Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Teaching my family the Facts of Life

ChellBell and I took some time last week to volunteer at a local retirement center as part of our service for National Charity League.  They asked us to spend time in Memory Care and ironically asked us to play trivia games with the residents.  The trivia was not going very well until we moved to the section of the game where the residents had to complete phrases.

"A stitch in time saves..."  NINE!  They all knew how to finish that phrase -- even the residents who had been completely silent up to that point shouted out the answer.
"Cleanliness is next to..." GODLINESS!
"Absence makes the heart grow..." FONDER!
"Glass half empty or glass half..." FULL!

I have always been a bit stumped by that last one -- I guess I'm a "glass half full" girl (especially if there is champagne in that glass) and don't understand why anyone would focus on part of the glass being empty, when clearly there is something in there.

Lucky me married a man who has the tendency to be glass-half-empty, which for several years brought an interesting balance to our home.  Then we had our first child, and while she got my hair and skin coloring, she got my husband's outlook on the world.  That means that I am now essentially a hopeless optimist living with 2 very pessimistic people.  It's like 1 + -2, and I am outnumbered.  I am convinced that whatever comes, rain or shine, we will all be fine and happy.  They worry about what could be and fret over what is not.

And it Drives.Me.Crazy.

So the other night, I took advantage of our rare family dinner time to address what I consider to be the Facts of Life and try to talk some pos-i-tiv-i-ty into the way they see their glasses.

Fact of Life Number 1: Life happens regardless of whether you enjoy the journey or not.  Work and school and homework and broccoli are going to be a part of your life.  You can choose to like it or choose to hate it, but it will still be there.  It makes things better for everyone when you decide to like it.

Fact of Life Number 2: Your outlook on life is completely your choice.  You are the only person who can change how you view the world.  You may think that if so-and-so was nicer, or if your boss was a better leader, if there were fewer bills to pay, if Algebra wasn't so hard, or if Texas summers would stop being so hot, you would be a happier person.  But true lasting happiness is not based on other people doing things or things changing around you.  It comes from inside, despite the circumstances around you.

Fact of Life Number 3: Whether you are a positive or negative person, life is hard.  Even being a positive person, I have walked through some hard things.  That's all relative, of course.  There are children in Cambodia being sold, people in the Congo drinking filthy water, and people in downtown Dallas who have nowhere to sleep tonight.  But relative to the life I live, there have been things in my life that have been hard to experience, and they've made me sad.  No one is expected to act like everything is a meadow full of flowers, because the truth is that life has hard parts.  Sometimes they are parts that pass quickly and somewhat painlessly, and sometimes they last a long time.  But just because life is hard doesn't mean that life is bad.

Fact of Life Number 4: There is always something to be grateful for, so don't overlook the opportunity to identify and appreciate those things.  You may have a really awful boss, but aren't you glad you get to go to work every day?  You may not like what I put on your plate for dinner, but aren't you glad you aren't going hungry tonight?  Your feet ache because you've danced all week, but aren't you glad you have gotten to do what you love so much that you're sore from it? Stop and focus on the good things.  You will always be able to find something.  

Fact of Life Number 5: God wants us to be happy.  A lot of people think that if God wants us to be happy, He shouldn't allow anything bad to happen, and question Him when things don't go the way we think they should.  But God wants us to find authentic joy inside us that anchors us and gets us through the hard parts of life as well as the easy parts.  If everything went our way, our happiness and joy would be shallow -- like a tree that has never experienced a storm.  Every morning when we get out of bed, instead of dreading the day ahead, we should think, "I have been given another day - how can I make the most of it?" 

We have been given a lot --  life, breath, family, love, food, shelter, and occasionally a glass half full of champagne. Love these things, focus on these things, and be grateful every day for these things.

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