Upbeat: adjective, to maintain good cheer—despite circumstances.
How to stay upbeat when life implodes?
Start by looking back.
Since 1950, upbeat has been used as an adjective, meaning lighthearted. Buoyant. Exuberant.
First used in 1869, however, the word upbeat was a noun, a synonym for anacrucis.
Originally, anacrucis—or upbeat—signified a musical pickup, or lead-in: the note(s) preceding a song’s downbeat. This definition still applies. Think of the happy in “Happy Birthday ” or the I in my song “I Love You, Lord.”
Anacrucis also refers to the initial, unstressed syllables before a poem’s meter kicks in.
Unstressed? Now that gets my attention.
Clockwise, consider the tiniest sliver of a given day. Like that fleeting hush as the lights come up and the maestro lifts the baton.
Or the silent, head-bowing pause after someone says, “Let’s pray.”
This too is anacrucis.
Do all common hours contain lulls, perhaps half-hidden?
I ask a question. You wait a beat, thinking, then reply.
A scent ignites memory. Smiling, beguiled, we enter the wordless realm of wonder.
Schedules, conversations, hibernations, weather—lulls appear all over the place.
that “Hold still!” marvel when the Monarch alights on your wrist
our spellbound gaze as the skipped stone arcs across water
a flaw in the window pane creating 6 parachutes around sunset
your aborted sneeze, in church, the repressed laughter
an itch at the DMV—just as they take my picture
the winning Hail Mary replay, in Slo-Mo
the midwife catching the baby
the wait between coin toss and call
the tap on my shoulder before I turn
“Can you ever forgive me?” and the wait for an answer
Fear and trembling
the hypodermic needle’s descent
the deep breath before you sign the lease
the jury foreman rising to read the verdict
the widow or Gold Star Mother receiving the folded flag
that silent dread before the first earth strikes the casket
the final note of “Taps” fading away, at dusk
the French waiter raising the serving dome
the pin-drop, fractional pause before “I do”
Perhaps being upbeat means noticing lulls? Then savoring each tiny, unsung transition?
We tune into a stranger’s hesitation. A loved one’s wince. A child’s gob-smacked awe.
A glimpse of love in action holds us rapt, sublimely unstressed—for the moment—which may help us go the distance. Amid the daily rage and greed, floods and fires, violence and grief, I so often need a soul reboot.
What if, at any time, we can raise an imaginary baton?
Perhaps we’ll generate personal stillness, expectancy, reverence.
Looking to stay upbeat, we offer a silent prayer for help, or an unspoken Amen.
A regaining of personal balance, or the crucial tipping point.
Thanksgiving for everyday goodness, or the once-in-a-blue-moon moment.
What recent, upbeat experience caught you off guard?
And . . .
Just for the lull of it: write 6 sentences using words from the list below.
These words, in addition to “upbeat,” were first used in the year 1869:
- fault line
- hash house
- ugly duckling