Sweet Caroline: On Optimism and Joy

?I?m a bit of a troublemaker? she said, eyes sparking, after she caught my eye and sauntered over to where I was seated with my mother. ?I can tell?, I told her?.?and good for you!!? ?Well, you have to be a troublemaker when you?re 98, you know?, she said??and I am going to live to be 100 too!? ?I can tell?, I repeated??and good for you!!?

I will never forget Caroline. I met her while out with my mother (who has advanced dementia) and a few other residents from her personal care home who were part of an outing to hear a ?glee club? sing christmas carols at a local community centre. Caroline was in the glee club. In fact, she WAS the glee club in my view. I instantly noticed her?shocking white hair and sparking blue eyes. She sat in the front row and she sang each song loudly and proudly. Even though others in the room drifted off from time to time, Caroline sang like she was at the Centennial Concert Hall in front of thousands. Her enthusiasm was contagious! I was immediately drawn to her. At one point, a gentleman beside her was fading off to sleep?and Caroline nudged him awake with her elbow as she clapped and belted out a rousing rendition of ?jingle bells?.

?What?s in your mind and heart is written all over your face.? These are words I had just used with a group of senior leaders in a workshop I was facilitating. ?What do you want people to see written all over your face when they look at you?? It?s so true for all of us, isn?t it? What we are thinking and feeling about our children is written all over our face when they look at us. What we think about our work is written all over our face as our co-workers and customers greet us each day. The question is, what do we want them to see?

Caroline?s joyous, engaging and youthful energy is written all over her face. Her attitude shows in the sparkle in her eye. When she desribes herself as a troublemaker, I beleive she is really saying that she lives life fully. She is not concerned with taking the easy way out?she is fully engaged in every moment of her life. I left that community centre inspired by Caroline. I know that she is the role model of living that I?d like to emulate. I want that sparkle.

Caroline appealed to me also because she reminded me so much of my grandmother. Hazel Latimer was the most optimistic and joyful human being I have ever encountered. She lived to be 98 years old, and in the last 10 years of her life, she suffered from a fractured leg that was very uncomfortable for her. When I called her, and asked the usual ?what?s happening today, grandma??, the first thing she would say is ?it?s a lovely, sunny day today?and I have window right beside my bed so I can look out any time I want?. (Never mind that she was in a hospital room in a desolate northern community with few visitors, and she was likely never going to leave.) Next I would ask her how her leg was feeling??well, it never keeps me up at night; I can always get a good nights? sleep?. ( Never mind that it was uncomfortable and painful all the rest of the time.) My grandma was incapable of focusing on what was wrong; she naturally focused on what was right and what was good ? in every situation in her life. From raising three young boys with no running water and no heat in northern Manitoba, to dealing with the loss of her eldest son (my father) at a very young age?she always focused on what she?did have- not what she did not have. She taught me to be hopeful, grateful and joyful. And, she really lived life! She cheered and jumped when watching hockey with her grandsons, and her retort of ?good for you!? came at each of us when we shared some new exciting venture in our lives. Her voice tone carried the message ?go for it!!?

Who is likely to get into trouble more…Hazel or her great-grandchild, Ali??

In this photo with my then-one year old daughter, Ali, it is difficult to determine who is more likely to get into trouble!I think that is why Caroline was so appealing to me this christmas season. I have realized lately that I have essentially ?lost? my mother to her dementia?however, I am focused on all the blessings that I do have in my life, and one of them is that I can still look into my mom?s warm brown eyes and, from time to time, get a glimpse of ?the real mom?.

I want to be like Caroline and like Hazel. I want to focus on what is good and right about my life and the world around me ? and I want people to see optimism and joy written all over my face when they look at me.

What about you? What do you want written all over your face?

Deri Latimer, B. Mgt., CSP, is an expert in possibilities for people! She is one of the top 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of Certified Speaking Professional, the speaking profession?s measure of excellence in professional platform skill. Deri combines a business degree with experience from business sectors including health care, manufacturing, education, government, mining, transportation, tourism, and professional services. Deri impacts individual and organizational performance by applying the latest research and practice in positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, emotional intelligence, and employee engagement.


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