Look For It

IMG_1907One evening I was driving down the highway, my mind busy with its usual jumble of thoughts and concerns, when I came over the top of a hill and suddenly realized that I was driving straight into a spectacular sunset.  It was just gorgeous, complete with a fiery red sun that radiated streaks of color across the sky as it dipped slowly into the horizon.  I remember being surprised, because I have always associated beautiful sunsets with beach vacations, where the highlight of my day is often standing on a beach and watching the sun sink into the ocean.  I couldn’t quite remember the last time I’d noticed a sunset in my hometown of St. Louis, since my house sits too low to see either sunsets or sunrises.  And yet there it was:  a sunset just as spectacular as anything I’ve ever witnessed on a beach vacation, even without the ocean.

Simply put, the sunset surprised me because I wasn’t looking for it.  When I drive on the local highways, I’m watching for bad drivers, traffic jams and the upcoming exit I need.  I may even be keeping an eye out for an interesting billboard.  But I am most definitely not expecting to see a sunset….even though the sun does set in St. Louis every night, just as it does all over the world.

I believe that all too often, we tend to see just exactly what we are looking for, no more and no less.  Which means that if we are looking for signs that the world is a horrible place and becoming worse by the moment, we will see them.  If we are looking for rejection in our relationships, contempt from people who are different from us, and incompetence from coworkers, we will see it.  Because sometimes those things are there.  But if we look for acts of kindness and compassion, for creative solutions to long-term problems, for areas where the world around us is actually improving, we will see those things as well.  Because the good things are also there, but we have to be willing to see them.

I spend my days volunteering at an open-admission animal shelter which rescues unwanted, neglected and abused animals on a daily basis.  Sometimes I see and hear things that make me doubt in the basic goodness of the human race.  But if I choose to look for it, I also see things that warm my heart:  people who take the time to bring in the stray and lost dogs they see wandering the streets, people who donate supplies and give so freely of their time and money, or a once-neglected dog prancing happily out the door with his new adoptive family.  Usually, the mood I am in when I go home from the shelter depends entirely upon what I choose to focus on when I’m down there.

Just like my surprise urban sunset, there is beauty to be found in almost any situation, even during those times when it is least expected.  And I hope that I always remember to just look for it……

93 thoughts on “Look For It

  1. As always, a beautiful sentiment that makes me stop and think. I’d like to also add, a few years ago I went to Maui with my family and was told I wouldn’t want to miss the amazing sunsets. Though they were incredible, there are sunsets just as majestic in my little home town on Long Island. I just have to look for them.

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  2. A beautiful post Ann and sentiments that speak directly ti my soul. Indeed our thoughts and the way we live our life is a mirror and whatever we believe and perceive we ultimately see.

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  3. We are partly to blame for not seeing the good and kind acts around us, when our focus is on the negative side of human existence. That is our small world, as your post so clearly points out, Ann, where we can make some changes. Then there are the things we cannot change. Wars, famine, earthquakes, disasters, drug abuse, crimes are fodder for our news media. Their focus is rarely on the good and kind things in life, as the media need sensational events for their profit driven existence. They can, if we let them, distort our vision of life and turn us into cynics. Great post inspired by a sunset, Ann!

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    • Thanks, Peter! And you are right…the bad is always there, and often there is nothing we can do to change it. But as you say, we don’t need to let that be our sole focus (despite the unrelenting media reports.) There is still a lot of good in this work, always has been and always will be. And I really don’t want to become a cynic!

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  4. I believe we are sometimes caught up in our own world to really appreciate the simple beauty around us. This teaches us a lesson, to be present in the moment. What a spectacular sunset and a realization of what can inspire us. Wonderful post! This is one I will think of often.

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    • Thank you so much! I saw that sunset over a year ago, and yet I still remember it. Not just for it’s beauty, but because it made me realize how silly I was not to look for them in my own home town…. I need to live in the moment so much more than I do!

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  5. Exactly, it all comes down to choice about how we view the world. Though I think the media…. Only reporting the bad.. Should share the blame. Talking of sunrises….. I had a notion to witness one over Slapton Sands but by the time we arrived the sun had been up for two hours….. Doh!

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    • Yes, I have learned not to rely on the media to interpret the world for me. They do provide useful information, but I would never want to limit my world view to what I hear on the news. Sorry you missed the sunset on Slapton Sands!!!

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  6. I love how that sunset inspired you. So many things can – if we are looking. And when we forget or get down – we need to remind ourselves and each other. Thank you for the reminder to look for sunsets and kindness and goodness!

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  7. I’m sometimes accused of being a “Pollyanna” but it is as easy to be positive as it is to be negative. I choose to see the good – especially in people. We just have to open our eyes to the beauty. (See with our hearts not just our eyes!)

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    • I know what you mean, as sometimes when I write a post like this, I get the same response. But I think being a “Pollyanna” is just when you don’t realize that there are bad things. What we are doing is acknowledging the hard stuff, and dealing with it when we have to, but choosing to also stay open to seeing all that is right with the world. Personally, I couldn’t live in a perpetually angry or depressed state!

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  8. Pingback: Look For It — Muddling Through My Middle Age – Meanwhile, in the real world…

  9. Great post! I love to stop and “smell the roses”. My kids thought I was crazy when I’d call them over to watch the sun set or to look at the moon! Now that they are grown they can appreciate the “little” things!

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  10. I was reading that usually what we see and how we perceive the world is a reflection of us at that moment inside. So if you see goodness and beauty and sunset that is your state of mind 🙂 Beautiful sunset and post!

