We’re all on a continuous learning and growing path if we’re open to it. I’ve always pretty much known that. But this past year – a roller coaster ride for me in so many ways – I’ve experienced it up-close and personal.
2019 was a year of unpredictable occurrences, to say the least. And I started to realize that life isn’t just about controlling how you react to unexpected, sad, tragic, triumphant, whatever kinds of experiences, it’s about how you choose to shape and tell your own story in the midst of these circumstances.
They talk about it in books and movies like The Secret and The Art of Racing in the Rain – the things you focus on are the things you bring to your life, center stage. “Your car goes where your eyes go.”
So why do we so often concentrate on the bad – and bring more of that to our lives?
Maybe it’s about getting sympathy, empathy, compassion. Maybe it’s just that we want, and need, to feel sad sometimes to work through difficult times, then move on when we’re ready.
That’s all good and important.
But it’s also helpful, sometimes, to refocus our attention to the positive things in our lives. What we’re grateful for and what we want to experience more of. I realize I’m not the first one to say it, but I’m really feeling it more and more as I live, learn and grow. And I wanted to share my perspective as we close out this year and decade.
The fact is, you can, and do, write your own story basically every minute, every day. You select the characters you want to include or exclude. And, while you may not be able to control everything that happens to you, you decide which plots and themes to emphasize or minimize.
The point hit home for me the other day as I was going about some of my early morning workday rituals and having a rough start to the day. I was sad about my dad’s sudden failing health, stressed and bothered about work issues, trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to feed diabetic cat Lucy enough so I could give her her insulin, cleaning up after aging cat William’s barf and poop, neither in appropriate places like the litter box. All at about 6:30 a.m., knowing I’d probably face traffic on the road and be late to work.
I started thinking ahead about how I’d relay these stories to my friends and coworkers that day. Maybe I’d spend the day reliving them. Or walking around with my head down, feeling blue … when something struck me. Maybe I wasn’t really having that bad a day after all. And, in fact, I realized I’m truly thankful for so many things that are so much bigger and better than some of the more minor inconveniences I was encountering (dad’s problems aside).
The change came when I took a look around my family room, while slowing and quietly feeding a purring pussycat on my lap on a comfy leather chair (the foot stool of which we call Lucy’s ‘brushing station’). I saw years of great memories all around me from awesome family trips and experiences – photographs, framed artwork, little figures on shelves, tons of books, my CD collection, my piano.
The pain-in-the-neck smaller stories were still there – so were my dad’s challenges which, I’m not going to lie, are a source of sadness and concern right now.
But even there, I thought about something I truly believe: That one of the best things you can do for loved ones, besides being there for them, is to live your own life to your fullest. Especially when they can’t.
Pour kindness and spread positive energy wherever you can. Do the things you’re still able to do, and share those stories with people in need to help brighten their days.
I know dad/’Grampy Marvin’ would want that. And I know the ongoing fulfillment Jim and I feel when our kids do great things and tell us all about it. That’s all we could ever want from them and it enhances our lives immeasurably.
So here, in a nutshell, is a brief recap of my 2019 story. Upon a lot of reflection, I realized I could label my personal year either ‘tragic’ or ‘epic’. I choose epic.
And, to keep things light, I’ve chosen to compare it to an all-time favorite Jerry Seinfeld sitcom episode you may be familiar with called ‘Even Steven’. It’s where Jerry realizes every bad thing in his life has a good counterpart – ‘one friend is up, another is down; a dollar lost, a dollar found …’
Here’s my version:
A job lost, a job found
I can’t help it, but I’m still really proud (and, frankly, amazed) that after losing a job of nearly three decades, I was able to land a great position at a new company just 13 days after the other’s end date. Super proud of my awesome friend, Lois, too, who’s on the same exact path.
A cat sick (and trip missed), a cat healed
Lucy’s sudden diabetes recurrence had us all really terrified. But besides the fact that I had to forsake a trip down to Austin, TX, to see Dan, the story has a happy ending so far, with Lucy back to her old cat self. Thank you God of Pets!
Hardships faced, friendships formed
I find that the kindest people, from all areas of your life, come out in droves with exactly the emotional boosts you need when you need them most – when loved ones are ill, when you’re beyond stressed and insecure, when challenging things happen unexpectedly. Really hard times can forge some really strong bonds with others, and that will never cease to comfort, inspire and sustain me.
As always, thanks for reading my blogs – it means the world to me! Looking so forward to sharing more with you all next year. In the meantime …
Happy, healthy holidays everyone! Stay positive!