There are a thousand and one different things that I could point out to you to illustrate how hard my life is right now. How everyday is so difficult and it all just sucks. How I wish I could have her life or be in his shoes right now. How you should pity me and shake your head at my sorry, sorry situation.
But I’m not a victim.
Let me put it in perspective for you.
The past couple of days were… how do I say this… a struggle, to say the least. I’d just found out four nights prior that my boyfriend had recycled the first phase of ranger school and would have to re-do the three weeks of starvation, sleep deprivation, and grueling physical training all over again. He’d already lost over 20lbs in a matter of 18 days. And to add insult to injury, he’d received exactly 3 of my 16 letters I’d written to him due to a clerical error at the post office. So this meant I would continue to have virtually zero contact with him for an additional 9 weeks. Talk about unfortunate.
But that was just the beginning. I had a 10am commitment in NYC on Monday morning and my dog decided it would be the prime time to take a healthy dump on my floor for the first time in weeks just as we were about to head to the car. Monday rush hour had a sense of humor and turned a 2-hour drive into a 3.5-hour stress fest and made me 20 minutes late. I got into an all-out war with my leasing company that left me crying in my car as my shaking hands gripped the steering wheel. (New York, I love you, but you have effectively shaved 5 years off my life by now.)
The next day, it was the post office I butted heads with. How could I not have any mail for the past month? I had bills to pay, shipments that had been supposedly delivered, letters I was expecting – and you’re telling me I have nothing in my mail? I went back there three different times and pressed them to check again. Oh, whoops, they just didn’t look carefully enough. Here’s an entire box of your stuff that we overlooked. Oh yeah, and some of your bills are probably past due by now.
And let’s not forget the fact I moved out to Connecticut for a job that ended up making me miserable, and now I’m out here with no friends except for little ‘ole Ollie.
Where was my emergency chocolate when I needed it? Oh wait, no, I can’t even have any of that right now.
Yet despite all of this, I’m smiling as I type this because it all comes full circle.
You can always, always pick something apart. No matter how good a situation may seem, the pessimist will intentionally go out of her way and distort her world view just to find something to complain about.
This is, again, what Shawn Achor calls the Tetris Effect: the inability to break out of a pattern of thought or behavior. You become proficient at spotting the annoying nuisances and injustices in your environment. And while this can be useful, say, in the workplace, in which individuals may be praised for noticing problems, this is also a curse in many ways.
“…even a paradise can become a hell,” writes Achor.
But on the other side of the coin, you can find the good in any situation.
One story, two different responses.
Yes, I have dealt with a number of irritating news recently. I have put up with a good deal of unnecessary crap. But I refuse to shout to the sky, “Why me?” and instead I’m making the conscientious decision to count my blessings.
I’m grateful that Evan is healthy, uninjured, and he can afford a 90-second phone call and still get me to grin from ear to ear. I’m thankful I didn’t get into a car accident despite the terrible traffic. I’m fortunate to have a companion in Ollie who keeps me company, follows me around everywhere I go, and wants nothing more than to cuddle in my lap all day. I have a home. A roof over my head, a heater to protect me from the unforgiving weather outside. My family, who – despite being halfway around the world – is only a phone call away and will pick up no matter what time I bother them. I’m following my passions and deviating from the norm without an ounce of regret or hesitation, and I’m loving every second of it. I get to do what makes me feel alive everyday and get paid for it. My friends may not be here in Connecticut, but they’re always available to talk to and make me laugh.
Don’t forget the fact that I’m moving to New York City next week. And I just got my dream job.
So, yeah, I guess you could say that I have a whole lot to be grateful for. I go to bed every night counting my lucky stars for everything that I have and even all the things that I don’t. Everyone is fighting their own battle, and I can bet you there are millions of people out there right now who’d rather deal with your problems than their own.
All of this to bring home the fact that yes, I am – you are – blessed in more ways that you realize.
So today, and tomorrow, and the next day and the next – I choose to walk with an attitude of gratitude. I choose to see the positive in every circumstance and make the extra effort to understand that there a million ways my life could be much, much worse.
And for all of that, I am grateful.