Last week I wrote about our ability to choose how we approach life and the problems it throws our way. In the event you haven’t read it, here is the link, Lights, Action, Drama!!!!!!!!!!! . Many readers did not agree with my assessment and challenged the idea of being able to make such choices. I was told that it is not always possible to view a situation and choose how to respond. A family member actually claimed it was not possible based on how the issue was presented and our past experiences. Their point was that we don’t have control with regard to how we approach and respond to crisis and everyday problems. The belief here is that it just is what it is and getting upset is a natural and uncontrollable part of the process.
I have to call “Bullshit!” here folks. If we feel that there is no ability to control and modify our responses based on how we feel and what our past experiences are, well just shoot me now and dump me into a pine box. Life has no chance to improve over where we stand today. Why should we try to improve anything? Are you kidding me! What a crock of crap! This view point simply tells me that these folks have no interest in changing for the better and we should all accept them for the emotional messes they are.
It’s fine with me if people don’t want to look into themselves and gain control and understanding about how they interact with those in their life, but don’t tell me it’s not possible. It can be difficult, it can be overwhelming, and it can be tedious, but it certainly is not impossible. So, if you don’t want to look inside and create a space for others to join in conversation about interesting and profound topics, fine! Just gain the understanding that YOU don’t want to bring your best to the dialogue. Let the rest of us open up and see what we can achieve via the approach and context.
Proof in the Pudding
All around me I see examples of people who choose to make the difference by selecting a path that allows them to remove preconception and barriers. I find it interesting for people with absolute reasons to complain and nothing to complain about. In fact, many times these same people not only are complaint free, they bring with them a joy that appears to be boundless.
For instance, a friend of mind named Wendy has a non-curable spinal condition. When I first met her, I was in love with her vibrant personality, out-going, good nature and her sense of humor. I truly look forward to each time I get to see her. She is never boring and always a great conversationalist. Her stories captivate me. She keeps me laughing from the time we meet until we depart. She smiles and the world smiles back. In my mind, it is impossible not to be attracted to such a beautiful spirit.
But look at it from another perspective. One day I thought to myself, this woman who delights everyone around her, has every reason to be angry and bitter. She could be mean to everyone she meets and we would allow her to do so because of her condition. People could easily agree that having such a physical burden rightfully allows her to have anger and distain. But here she is without a complaint and draws love to her like a moth to a flame. Her life force is bright enough to light a city block. I realized this is the choice she makes for herself and those around her. She can get away with the other behavior, but she chooses not.
Despite her physical limitations, my friend Wendy moves through life with all the grace and dignity anyone could ever ask for and she inspires me to be a better person. Wendy, if you’re reading this, YOU ROCK!
Another example is my partner here at RLA Advisors, Jay Simcic. At the time of this article we have been living through record setting high temperatures of more than 100 degrees. During this time, Jay lost his air conditioning for 8 days. With the Independence Day Holiday there was no means to get parts faster for the repairs and pending relief. Because of work and other responsibilities, Jay and his family were unable to leave the house for more comfortable surroundings. They were forced to endure the heat in a home without AC for each of the eight days. They had friends and family offer their homes, but again life did not allow for the relocation.
As the ordeal came to an end, Jay shared with me how grateful he was. I asked him to explain. He stated that he was grateful to have friends who were willing to offer their homes, He was grateful for neighbors who called to check in every day. He was grateful to have the money to pay for the repairs. His perspective was one I had not considered, but given all things he chose to take a positive view of the bounty he has been blessed with, rather than the misery he had endured. What a great choice! And imagine the impression this choice will have on his young daughter. The impact will be priceless.
And last, after a heated discussion with my girl friend, I was able to share a profound gratitude with her. As we settled into bed that night, I explained that I was grateful that we had such a discussion. She was puzzled, so I went on to say that I was grateful that we were working on our relationship and brave enough to have the talk. I was grateful that we were talking at all and face to face. When I served over seas in the military, I and many others were unable to have face-to-face conversations with their loved ones. I was grateful to have her, there with me in bed. I know people today who have lost their spouses, parents and children, who would give any price to have them back for one more conversation. Any conversation, an argument or otherwise. So in contrast, I am pleased to choose to be grateful.
You Make It Seem So Easy…
My friends often ask if it is as easy as my writing indicate. For this I apologize. To think that behavior modification is easy is understating it at best. However, this too is a choice. You see, I was quick to anger in my younger days and those choices many times lead to disaster. I found wasted effort in making poor relationship choices with those close friends and family who were simply caught in the cross fire of misguided emotions. Hurt feelings were more difficult to repair than to protect. Regaining my integrity after an emotional out burst was not always easy. So now I make different choices and so can you.
I love the feeling of appreciation when a good conversation takes the place of what could have been a bad one. I like getting the heart of the emotion rather than bearing the searing heat of it without real benefit. I love being able to finally HEAR those around me and I do it by choice. It is nothing simple or difficult it just is there for each of us to take advantage of. Choice is one of the greatest possibilities we have in life. So choose wisely my friends.
Is it easy? You choose…
Love with no shame and ask with no fear.