RecentlyI  flew across the country to celebrate my birthday with my children. But everything almost fell apart the first day: my grandson tested positive for Covid. Although he lives in a college dorm, not at home, my daughter-in-law had been with him the previous day and now had to quarantine as a precaution. My son said I was welcome to stay if I wanted to, but most of the events planned would have to be cancelled.

My usual reaction to a problem is to sink into a pit of depression or become hysterical. But this time something within me shifted. I said, “Let me think about this.”

I thought for maybe two minutes. Then I used a word I’d never even thought of before: “Let’s see what we can salvage.

So I stayed and what remained was surprising. Since meetings with friends were out, my son and I spent more time alone together than we had in years. We shared many things, including our mutual love of books, in a closeness not easily gained with an adult child. My daughter-in-law – who fortunately tested negative the entire week, but prudently kept masked –spent more sharing time with me than possible when she’s busy with her job. Though I was unable to see my grandson, I had the relief of knowing he was recovering.

I came home with many thoughts about the whole experience. So many times I’ve done post-mortems after dates with friends as though a disappointing evening or movie or party had been a total zero, rather than reaping any moments that had been rewarding. As a culinary example, for years whenever I’ve hosted a dinner I invariably forget to serve something, usually the salad. Then for days afterward I berate myself for my “failure” as a host, despite the compliments about the rest of the dinner.T

This all-or-nothing attitude has also been true with my writing. If one section of the novel or short story isn’t going well, my next stop is: “I can’t write.” But suppose I were to salvage (that word again ) the few pages or phrases that work well and use them in something else? Not a zero then.

The dictionary says salvage means “rescue from loss.” I think that can be extended to mean rescuing ourselves from negativity. It’s all too easy to lose faith in a better future these Pandemic days. But we can learn to see ourselves in a more hopeful way, not as helpless victims of a capricious fate, but – in Elizabeth Bennett’s brave words – capable of “adjusting our sails when the winds change.” And to believe that sometimes those winds may bring unexpected treasure.

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