TLDR: Take a moment each day to be grateful for what is good in your life
i haven’t blogged for a while, and i have a little time, so today, let’s talk about gratitude.
We live in a world where we get the facts. We can look up the nutritional value of a thing, find out what rocks are made of (i’ll save you the trouble of googling – rock. Rocks are made of rock), see the traffic on a video cam before we leave for work and all sorts of fact-y things.
These things don’t make life good. They don’t actually make it bad either, but we’ll get to that. A fact, in itself, is neither good nor bad. It is amoral.
Good or bad is the value judgement that we attach to it. And we are free to choose.
Case in point #1:
Two men in their fifties go to the same office on the tenth floor of a twenty story building, each of them to pick up a cheque for a million dollars.
One man collects his cheque, takes an elevator down, meets his wife in the lobby and takes her out to celebrate.
The other man gets in an elevator, takes it to the roof and jumps off the building.
Why is that? Think about it; i’ll wait.
Hm hm hmmmmm….
Okay, so, the first guy is a blue collar worker, has worked all his life to care for his family and he won the lottery. A million bucks! He’s blissful. Taking the wife out, gonna pay off the mortgage, all of the things.
The second guy is a blue blood, fallen from Wall Street, and his million dollars is the last dregs of a multi-billion dollar family fortune.
You see? Same facts, different circumstances, different attitudes, different value judgements.
“But wait!” you cry. “They each have good reasons for how they feel!”
Of course they do. The feeling is valid in both cases.
But feeling isn’t thinking
Lots of people think that feelings are an ending, but they are in actuality a beginning. We start with the initial POW! reaction to a situation, such as seeing an accident. Then we let the reaction flow through us, we process it, and we think.
It is the thinking that leads to action, not the emotion.
The accident scenario is the safest one i can think of, so i’ll stick with it. Much better than, say, came home and found your spouse cheating or you got caught robbing a bank or whatever, so…
Case In Point #2:
A bunch of people are standing on a sidewalk and a truck runs over a cyclist. The cyclist is pinned, another car crashed into the truck, someone spilled a latte — it’s pandemonium! Everyone on the sidewalk gasps, some scream.
Fast forward ten seconds. What is everyone doing?
One woman starts to cry and runs away. A young couple get their phones out and start filming, holding their phones in trembling hands. One man blinks a few times, shakes himself and runs into the fray, shouting orders, going to the cyclist. A woman dials 911, stays on the line and walks calmly toward the accident giving the operator details.
They all are experiencing the same situation. Each one has placed a different value on it. Some had the initial emotional reaction and didn’t process it, such as the woman who ran away — she experienced fight or flight, and fled without thinking. Later, she will tell her friends, and probably her therapist, about this terrible thing that happened to her. (Yes, the cyclist pinned under the truck is the one who had something happen to her. The irony is thick with this one.)
The couple filming responded to their fear with what they consider the standard pop culture response — get it recorded. Wouldn’t occur to them to offer help or call for help. The knee jerk reaction is as far as they go.
The man who ran in to help? This is the guy who went, “WTF?!” and had a moment. Then he moved through the feeling, thought, “Oh, that’s WTF” and rationally chose an action.
The woman who called 911 is clearly the coolest cucumber. She reacted emotionally, then reached for her phone, setting aside her own trauma in the perspective that another was in much worse distress. Calling emergency, giving them the life-saving information they needed to mobilize the troops, plus staying cool enough to walk into the fray and still communicate clearly — well, she’s a rock star, as much as the man who jumped in. They both may choose to go to pieces later. But for now, they are the cyclist’s greatest assets.
The message is clear here: We Choose.
A situation is a thing we can’t control. Our initial emotional response to it is something we can’t control.
The value judgement we place on it is something we absolutely can control.
i got a phone call a few weeks ago that someone dear to me was in a terrible accident and had only hours to live. The next phone call, a couple of hours later, was that he would live, but he would never walk again.
Because of that first call, the miracle of his life is so precious to me that being unable to walk is secondary. i experienced a couple of hours in a world where he would leave us forever, and to have him here on Earth, even if he can’t walk, causes me
i am grateful that this man may never walk again because he lived long enough to ride a wheelchair. FYI, he probably will walk. His physiotherapy is excellent, and he can even stand for a few seconds if he holds onto something.
But you don’t have to wait for something to happen to be grateful. You can decide to take a moment each day and think about what joys you have in your life, what great people, that beautiful tree you passed on your way to work, even that excellent bowl of cereal you consumed for breakfast.
We can all make different choices, ones based in the best of us, or ones drawn from the worst of us. The man who took his wife out to celebrate the million bucks could have not told her about the ticket and skipped town. The man who leaped off the building could have taken his humiliation and turned it into humility, moving into the next chapter of his life seeing it as a great adventure and an opportunity to rebuild. my nephew, that strong, wonderful boy, could sink into despair about his terrible predicament. He has not done that, FYI — he is upbeat, loving to his family and determined to get well.
The couple filming the accident could have called 911 on their phones instead of gawking. The woman who did call 911 could have said, “I’m late for work. Screw this, the idiot cyclist was in the wrong lane.”
And you can choose, too. You can choose to focus on everything you don’t have, every wrong that’s been done to you, every crappy job and broken shoelace.
Or you can look around you and find the grace, find the love. Find the community. Put down your drink or your weed and find the genuine joy that surrounds us all the time.
Today, i am grateful for you. Every last one of you. xo