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Flower Still Water

Appreciate What You Have

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: DeusXFlorida

Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.

— Voltaire

How do we survive adversity?  What is the difference between surviving and thriving?

I believe the difference is in how we tell our story.  And often, the story we tell is the one we inherited.

My mother grew up in the depression.  She was one of those people who remembered the depression as being an awful time.  There were four of them, my grandfather and grandmother, my aunt and Mom.  To hear her tell the story, life was awful; bread lines, no jobs, no food, no money.

In reality, her family didn’t have it so bad.  My grandfather never lost his job.  My grandmother never needed to try to get a job.  And it seemed that all the people in the “adult” generation (parents, aunts, uncles) who wanted jobs, had jobs.  In some cases, they had really good jobs.

But her version was her reality.  Because of how she saw life, she decided that she would only marry a rich man.  And that’s how she married my father.  The problem was that Dad was only rich in dreams and from the very beginning, they were working at cross purposes.  Mom believed she should live like a queen and Dad couldn’t afford one.

For her entire life, my mother saw the world as gray and dark.  She felt that life was just too difficult and despite inheriting a boat load of money, she never was able to enjoy life.  As friends and neighbors grew older and died, Mom went away.  They say that people with a pessimistic view of the world are more apt to develop Alzheimers and Mom did.  We all have difficulties in our lives.  Mom saw the difficulties.  She couldn’t see the blessings.

My Story

So, I grew up with a story of lack.  There is never enough… of anything.  It is an inheritance that is hard to ignore.  But, as the old saying goes, “You can’t give what you don’t have.”  My parents had never been taught how to identify blessings.  They came from homes that were naïve, unworldly, and pessimistic.  It should be no surprise that this is what they could and did pass on.

My life story is not really a story of lack.  Whatever has happened over time, as I look back, I find that there have been many wondrous blessings.  Most of these blessings weren’t monetary.  They were teachers who appeared when I needed them.  Some of them I’ve known personally.  Others, I’ve met through books.

The first that I remember is Sr. Karen.  She was my sophomore year Spanish teacher.  She was a positive, upbeat person who understood the link between working for something and achieving it.  She did her best to teach that to me.  Unfortunately, I was a slow learner and it took me many years before I learned what she had taught.

The second that comes to mind is Mr. Fred Light.  He was there when I needed him.  I had returned to college so that I wouldn’t be an accounting clerk forever.  He taught Marketing 300.  I got marketing.  One day, after class, we were talking about what I’d be doing after graduation.  When I told him that I felt I was best qualified to do accounting – as I’d done that for years.  He strongly informed me that I could do whatever I set my mind to.  He so impressed me with his belief in me, that he changed my life.  Because of him, I went to work in computers.  Because of him, I met most of the people that have been life-long friends.

Once I got into Corporate America, I had many mentors.  I would not have survived without them.  My folks had no experience in any professional positions and they truly didn’t understand the world of business.  My mentors were all willing volunteers.  They were people who taught me how to think, not what to think.  People who added hours to their days so that I could learn how to be good at my job.  People who had learned the hard way and tried to spare me some of that pain.  When I got to be good at my job, it was because I’d had great teachers.

As you can see, my world view is one of a life of blessings.  Through the easy and the hard stuff, I developed my own world view.  Here are some of the things I believe:

  • Life, even when it is difficult, is good.
  • Hard work, combined with learning from your mistakes, can lead to wonderful results.
  • When you have more than others (knowledge, time, money), share.
  • No progress is made without some discomfort.
  • Try, try differently and try differently yet again.
  • Always be a student.  Always be a teacher.
  • Just because you wake up gloomy doesn’t mean you have to stay that way.

Writing Your Story

How do you view life?  As we get older, things can get more difficult.  Not only does everyone mumble, the ink on the page seems to get lighter and printers use smaller type.  And people that we care about disappear.  Without an ability to see the blessings in every single day, we age very quickly.

Take a moment right now.  What blessings have you noticed today?  They are there.  You just need to look for them.

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