It goes without saying that every day should be Thanksgiving, but this Thursday (Nov. 24) is set aside as a national holiday to give all of us a day or two away from work and routine to reflect and be grateful for all the good in our lives.
So I’ve been thinking…
In a nutshell, life is all about attitude. A good attitude can – and usually does – mean a good life. And vice versa, of course. Those of us who are thankful for the good and focus on the good, tend to find more good in everything around us. Those who focus on the negative will find more of that – it all depends on what you’re looking for.
This is ridiculously simplistic of course. Life, being the unpredictable, complicated roller coaster it is, can and often does slap us with horrible things – events and experiences that mark us for life. But as I have said before (it has become my mantra since my daughter died in 2008): We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond.
Exercising this control is often quite a chore.
Naturally, it is far easier to “go with the flow,” to not take control (and therefore responsibility) for our responses and our attitude. When life slaps us, it is easier by far to slap back, to slide into that negative abyss and stay there. It takes conscious effort and struggle to climb out of that black hole and attempt to turn things to the positive. It can take years of work – perhaps a lifetime – to “control how we respond” to ugly events in our lives. But it is a life’s work that is full of reward and well worth the struggle.
Taking personal control and responsibility of your attitude is always hard work. The easy way, of course, is to blame the circumstances or other people (or both). Blame anyone but yourself for your bad attitude and you are not responsible for it. It is “their fault.” Blame is the first and easiest tool to reach for when escaping personal responsibility. Blame points the finger outside of yourself, and so you relinquish control to these outside forces. It is fill-in-the-blank’s fault you are angry, hurt, etc.…
If the blame aspect is removed from the equation, everything changes. If fault no longer matters, then control comes back home, where it belongs.
This is not to say that when life kicks us in the teeth, we do not bleed. Of course, all the pain that comes with loss and tragedy has to be dealt with and lived through. We cannot control what happens to us and must deal with those things as they happen. But we can control how we respond. We can avoid the easy way of blame and negativity and work towards finding the good – even if it seems there is very little to find.
Bad things happen – often to good people. I have three “adopted” daughters, all of whom have had very bad things happen to them during their short lives. I too have seen my share of the ugly side of life, and so I approach each of these girls with some understanding and hopefully assistance to help them “control how they respond.”
“But it’s not easy!” I hear. “I can’t help it!”
No, it is quite difficult, and yes you can help it. But it is work, kiddo, make no mistake.
Which brings me back to Thanksgiving.
I am ever so thankful for the people in my life. I am thankful for the guidance that has brought me permanently into the lives of three lovely young women. I am thankful for the daily smiles and healing they bring me, and I hope I give back as much as I get. I am thankful for my home, my community, my health, and so much more. I am thankful for the hard work that has brought me to where I am – a person with a (generally) good attitude and a (mostly) positive outlook. After all, nobody’s perfect.
But people do tend to find what they’re looking for.