In August of 2015, I took part in a wonderful live story telling event sponsored by The Good Men Project. My tale, woven from memory and love was called Meet You at the Gate. It was about my many decades journey back and forth between Philly and Ft. Lauderdale, as my parents aged and the distance expanded between my arrival at the airport and their greeting. In preparation for the talk which had to be delivered sans notes, I felt an uncustomary sense of stage fright. I have been a presenter to 40 years, having spoken before audiences of all sizes. This one had maybe 60 people in a restaurant/bar. The reason behind the butterflies in my stomach fear was that it was in NYC, which seemed to me to be ‘the big stage,’ even though the platform itself on which we each stood, was tiny. It wasn’t a particularly glamorous setting, but, for me, once I stood there, evoking laughter, smiles, knowing nods, tears and applause at the end, it was a doorway into an awareness that I have what it takes and earned my chops to keep speaking.
When I got on the bus the next day to head home, I engaged in musings that have shaped my attitude ever since. I asked myself, “How much of your day do you spend finding something to be happy about vs. something to complain about? Are they true problems or inconveniences? There are people with illness, disability, trauma, unemployment, homelessness and huge challenges who see their way clear to seeking and finding joy. It seems like resilience has a lot to do with it. Last night I met people who have bounced back and are resilient thrivers. BLESS THEM!”
Since then, my mental meanderings have intensified. Since then, the election of 2016, with The Former Guy in the Oval Office, ushered in an era of intensified institutionally sanctioned bigotry and violence. Since then, random shootings and police persecution against PoC seem to occur on a daily basis. Since then, the election of 2020 with a decided victory by Joe Biden cascaded into The Big Lie perpetrated by someone who does not take defeat lightly. Since then, vile hatred has taken root in all areas of society. Since then, January 6th and the incitement of an insurrection is going to be forever part of the zeitgeist of our time. Since then, Russia attacked Ukraine. Since then, Roe v. Wade was overturned. Since then, a murderous virus has rampaged through the world. While only one of these things have come to call in my personal life; I contracted COVID at the end of April and thanks to vaccines and Paxlovid, it was a mild case, each of these larger events impacts me as a conscious and conscientious human being. I can be driving down a lovely and lush Bucks County, PA road, listening to NPR and a news story will blast on through, delivering tragic stories. I take a deep breath and ask, “How can I help? From my position of privilege, what can I do to make a difference?” The answer might come in the form of donations, attending rallies and vigils, writing articles, voting and encouraging everyone I know to vote. The answer certainly comes in the form of engaging in acts of kindness.
My work as a therapist puts me in contact with people who have survived horrendous abuse and trauma and who have begun to heal through it. Their resilience inspires me. Some of them, understandably, complain about their lives and yet, most are able to find something to smile about.
I have known people who seemingly have everything-family, friends, a job, a home, money, and complain often about how hard their lives are. I have know people who, on the surface, appear to have little and yet, are grateful for all of it. Attitude is everything.
My challenge to you is to spend an entire day, refraining from complaining and maintaining an attitude of gratitude. See how your life changes for the better.
This post is republished on Medium.
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