Generally I am described as an upbeat person. Yet, in the midst of the trials of everyday life including career concerns, child rearing, annoying illnesses and marriage squabbles, I can become hyper-focused on what is NOT working well in my life.
Earlier in the week, through a brief Twitter conversation, I had someone tell me they would love to be 40 again and full of energy. Implying that, at 40, I was young and I was lucky. I laughed and said that I was a huge fan of perspective.
Day 10 – November 10th – I am mindfully grateful for the power of perspective in my life.
In November of 2011, my grandmother died suddenly after a massive hemorrhagic stroke. Holding her hand as she died was my first foray as an adult into the death and dying of a loved one process. In May of 2012, a dear friend was rushed to the hospital after a hemorrhagic stroke. At the time, she was 48 years old and there seemed little to be grateful for when more tests showed the stroke was precipitated by an enormous tumor in her brain. She was given weeks to live, if she recovered from the stroke.* In January of 2013, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer – the final “bad thing” to come in the world of tragedy triads because we all know that“bad things always come in threes.”
So just over five months ago, on May 30th, I was woefully unprepared for my own diagnosis of breast cancer.
My baseline level of perspective had changed with the death of my grandmother and the diagnoses of my friend and mother and “at least I don’t have cancer” was a common mental meme for me. So when I suddenly did have cancer, I was left flailing for the proper perspective.
But with time comes long hours of obsessing.
And with long hours of obsessive thinking, comes perspective. Or at least it has in my case.
- Stuck in a ridiculously long line? At least I’m not fearfully waiting in the doctor’s office for my pathology results.
- Stopped in a traffic jam due to a five-car pileup? At least my family is not in one of those five cars.
- Circular argument with a preteen who thinks s/he knows everything? At least I have two healthy children (and the fact they can form and articulate logical arguments is kind of a bonus too)!
- Spouse throwing a tantrum (this never happens in my house but I thought perhaps some people could relate)? At least I have someone who has stood by me for nearly 20 years, through thick and thin and now in sickness and in health.
Perspective is about acknowledging that, yes, it could always be better, but it could always be worse. And today I’m grateful for the upside of the outlook.
NOTE: If you'd like to spend the month in a similar state of gratitude, you can play along with me here in the comments section or check out KindSpring.org to sign up for their 21-day Challenge that began on November 7th.
* My friend pulled through the stroke and began palliative radiation to prevent another. After a couple of missed diagnoses, was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer and has been thriving for the past 17 months. Whenever I get mired in the negative and need a perspective reboot (aka a mental kick in the ass), I look to her and her family. They are not simply surviving, they are setting an example of how to make the most of each day!