Taking Notice

When we stop to focus on what we can do and what is good, we can find reason to hope.

Experience Life editor in chief Jamie Martin

If you and I were to have a conversation today, there’s a good chance I would mention “silver linings” at some point. I’ve used this saying a lot these last few months — in work meetings, on phone calls with friends and family, in episodes of the Life Time Talks podcast that I cohost.

Sure, it may be cliché, but it rings true for me right now, especially in light of the pandemic. With all the worries and uncertainties about the virus, the economy, and social issues, among everyday concerns, I’ve made a point to notice the unexpected positives of our current circumstances.

For instance: Since March, I’ve been working from my home office, which has a front-row view to our bustling neighborhood. From my desk, I have witnessed and been drawn to scenes that I would have otherwise missed — impromptu outdoor (physically distanced) gatherings with neighbors who have become dear friends; the creativity of our kids as they play, building forts, digging tunnels, and riding so many types of wheeled contraptions — and I’ve appreciated the beauty of the changing seasons and the freedom to get out and enjoy them more.

I’ve laughed out loud as I’ve watched our kids climb on top of garbage cans on trash day and hold highly animated conversations. I’ve caught my breath as the 4-year-old next door unsteadily took off on his two-wheeler for the first time, a look of pure joy on his face. I’ve felt pride as I caught a glimpse of our younger daughter confidently leading our older daughter through a series of yoga poses on our front walk.

I would have missed all of this had I been at my actual office, and I’m grateful to feel more connected to my little corner of the world than ever before.

But far and away, the silver lining that has mattered most is the extra time I’ve spent with my family — especially our favorite things like evening walks, even now as winter descends, and watching all sorts of movies.

On a recent Saturday night, we all huddled together for a viewing of The Martian, the 2015 science-fiction film based on the Andy Weir book by the same name. As we watched the scenes unfold, the themes of perseverance and hope emerged.

Presumed dead by his crew and deserted on Mars, Matt Damon’s character, astronaut Mark Watney, decides early on that he’s not giving up without a fight. To survive, he focuses on what he has (his hub, a rover, a decent supply of food and water) and what he knows as a botanist — they are his silver linings in dire circumstances.

He gets to work — “making rain,” growing potatoes using biowaste as fertilizer — and finds reasons to hope. And when he eventually makes contact with NASA, and the possibility of returning home becomes even more real, his determination multiplies, even as obstacles continue to come his way.

I won’t give it all away, in case you haven’t see it, but a certain quote from this futuristic tale has stuck with me: “At some point, everything’s going to go south on you . . . and you’re gonna say, ‘This is it. This is how I end.’ Now you can either accept that or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin.”

Right now, we’re living through a period of unknowns and ambiguity; it can be overwhelming. There are many who are working tirelessly to get through it — and too many carrying grief over lost loved ones.

There is no timeline for starting, but when we’re ready, we always have the ability to see the good, get to work, and hold on to hope — and that’s what this issue of Experience Life is focused on.

is Experience Life’s editor in chief. Follow her on Instagram @jamiemartinel.

Photography by Sara Rubinstein

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