Staying Positive

Members | June 17, 2020 | by Carol Silver Elliott

LeadingAge board chair, Carol Silver Elliott, reflects on poignant words from her mother.

I lost my mother when I was 25. She and I were both too young, but we don’t often have a choice about what life hands us. Things happen that we can’t control but we can decide how to respond and move forward.

My mother was, without question, the most positive person I have ever known. She had a few favorite expressions and they were far more than clichés, they were her mottos for living. One of her favorites was the admonition to “Keep your sunny side up,” and she would tell me that, regardless of how you felt, you needed to show an upbeat face to the world. And that showing that upbeat attitude would, in fact, make you feel better too.

I have thought about my mother’s words often over the last couple of challenging months. And while I am nowhere near the positive soul she was, I do believe that keeping that sunny side up matters even more now than ever before. Being positive does not mean being unrealistic or pretending that everything is fine when it isn’t. But being positive, to me, is a key component of leadership. It’s the behavior that we model that helps others get through tough times. It’s the attitude that we project that calms people and reassures them that this, too, shall pass.

We have all been engaged in a difficult battle, the most difficult, perhaps, of our careers and even of our lives. For those of us in areas that have been hotspots, it has been all consuming, absorbing every minute of our days and our nights.

Yet my mother’s words are even more applicable now as our staff and our elders look to us. They want to know that we are clear and steady, that we may not know what’s coming next but we will meet it head on. They look to know that everything is “going to be okay” and we must show them that it will e even when we are consumed with worry that it might not.

Life has handed us some incredibly tough circumstances here, times that do indeed try our souls. It is not in our control if or when this virus comes through our doors. It is not in our control what impact it will have on our elders and our staff. But how we respond and what we project to others is fully ours to control. I, for one, want to live those words of Mom. I, for one, want to always “keep my sunny side up.”

Be well and stay strong.