Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 13, 2013

You’ve got to love that guy, Anonymous, don’t you? What a clever fellow he was! If you Google “sayings by anonymous” there’re quite a few, really. If you’re a fan of irony, as I am, you’ll love this one, attributed to him: write a wise saying and your name will live forever.

Mr. Ashbury and I got quite a chuckle out of that one.

My personal favorite saying/quote/maxim of all time from anonymous is one I heard about twenty years ago and have repeated to myself periodically ever since: life is 5% what happens to me and 95% how I deal with it.

I guess this quote is my favorite because I am a great believer in personal responsibility—in standing up and taking the reins of my life in my own hands. For those who may be reading this essay who aren’t, I give you the following testimonial. I am 58 years old and I have often been wrong, or made mistakes. I’ve said, “I’m sorry, I was wrong,” and, “I’m sorry, I screwed up,” and even, “I have no excuse. I just messed up.” And guess what? It didn’t kill me, or hurt me (well except in my pride but I generally need a good swift kick there every once in a while anyway). I suffered no ill effects from saying, basically, “it’s my fault, I did it.”

I’ve discovered that honesty and apologies cost me nothing whatsoever, and even have the side benefits of not only making me feel better inside, but garnering me some invaluable goodwill from others.

Unfortunately, owning up and making amends is a dying art, apparently.

Can we please get back to that place where everyone’s taking responsibility for themselves and their actions was the norm? Can we get back to using common sense, and to helping others just because we can and because it’s the right thing to do? And can we please put a lid on our bitching about how hard everything is, and open instead the box marked “Innovations and solutions found here”?

Can we accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, just as that old song suggested?

Life is hard. I happen to believe it is meant to be hard. That’s how we grow, that’s how we learn the lessons we’re meant to learn. There is work to be done, and in the process, we’re going to get tired, we’re going to ache, and we’re going to suffer frustration.

Those are the real facts of life.

But we don’t need to let those harsher aspects of living define us. We certainly don’t need to let them limit our possibilities.

I loved my mother. She wasn’t at all what you’d call a nurturing kind of woman. She had difficulty expressing her emotions—I can count on the fingers of both hands the number of times she hugged me. She put the lion’s share of her energy into her job—she was a registered nurse—but she did that because her husband—our father—had died and she felt keenly her responsibility to provide for us. She was a widow who, for the rest of her time on earth, before she joined my father—just 13 years—mourned her husband deeply and unceasingly.

She had many very fine qualities. I learned from those. I also learned from the one or two aspects of her personality that weren’t quite so stellar.

My mother suffered from severe osteoarthritis. Hers was so bad in her knees that her legs became somewhat deformed. In the last couple of years of her life—she died very young, just two months shy of her 57th birthday—she underwent surgery to correct this condition.

Prior to that, she was in a tremendous amount of pain, and I can recall vividly listening to her moaning and/or crying in the evening. I would be upstairs in my bed, and she downstairs at the kitchen table. I can recall her saying, many times, “this sure isn’t much of a life”.

I understood it wasn’t just the physical pain that made her say things like that. To be a teenager bearing witness to this broke my heart. I wished, with all that was in me, that I could have helped her in some way. I even remember praying and asking God to take her pain from her and give it to me. Of course, I never really expected to be in a similar position, suffering from the same affliction and dealing with unremitting pain, so many years later.

But I am, and I understand her and what she went through a bit better now, but my attitude is different. Because I’ve discovered that focusing on the pain doesn’t relieve it; it exacerbates it. And I’ve discovered, too, that I could say to myself, “this isn’t much of a life”. Or I can choose not to. Of course, there are moments, especially if I’m tired, when my resolve falters, and it all seems a bit too much to take. But those are only moments, and I keep them to myself.

It’s okay to sit on the pity pot for a few minutes every once in a while, as long as I flush when I am done.

Because my life really is 5 per cent what happens to me, and 95 per cent how I choose to deal with it. And I choose, whenever anyone asks me how I am to say, “I’m terrific!”

And I mean it, too.



  1. I so appreciate this one. I have a heart condition and if I let it, it could bury me in self-pity. So much I used to do, I can't do any more. However, I decided to instead enjoy doing what I still can and not focus on the negative. I just do what I love to do just in smaller increments now. I lost my Mom in December and I'm still dealing with that so it must have been horrible losing yours at such a young age. You are such a testiment to what a strong woman should be. Love ya!!!!

    1. Rose, first please forgive this tardy response. I've fallen behind on my e-mail. Bless you for your choice. It really is easy to become negative and self-pitying and that is something I fight all the time.

      My condolences to you, too, for the loss of your mother. Thanks for taking the time to drop me a note!