Thanksgiving is over. The meal is done, whether your turkey was so good it’s a new tradition or had to be thrown out as not fit for consumption! Your team won or lost. The extended family has gone home or will soon (accompanied by tears or relief!) Generally we are encouraged to be thankful for the year’s blessings during this one holiday which hasn’t yet been turned into a gifting event. So I’m asking myself, how do I take more than just photos of Thanksgiving into the next 12 months?
We all know people who are perennially upbeat and positive and full of gratitude for all that’s good and right in the world. I have a friend who’s husband was a business leader in the community, involved in a helping profession, a doting dad, and a member of Rotary. A couple years ago she got a call that he’d been arrested and in a matter of months, he began serving a 5-year sentence for embezzlement. She hadn’t had a clue. In a heartbeat, her world turned completely upside-down. And yet, she remains one of the most positive, happy, excited-to-be-doing-life people you could ever meet.
I asked her once how she managed to be so positive. Her response? “Being miserable about it certainly doesn’t make it any better. So I choose happy.”
I want to challenge you–and me–to choose happy. How? By checking the impulse to “horrible-ize.” Yes, whatever is going on in life has a downside. But the positive aspects are there too if we just stop and notice them. In the middle of a divorce? Be thankful for the team you’ve assembled to help you do so with the least amount of misery possible. Not so happy with your team at the moment? Be grateful that even though the marriage didn’t endure, you created some wonderful memories and incredible children that made it worth it. Dealing with the challenges of helping your parent through the indignities that can accompany the elder years? Be thankful for siblings with whom you can talk and figure out the best way to help. Siblings more a hindrance than a help? Be grateful there aren’t more of them! Received a cancer diagnosis? What better time in our history when the rate of cancer death has fallen each year for the last 10 years.1 Look around you: we are surrounded by cancer survivors and it is no longer an instant death sentence.
Every gratitude opportunity can be horrible-ized if we run over the positive aspects like a train and notice, talk about, and obsess over the negative aspects. They are both there. But chances are your team members are doing their best to assist you and your family in achieving an agreement that meets all of your needs. Pretty good odds that your siblings are also scared about what’s happening with mom. The friend whose husband is in prison is proud of the responsibility her husband has taken for the wrong he committed and his commitment to righting that wrong. She’s chosen to dwell on that rather than the wrong itself. In other words, she’s avoided “horrible-izing” her situation and is grateful for what’s good.
Wishing us all wisdom and hearts full of gratitude,
1 CBS Sunday Morning commentary, 11-25-12