A font type. Finely curled wood shavings used especially for packing fragile items. The moniker of a ship on Star Trek. The motto of the state of New York adopted in 1778 (ironic when we consider the events of September 11, 2001).
Onward and upward.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Walt Whitman both celebrated the notion in verse, in poems aptly titled “Excelsior”, in the 1800’s. Modern audiences have come to admire Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”, as an anthem for the withered and broken that encourages audiences to solider on despite adversity:
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
And how can we forget Matthew Quick’s novel, Silver Linings Playbook, and the subsequent 2012 movie of the same appellation written and directed by David O. Russell, starring the hunky Bradley Cooper and the beautiful and talented Jennifer Lawrence, that chronicles the life of Cooper’s character, Pat Solitano, fresh from the confines of a mental hospital where he has been receiving treatment for bi-polar disorder?
Released into his parents’ custody, Pat grapples with the loss of his spouse, job, and friendships, and sets out to win back his wife, who has been unfaithful. In the interim he meets recently widowed Tiffany Maxwell, depicted by Lawrence, who offers to help him woo his wife back if he will be her partner in a dance competition.
By the end of the story, in which Pat fails to make amends with his wife, the two have helped each other heal and have become each other’s break in the clouds. Life did not turn out as they desired, yet in the midst of losing their respective spouses, they looked for the best in the situation, a glimmer of hope, and found each other. Found their silver lining.
Let’s face it: life can be hard and, often, ruthless. A good deal of time our life’s ambitions, dreams, and hopes don’t turn out as planned. Sometimes there are sudden twists and turns in life that make us want to curl up in a ball and, well, throw in the towel. So many folks I know are like fragile cargo that could use the buffering of those finely curled wood shavings, the excelsior.
Today I stand in awe of the warriors in my life who have sought their silver linings in the midst of extreme devastation. To my mother, who has remained positive and a constant source of light for so many, cancer suffers and otherwise, during her five-year battle with lung cancer, I salute you! To my high school friend who recently lost her 25 year-old son to a heroin overdose and has somehow risen from the deep, dark caverns and solidity of depression to share his story in hopes a saving another, I am in awe of you! To my student, a senior, who lost both of his biological parents by the time he reached eighth grade and, recently, his foster mother, to cancer, who comes to school EACH AND EVERY DAY with a smile on his face, your resilience is inspiring!
To all of you, no matter your battle: search for your silver lining! Don’t give up! Rise, again and again!
Onward and upward.
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