I love the game of baseball. Thanks to my late father I have a long history of loving the game. Since moving to the northwest I have been a Seattle Mariner’s fan. Summer nights mean baseball in my house. We discuss the current games, impending trades, our favorite players, and our hopes that this might be the year that we finally make it to the World Series. Baseball is about hope. There is always hope. If not this year, there’s always next year. At the close of the season this year one of the Seattle Mariner’s announcers made an amazing pregame prediction. He stated that a certain player would hit a home run to left field, on a 3 ball, 2 strike count on his second time at the plate. He was absolutely right.
Wouldn’t it be great if life could be that predictable? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could look ahead and make sure decisions based on the certainty of our predictions?
I have a neighbor who is a bright, personable, and optimistic woman who found herself single in midlife. It wasn’t her choice or what she had planned to happen but she made the decision to move forward as best she could. She couldn’t afford to pay someone to paint the exterior of her home this summer so she decided to do the job herself. Day after day as the summer progressed she would paint. Stroke by stroke she made progress. She overcame her fear of climbing ladders and painted the second story. Frankly, I was amazed at her courage. Being afraid of heights myself there was simply no way I would have even tried it. She was on the last section, almost the last stroke, when she pushed too hard on the brush, lost her balance and fell from the second story. She knew immediately that she had broken her leg. She dragged herself into her house to call for an ambulance. As she told me this story she expressed a sense of foolishness. What had seemed like a smart idea had not turned out the way she planned. She thought painting the house would be proof that she was a fully independent woman. Instead she now felt quite silly for her actions. If only she could have predicted this.
Positive psychology teaches that there is power in focusing on strengths rather than pathology, on successes rather than failures. Their research supports that counselors help create a positive focus through explicit comments on strengths, through legitimately reframing weakness as strength, and by decreasing client distress through placing coping strategies within their developmental and historical context. While this has not been a counseling relationship, I told my neighbor that when I walked by her semi-painted house I was encouraged by her.
Every section that she painted was a witness to her resilience. Painting the second story was equal to climbing Mt. Everest in my eyes. Finishing this job showed her strength, even with this unexpected turn of events. I think her house is an example of the hope she has for her future. She’s not quite seeing this situation in this way yet as it is too soon and still too painful. But I see an increasing glimmer of hope as she wheels herself down our street and stops to say hello to each neighbor. My hope is that soon she’ll be able to look at her house through the eyes of pride and accomplishment rather than embarrassment. I have hope that as each day passes and her leg heals, so will her spirit. I can almost predict it will happen for her. Unlike the Mariner’s baseball announcer, I just can’t predict when or where it will happen. I do have hope however that it will.
Patricia Myers is a counselor, an associate professor of counselor education, and doctoral student.