This was a topic suggestion for Monday’s alphabet-sponsored post:
"attitude" I would like to talk to you about how you keep such a good attitude. Is it something you just are or do you work at being positive? And how do you achieve it each day, moment, etc. And do you ever find yourself in the dark place of a bad attitude?
…so, I thought I’d make it into a Hump Day Giveaway post!
I love the movie Out of Africa. The woman Meryl Streep portrays is Karen Blixen, who wrote under the penname Isak Dinesen. This is one of her observations about life in Africa in the early 1900s:
"Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.”
– Isak Dinesen
I couldn’t agree with her more.
That’s not to say it’s always simple to be happy and have a good attitude. Not all of life can be looked at through rose-colored glasses. I will admit I have a natural tendency toward that, which is great. But with the way my life has played out there came a point in time when I made a conscious decision that I wanted to choose happy. I wanted to choose gratitude. I wanted to choose joy. I wanted to spread that around as much as I could.
I sometimes feel like lamenting. I usually choose to move on instead. That isn’t always easy, but it has become second nature over time because life left me with little other choice. And like the quote says, difficult times allowed me to realize that worrying about what can’t be changed is really so very unimportant. In that difficult stuff, the stuff where abilities and things are stripped away, I’ve come to see how much of that I never really needed to begin with. I miss it, I loved it, but it was just window dressing on my life. And now when I get small glimpses of those moments, they are treasured and not taken for granted.
Last Thursday, my parents came down to take me to an appointment with my doctor, Annie. I’ve been having a hard time with my lungs, and while I used to just have problems reacting to the air when I went outside or opened a window, I have now started having reactions to the air on people when they come into my home. After a couple of instances in a row, I couldn’t get my breathing back to normal and needed a chance to talk with her about my best plan of action.
Of course, going to the doctor meant going outside. I knew this was not going to be a good thing for me. I was preparing myself for a rotten couple of weeks, reacting to the air, having to go on steroids, breathing treatments that make me feel awful, burning eyes, ears, throat. This wasn’t going to be fun.
But I was going to go outside. I was going to feel the fresh air and soak in the rays of sunshine that have alluded me for so long. I knew it was going to be awful for my body, but I also knew those fleeting moments could be great for my soul if I just took the time to savor them. Thursday was a gorgeous day here in Iowa. The temps were in the 70s, the sun was shining, a fresh breeze was blowing. I looked out that window all morning, telling myself that this would be worth it. It would be a hard few weeks, but this was my one chance to be outside and it was a perfect day.
As Dad walked with me out the door of my building to the waiting car, the sun went under the clouds.
I laughed, said isn’t that just my luck, and declared that the sun better shine when we got to where we were going. We drove to the lab where I would need to have blood work done, the sun shining on the way. Dad pulled up to the door and the sun hid behind the clouds again… playing its game of hide and seek. As we walked into the building, a woman with her four little girls were walking ahead of us… the girls had an abundance of braids in their hair with at least 30 brightly-colored clips each. The mom excused herself as they were blocking our way and I commented on how lovely their hair looked.
She began to tell me, in the short walk down the hall to the lab, how much she loved doing their hair. She had been in prison and her oldest daughter had to learn how to tend to the little ones, but she was glad to be doing it herself again. They were on their way to the surgical center where her baby was in surgery and we wished each other luck. Mom looked at me as we parted ways with the family to go into the lab and said, “I didn’t know it was possible to learn a whole life story in 15 steps.” I didn’t either, but it was so nice to be out… to engage.
Leaving the lab and showing up at my doctor’s office was the same story… I couldn’t catch the sun if my life depended on it. I was trying to enjoy it out the car window, as I was enjoying the trees and the grass and roads I used to drive down everyday. And even though I was a little concerned that my glaring white skin would sparkle in the sun like the vampires in Twilight, I wanted to feel the sun on my face more than anything else that day.
By the time I got in to see Annie, I wasn’t doing well. My voice was going, my breathing was bad, my pain was increasing by the minute. It had been awhile since I had seen her [I’ve been going mostly to my rheumatologist now] and she hadn’t realized how much my life had changed in the last year. We talked through my prognosis, my medications, my options of what I could take to help with my lungs and the accompanying symptoms. We talked about some heavy topics and laughed about dumb jokes. She hugged me three times and we both knew, after 15 years of treating me, I wouldn’t be coming in to see her again. She would make my medical decisions, but it would be through home nursing now so I won’t have to make an extra trip out of my house again.
As Mom and I walked into the parking lot and dad pulled up with the car, I stood outside the door and decided I wasn’t getting in until the sun peeked out from behind the clouds. Mom and I talked about the perfect temperature and refreshing breeze. We talked for a moment about the things we discussed in Annie’s office, and I told her that no matter how life progresses for me from this point out, it was ok. I was good with it, that God and I are good about it.
Then the sun came out.
And Mom said she thought God was good with me, too.
So, the honest day-to-day stuff you were asking about: my body isn’t doing very well. I'm in pain. I’m not breathing well, my eyes and ears and throat burn. The steroids and breathing treatments bring their own host of issues that leave me feeling unwell. I’m very tired.
But all I can think about is that woman and our brief chat as we walked down the hall. I’m hoping whatever got her into prison is something that is behind her in life, and that those braids in her daughters’ hair will keep her wanting to be home with them. I love that I had a chance encounter with a stranger and engaged in real life for a moment.
I can’t stop thinking about how blessed I am that Annie has taken care of me all these years, treated me with respect and love and will continue to have my best interest at heart, even from a distance.
I can close my eyes and feel the breeze, feel the sun on my face and see the bright orange color that rests on the inside of my eyelids when they are closed and facing the sunshine. I can smile remembering that, for a few fleeting minutes, Mom, Dad and I sat in those patio chairs I’ve been longing to relax in and ate McDonald’s french fries just because we could… the damage was done and we were determined to take our moments.
I have a lot of things that aren’t going right because I left the house on Thursday. Those things will take awhile to leave my system. But I choose the joy. I choose the conversation, the relationships, the breeze and the sunshine.
And especially the french fries. :)
I choose the joy. When something is going badly and I’m dwelling on it, I think instead of something for which I am grateful. I swear to you, it’s as simple as that. You just have to decide today, and again tomorrow. And before you know it, you’ll have an attitude of joy more than any other attitude you have at your disposal.
To win today’s canvas, simply leave a comment before midnight CST and I’ll announce the winner tomorrow! [Only one comment per person, please.]