state events are prompting division. Political arguments and differing opinions are threatening relationships. It’s hard to find the sunshine when your Facebook Newsfeed is flooded with stories and opinions that make you question and fear the condition of the world we are living in. I can’t thrive in that kind of world. I do believe it’s imperative to stay informed, to seek out the truth, and to act as I think appropriate. But I also believe we have to put Facebook, and the media, and the news aside and look at our immediate world. Who needs a smile? Who needs to hear that they aren’t alone? Who needs to be acknowledged that life is hard and they are conquering it like a boss and you see that? Who needs to hear that they are strong, even when they feel like they are weak? They need some sunshine. They need a text, an email, a phone call, a card in the mail, or even a smile that genuinely communicates that you see them. You love them. You are in awe of them.
Finally, I am reminded of how this idea was advertised in a different way in an unlikely place, several years ago. I was at an auto body shop, picking up my husband’s car after it needed some kind of repair. It was a local, run-down kind of operation, but did good work for a reasonable price. The “office” had grimy walls, a beat-up desk, and one cracked vinyl chair. Needless to say, I stood while I waited for The Guy to find the keys and take my payment. While waiting, I noticed a sign printed on copy paper, and had been laminated at some point, but the rough environment caused the lamination to peel away and curl at the corners. Beyond those visually unappealing conditions, this message was printed: The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to help someone else.
The juxtaposition of the message to the environment caught me off-guard. It was unexpected. But it was true. May you find ways to shine for someone. May you allow others to shine for you. May we all make our gray, cloudy days a little bit sunnier together.