Sunny side up

Maybe it's the news. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's the way every gently falling leaf is a grim reminder that eventually I, too, will turn yellow, shrivel, and drop from the sky.1 Or maybe it's the fact that once again I'm sitting here at home alone in a dimly lit room performing like a monkey on the shoulder of this magazine while everyone else gets to go outside and play at the AAHSA and AHCA2 conventions. But no, I'm not bitter,3 so it couldn't be that.

Whatever the reason for my generally dreary worldview, I've always found it difficult to look on the bright side. Some people see a glass half full. Some see it half empty. I see it exploding in my hand, and sending a piercing shard straight for my cornea. Some people are optimists. Some are Canadian.4 I guess that's just the way it is.

At least I have a gift for self-awareness and admit I'm a chronic pessimist. That's something to feel positive about, I guess, and a good start toward healing and recovery.5 And at least I've not fallen so far to the dark side that I don't notice those rare times in life when things work out unexpectedly well. Like what happened yesterday, for instance.

Having successfully accomplished a series of work-related tasks that will probably prove to be ultimately meaningless, I walked to my vehicle balancing a hot beverage,6 my PowerBook,7 a paper sack filled with organic produce,8 and several large books.9 Naturally I failed to plan for the car being locked, so I was forced to shift everything to one arm, brace a knee against the passenger door, and fumble for my keys. Incredibly, not only were they in the first pocket I checked, but also in the one my free hand could reach. And since then, I've found it difficult to believe there isn't a benevolent force at work in the universe.

As a direct result, I've been making more of an effort to notice and be grateful for moments like that. Now, instead of focusing on the pitiful fact that I'm warming up day-old coffee in the microwave, I choose to appreciate that the platter stopped spinning with the mug handle facing me. The old me obsessed about the dangers of living downwind from a nuclear reactor. The new me realizes we're getting a Costco, and soon I'll be able to use my third arm and extra fingers to carry home more of those gigantic muffins.

It's a simple dark side/bright side formula that can easily be applied to any situation in life—even to long-term care. Here's how it works:

Dark side: The names on the business cards you've just been handed by each of a new resident's five sons are followed by the words “Attorney at Law.”

Bright side: Four of them are already working for Michael Vick,10 and the fifth just got a text message from Sen. Larry Craig [R-Idaho].11

Dark side: 12 CNAs just called in sick.

Bright side: Your phones are working.

Dark side: Five minutes before departure, the surveyor hears ice being poured, rushes toward the sound and sees the tip of the scooper touch the rim of the water pitcher.

Bright side: You have to admire that surveyor's keen sense of direction. And at least you have ice, which is more than the polar bears will be able to say in 2050.

Dark side: Your cell phone rings at two in the morning. A med cart has turned up open and empty.

Bright side: That empty med cart will be a great place to store the records relating to your investigation of the empty med cart, as well as snacks for the police.

Dark side: Your facility is cited for deficiencies during recertification.

Bright side: At least you won't have to pay a $2,072 revisit fee for the follow-up inspection. Oh wait…what's that? Seriously? Never mind.

Dark side: One federal surveyor with GERD12 and a bad mood could destroy your professional life and the financial future of your family and facility with a single series of punitive key strokes.

Bright side: That's nothing compared to what will happen if you upset your controller.

Dark side: You just got tagged on F-329.

Bright side: You just won Bingo with an O-66.13

You get the idea. With practice, you'll become an unrelenting optimist, the kind of person who can see the silver lining in any storm cloud, someone able to be upbeat about the fact that you're eating alone every day because you're so annoyingly positive all the time.

It won't be easy at first. Nothing worthwhile ever is. But soon the whole world will seem better and brighter, and eventually you'll realize that those aren't just fire ants. They're solutions to your staffing shortage.

Gary Tetz is the former editor of and, and writes from Walla Walla, Washington.

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  1. I also expect to eventually be jumped on by thoughtless children, thrown in a pile, and carted away by the city.
  2. These commonly used acronyms refer to the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging and the American Health Care Association.
  3. Seriously, I'm not bitter. I already have an AHCA tote bag and an AAHSA chocolate mouse pad. And that mob of adoring fans shrieking and clutching at me as I walk from booth to booth on the trade show floor would do nothing but alienate 52 square hectares of goal-oriented long-term care vendors.
  4. Proof that I'm Canadian: I'm pale, taciturn, and know how to tape a hockey stick. And don't expect me to make eye contact while I say that.
  5. My therapist also recommends I wear sunglasses 60 min-utes past dusk each day so it will seem like an extra hour of life-affirming daylight when I take them off.
  6. 24 oz. Americano, no room for cream.
  7. You know what they say about an Apple a day….
  8. Organic produce that I will eventually throw away because I can't eat that much organic produce. But for now, it's trembling in the crisper drawer, fearfully awaiting its demise.
  9. Yes, I have joined the History Book Club. Again. I just can't stay mad at them.
  10. Animal lover known for delivering signals as quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons.
  11. U.S. senator said to have delivered signals in an airport restroom.
  12. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. Also, my middle name.
  13. And no one sunk your Battleship.

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