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    • Thank you, Val. It has taken me a long time to realize how often I saw only what I was conditioned to see, and sometimes I still fall back into that trap. But these days, I am much more intentional about looking for the good…it’s essential to a happy life!

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  11. Your thoughts on the sunset and its lessons are inspiring. If we expect to find the negative, we will; if we seek to find the good in life, we will. Kudos to you for volunteering to help at the animal shelter. You are spreading beautiful sunsets!

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    • You’re right, it is a struggle. One decision I have made is to watch the news, but not watch only the news, is you know what I mean. The news media presents a very narrow view of the world, I think, and I don’t want to limit myself to that. It takes effort to look beyond, but I’m trying! Thanks for the comment!

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  12. I am learning to protect my mind from a constant bombardment of negativity. For a long time I was a news junkie and it took me awhile to admit it, but it was really starting to affect my outlook. When we consciously choose to look for the good things of this life, our whole being changes. Suddenly we start to notice the sunsets. Great post.

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    • Thanks! That’s exactly what we were talking about in the comments above. I think the trick is to remember that the news usually just skims the surface of any event, even on those rare times when they are reporting on something positive. They want to attract as wide a viewership as possible, and the news shows are designed around that sole objective. There is so much more going on, we just have to find it for ourselves, I think.

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  13. Thank you for sharing this , So inspiring and very uplifting . I enjoy reading everything you have to say , and I can relate to you . I need to put more focus , time , and energy on looking for the good that life has to offer. It is easy to get sucked into the dark black hole of negative that goes on in our world today .

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    • You are so right, it does take an effort. Sometimes I manage to look on the positive side much better than others, but I have found that it’s always worth trying. Thanks for your kind comments!

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  14. Wonderfully stated ! I enjoy reading this so much . I can relate to everything you write about , This one hit home . I tend to dwell in what is wrong in this world , and I need to open my eyes and look for what is good . Life can be sad , but we need to focus on the good, and not get sucked into the dark hole of sadness . Life can be a better place , if we just LOOK FOR IT !!!!! Thank You

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    • Thank you for your kind comment! Yes, there is still a lot of good in this world, but we have to remember to look for it. Otherwise, it goes unnoticed, and we begin to believe that things are worse than they really are.

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  15. So true Ann. We just ignore the good things that surround us. Either because it is taken for granted or just because we are so busy seeking goodness outside of where we are. One thing that I have seen every little kid do is explore , be amazed by and love the little things that are around him/her. Why do we grow up and out of such wonderful habits.. 😦
    Offlate I have seen my younger one crib about something or the other either in school or about his friends. I was getting worried about the negativity that he is getting used to. So now every night before going to bed I ask him to tell me three wonderful things that happened to him that day. I wasn’t sure what else I could do.
    Thank you for a wonderful post Ann.
    Deepa.

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    • I’m not sure when we lose out child-like wonder at the world around us either, but it is too bad that we do. As for your son, I think your solution is wonderful! Children are exposed to far too much negativity these days, but your question will remind him on a daily basis that there are good things in his life too! You are a very wise woman….

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  16. Beautiful post about appreciating the things in life we so often take for granted. And yes, our own perspective always “colors” things, for better or for worse. Two people can see the same thing, have the same experience but look at it from two totally different perspectives. Witness siblings arguing about an incident they each feel that they have the “right perspective” about.

    Peta

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    • Oh your are so right! Our personal perspective colors everything, which is why our realities can be so different. I was for more negative when I was younger, and I was so impressed by a particular friend I had who seemed to have the ability to see the best in everyone. And then I realized that she saw it because she was looking for it, and there was no reason in the world why I couldn’t do the same. Thanks, Peta!

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  17. This is a great message about our power to choose our own perspective. It is easy to forget that the perspective we are experiencing is only one possible way of seeing. The sunset that often goes unseen is a good example. Thanks for sharing this uplifting reminder.

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  18. YES! Exactly. I think the same goes with listening. You can hear critique instead of compliments if that is what you thinking of. Perhaps now that you have seen one you will continue to look for that St. Louis sunset. 🙂

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      • Yes. I was at my dad’s this weekend and was too busy to stop and enjoy the beauty – for the most part. But one day on the way back from my errands, I took the long way around so that I could look at the beauty of the lake. But then the second I got home I forgot about it. I always remember after the day is done and it is too dark to see. Geez!

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  19. Thanks for the reminder to stop and appreciate life’s beautiful surprises like the sunset. Of the 20,000+ days that I have been alive, I wonder how many times I have noticed the sunset? Not nearly enough, for sure.

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  20. You’re right, Ann. We have a tendency to go through the motions each day, to see what is front of us, never looking sideways or to the sky. How much we miss when we close off our lives like that and how many people we fail to engage and learn from when we don’t stop to say hello or ask a question. A great lesson for all of us.
    PS…that’s a great photo!

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  21. Nice lesson to learn, and in my case, a nice refresher. ☺️

    Life has been very brutal for me the past 7 years… Many trials, many hard desisions, many questions left unanswered. But amid all the chaos there has been beauty! The one thing that kept me going is my beautiful daughter the the one good that came out of an awful marriage. Had I only focused on the negative I would most certainly have given up by now but she gives me purpose and I’m thankful everyday she’s in my life.

    There are many more wonderful lilys in the ‘swamp’ of my life and as a resut I consider myself truly blessed. Life is what we make it. I choose the beauty!

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.
    I always enjoy my time on your blog.
    Hope you’ve been well. Hugs 🌷

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