"The greatest discovery of my lifetime is that
by changing my attitude, I can change my life."
MARY KAY ASH
I have been sorting through cupboards and old files this past week. Found all manner of kitchenware and items I haven't used in ages, which are now neatly packed in boxes headed to the thrift store when the weather warms up. I've also been culling my bourgeoning file of blog drafts—over 200, if you want to know. Some drafts were easy to delete, their 'best before' date long expired. But others, the ones where my finger hesitates over the delete key because there are nuggets worth keeping, these cling like Saran Wrap, unwilling to be discarded, gently urging me to do something with them, like maybe you should finish and post them, girlie.
In one of those clingy drafts, I once made notes for myself—a little list of aha moments that, when I looked back, had been life changers for me. Like Mary Kay Ash in the quote above, I'd come to see that when I changed my attitudes, made different choices, my life changed for the better, into something softer and more graceful. Today I offer you this once languishing draft, now spruced up into a new post, and I hope that you will find it has been worth saving.
'I choose happy'
I shall never forgot the day when... as a young woman, I sat enraptured listening to Miss America 1980, Cheryl Prewitt-Salem, as she spoke at a women's conference. She was our keynote speaker that weekend, and she shared in one session about how we as women have the ability to choose to be happy—to be happy any time, any place, and in any situation. Yes, even on PMS days and when things didn't turn out as we wanted.
The idea startled me. I went home empowered. Until that point I'd basically allowed the moods and their swings to run things in my life. I didn't know I could take charge of how I felt on any given day, that melancholy was not boss of me, that I didn't have to wait for a mood to pass before I felt happier. As I established this new habit, it was a struggle at first, but whenever I remembered I could choose how I felt, I always chose happy. It became the pattern of my life.
I shall never forget the day when... I stood mindlessly waiting my turn in the cafeteria lunch line at work, when it suddenly came to me that indulging in a Blue Monday—a day that was depressing or especially trying because we had to return to work and routine after a nice weekend—was a complete waste of energy. I didn't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that buying into that socially accepted gloom around the proverbial water cooler, I was wasting one seventh of my precious life.
My mom once shared with me that she used to loved Mondays when she was raising her family. After the busy weekend, she'd send her kids off to school and her husband off to work, and she looked forward to the day ahead where she could just get busy with her own work. Ha ! It really is all a matter of perspective.
'Freedom to choose'
I shall never forget the day when... I discovered these mind altering words in Viktor E. Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."
Frankl endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps during World War II. Through his own suffering and watching hundreds of people being defiled, demoralized, and tortured, he came to see that, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
Those words blew my mind. They changed my life. If this man, in those circumstances, could still recognize and hold onto that last of the human freedoms—the ability to choose one's own attitude—surely I could, in my own little world, make such a choice too. How many times since that long ago day have I remembered the tiny space in which I have freedom to decide how I shall respond.
'Gratitude changes everything'
I shall never forget the day when... I first learned how to keep a gratitude journal from Sarah Ban Breathnach. In her book Simple Abundance, which I happily discovered back in the 1990s, Sarah shared how she started a daily notebook and wrote down each evening five things she was grateful about that day. Taken with the idea of keeping such a record, I found a pretty notebook and tuned in to the world around me, much the way an artist might observe her world, so I could have something interesting to write down.
Everything around me took on a whole new meaning. I began to pay closer attention to things I had been taking for granted. I began to see how rich I truly was. Although I never kept specific gratitude journals after that season, the exercise forever changed my life. I am thankful to Sarah for introducing me to this grace of walking in gratitude.
'Self pity is no party'
I shall never forget the day when... as a young woman, I'd watch my friends and siblings getting married, happy for them, but coming home to my single girl's bedroom feeling sad and sorry for myself. I'd mope around. Around that time I had been working on my attitudes. I used to imagine what heaven must be like in all its beauty, happiness, and perfection. It hit me one day. Heaven would not be a place where people had pity parties. Well, if it wasn't in heaven, I did not want any part of it in my life here on earth. (Based on the prayer of Jesus, 'thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven')
Self pity had been a buddy of mine. She used to come and sob with me, keep me company, but she wasn't helpful at all. As someone said, when you feel sorry for yourself, you exaggerate your misfortune, you experience a sense of hopelessness and victimhood. The day I slammed the door of my heart on it, declaring I would never host a pity party again, changed my life. Self-pity is addictive, and I remember it trying to come back in those early days, I had to be vigilant, to keep saying no. Eventually, with Divine help from within, I was free. I think I'm bearing truth when I say, I've never entertained a pity party since. If it ever showed its face, I'd just say no and it'd disappear. It's now been more than thirty years.
I shall never forget the day when... my sister shared a little story she had read about Julia Child's mother. Julia described her mom as someone who lived her life with vitality and good humour. Oh, how I liked that, those words resonated, for that's how I wished to live my own life—with that sense of aliveness to whatever life brought and to face it with a cheerful, amiable disposition.
It was a habit I had to learn.
There was a time years ago when I used to remind myself at bedtime that I wanted to wake up with vitality and good humour. It was during a dark season. The words must have hovered in the air overnight, for they were waiting when I woke up—reminding me not to get up on the wrong side of the bed. To this day, I bring out those words on occasion, especially when I find myself heading to a gloomier frame of mind. I still feel their strength in my soul as I ready myself for a new day.
* * *
"Last weekend a young man asked me how I remain so positive.
'It seems all the negativity in the world doesn't affect you,' he said.
I had no more than a minute with the young man so I offered this:
It's all about where you choose to put your attention,
and I choose to be happy."
It's not about ignoring the hard, ugly stuff going on around us; it's just that in order for me to get on with my day with any semblance of grace and with a sense of beauty—for that is what most inspires me to get out of bed in the mornings—I must be selective about where I keep my attention. And like Jason Mraz, I choose to be happy. I choose to cast all my cares upon the Lord of the Universe and then get on with my day.
* * *
On that note, I hope you enjoyed.
Wishing you a pleasant weekend.
Photos Credits: All photos from Pixabay.com