Justin Ricklefs


Take Some Silver Linings Out of the Playbook

We’re still weeks away from Thanksgiving, but if you’re like our house, there’s already been about a dozen Christmas shows that have been played on Netflix.

It’s ridiculous really.

If you need any member from our family between now and December 25th, they’ll probably be watching Christmas movies.

I typically have a great memory, recalling random details from conversations, events, you name it.

But one thing I’ve always sucked at is remembering movies.

I can’t name actors or actresses, I don’t remember endings and I can’t recall movie quotes (with the exception of 90’s comedy gold like Ace Ventura, Tommy Boy and Dumb & Dumber).

We had dinner with some great friends last night, and over the course of a couple hours (and maybe a couple drinks), we ended up talking about Bradley Cooper for a long time. And his beautiful hair.

Besides The Hangover, the only movie I can really remember him playing in is Silver Linings Playbook.

I couldn’t tell you the plot line if you offered me a million bucks, but I remember I really liked it.

In general, I love silver linings.

They’ve bailed me out of some really tough situations.

Finding the good in the bad. Finding the positive in the negative. When one door slams shut in my face, a much better door opens. Keeping the glass half full when it’s at least half empty. Making proverbial lemonade out of lemons, even rotten ones.

Now that I’ve done some work with the Enneagram, people like me who are #7s, orchestrate most of their lives with silver linings.

The easy explanation (and lazy one I believed for decades) is that our types are incredibly optimistic. It’s not that it’s untrue, it’s just that it’s not the complete story.

Optimism is a gift for sure, but at times it’s also a crutch.

It’s taken me a couple tough years to learn this about myself (and I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface) but many, many times my optimism is a strategy I use to not feel pain.

Because people like me HATE feeling pain. I mean, no one loves being in pain but 7’s run from it like the plague.

As our counselor told me once, “Hey Justin, you don’t suffer very well….”

I didn’t have a comeback, he was right.

Suffering of any kind feels like torture to a guy like me who’d rather be happy, find adventure and make good memories.

So yeah, I don’t suffer very well. And until these past couple years, at the first sign of suffering, I dug deep into the silver lining playbook to find something to make the pain stay where it belonged.

Far away from me.

So when bodies break down, relationships get stuck, friends get divorced, family members die, or even when I just have a really sh***y day, I’m learning there’s not always a silver lining. Sometimes stuff just sucks and is painful.

And that’s ok. Even though it’s not fun.

I have a long way to go before my instant reflex isn’t the game of silver linings, but it seems much more human to feel pain instead of running like the wind from it.

Of course, I’d still rather feel happy feelings than sad ones, but it’s not going to kill me to be in pain.

In fact, it’s actually better for me. It’s changing me. It’s allowing me to find deeper depths and also a stronger connection to others in their pain.

So if we have a conversation, and I start reaching deep to spin some tough news into a positive story, remind me that I’m taking the all-time silver lining play out of the playbook.

It used to serve me well, but it’s not necessary anymore.

I’ll save the healthy silver linings I find when they’re not an excuse for running from pain.

Like telling myself that Bradley Cooper’s hair really isn’t that much nicer than mine.

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