Sunday Thoughts (03/22/15) – Grateful Selfishness

An old man turned ninety-eight
He won the lottery and died the next day
Alanis Morrissette, “Ironic”

So, we realize having the blessing mindset of “seeing the glass half full” is the way to go. But easier said than done, right?

It’s much easier to fall into the familiar territory of “why me?”

Certainly old habits die hard.

So, what habits do we need to adopt?

Listening to Michael Hyatt’s podcast where he interviews Michele Cushatt, author of Undone, they talked about how the inspiration came from a chapter of her life where everything seemed to be settled into a comfortable, predictable pattern.

Then everything got turned upside down. It began with news just before one Thanksgiving that she had cancer on her tongue (speaking was one of the key ways she made her living). Her plans for enjoying a quiet empty nest life after raising her own kids are suddenly canceled by adopting not just one child, but three.

What struck me was how she simply realized that you can resist and curse your luck, accept things and treat it as fate, or be open to the blessing and unexpected miracle.

Recently, I watched the film version of The Fault in Our Stars based on the book by John Green. It’s a very realistic look at young cancer patients who have a star-crossed love that resonates as a modern Romeo and Juliet.

But these young, intelligent adults Gus and Hazel are neither delusional about their situation, nor are they willing to just give up on life. Moments like sitting in support groups where the leader sings on about “the heart of Jesus” highlight this.

The real tragedy comes when they discover their feelings for each other, only to find that their time will be cut short by Gus’ relapse. Rather than curse this loss, Hazel tells him, “You gave me a forever within the numbered days and I’m grateful.”

“Forever within the Numbered Days – Grateful” Fault in Our Stars John Green

I recalled Cushatt saying the same thing as one of the main “aha” moments she experienced. She realized “gratitude in many ways is my lifeline, because when you’re in a position where you’ve lost so much, where every time you turn around you’re losing something else, it can be very easy to focus on all that’s gone.”

“..The only way to push through grief really is to eventually come to some place where you see what you still have left. So I can either focus on all that I’ve lost or start to identify and recognize what I still have.”

Debbie Ford talks about how when we live within our stories, we are small and fail to see what is possible. But when we live outside and provide some distance, we see things as they are – blessing or curse is a choice.

To be honest right now I’ve struggled with some big setbacks. Even friends and loved ones have simply said why don’t you just get a job. There have been plenty of moments that I want to just take what I can get and accept it.

Yet, something keeps me going. I know that I’m here for a purpose more than filling out budget reports or making sure widgets are delivered on time.

It’s not because I think I’m too good for these things. It’s just this sense that life has been preparing me all along for a purpose beyond these tasks.

And to be honest I’ve fought this and wondered why can’t I just live a pedestrian 9 to 5 life going to the movies on weekends and sipping frappucinos with the family.

That’s the life that I had envisioned for myself. But life is what happens while you make plans, as I often say. We’re not always presented with what we want, but life constantly delivers what we need to grow.

So, in this moment of struggling financially without a car it’s up to me to be grateful that I have two hands that can type, two eyes that can read, two ears that can listen to inspiring music, and a voice to share this message that I seem meant to deliver.

It would be much easier to write this, if I was looking back at my life – “connecting the dots..” – after a prosperous career and successful achievements. The challenge is to live in this moment with gratitude – here. Now.

In the midst of the mess that was dealing with cancer recovery and raising three small children, Cushatt connects to this moment where one of the kids colors the white walls of their house to an article about the age of impressionism, where artists discovered how to create art best viewed from a little bit of distance.

She says she “realized, ‘That’s what I need to do. I’m standing too close to my canvas. I have to step back, and then I’m going to see it differently.’”

Dr. Wayne Dyer talks about how he “was deeply honored to be on a panel with Viktor Frankl in 1978 in Vienna, Austria.. [who] shared with me and the audience his assertion that it’s the ability to see beauty in all of life’s circumstances that gives our lives meaning.  In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he describes a bowl of filthy water with a fish head floating in it, given to him by his Nazi captors in a concentration camp during WWII.  He trained himself to see beauty in this meal, rather than focus on the horror of it.”

Some can only make themselves feel better by knowing that others are worse off. I find comfort in knowing that we’re each facing life’s call in our own way.

Most of all gratitude is a state of allowing – if we are focused on what we lack or what isn’t working, there can’t be room for anything else. We simply can’t see past that and be open to what is possible.

“Sometimes you have to make room for what’s unexpected because there’s a miracle there,” said Michele Cushatt.

Maybe in the end that’s the ultimate irony – that only by being grateful do we meet our selfish desires and letting the beauty hidden in each moment reveal itself to us.