It's often easy to look at my life and be filled with petty grievance, annoyance or irritation. My neighbor’s kids are shouting in the pool. A client cancels last minute. I have a cavity.
But then I have to remember how good things really are.
Today was a glorious sunny day and as I parked my car near my office, my eye spotted a man delicately and gently coaxing his wife – who was clearly paralyzed – into a wheelchair. I watched them do this exquisite dance.
He led her shoulders while stepping back and one of her feet dragged forward. They did this two-step fluidly, again and again, until she was safely in the chair. I nearly burst out crying at that display of absolute devotion despite tragedy.
And I’m annoyed because someone beeped at me earlier?
An hour later, I was online, researching and found an article that caught my attention. It was about embracing change. I was struck by how well it was written, noted the author’s name and decided to Google her.
Only to discover that she died in 2012 at the age of 56 from metastasized breast cancer. I read her obituary in the New York Times and an article she wrote for O Magazine about living with cancer, which, I soon discovered, she’d had for 25 years.
And I feel sorry for myself because my hip hurts?
For many of us, it’s as simple as shifting our perspective and remembering what we have RIGHT NOW.
A client I worked with this past fall had a chronic illness. For several years she was in so much pain that it required nearly Herculean effort for her to get out of bed and walk her dogs. She went into great detail about how she often slept in her clothes because it was too difficult and painful to change in the mornings. My heart went out to her.
I simply could not imagine being in that level of pain all the time. She went on to tell me that now, every morning, she wakes up grateful that she can move, that her body listens to her and doesn’t ache.
Is the glass half full or half empty?
I find myself thinking about Morrie Schwartz. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 1994 and became an immediate celebrity when he was interviewed by Ted Koppel for Nightline. He was facing his own mortality and spoke honestly about it.
He said, “when all this started, I asked myself, ‘Am I going to withdraw from the world, like most people do, or am I going to live?’ I decided I’m going to live – or at least try to live – the way I want, with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure. There are some mornings when I cry and cry and mourn for myself. Some mornings, I’m so angry and bitter. But it doesn’t last too long. Then I get up and say, ‘I want to live…’ So far, I’ve been able to do it. Will I be able to continue? I don’t know. But I’m betting on myself that I will.”
These stories of the heroes among us, speak to me.
They remind me why I’m here. They shift my perspective back to how I want to see the world. And then I remember too, how I want to live my life- with humility, gratitude, kindness and love- everyday.
I know I’m human so sometimes I forget.
That’s why I say a prayer of thanks for the man I saw earlier in the parking lot, for the brave woman honestly sharing about her own physical challenges and for men and women who speak openly about illness and death.
Each of them reminds me of my own mortality, and inspires me to make the most of this auspicious day that I will never have again. This gift of the present. And it reminds me to shift my perspective back to appreciation and gratitude for all that I do have right now.