“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” - Maria Robinson
Years ago, embedded in the middle of my hectic child-rearing days, I sought relief from the daily tedium by expressing myself in a journal, stealing a few minutes on occasional nights, after the kids were safely tucked in bed. While cleaning out a bookshelf, I found this forgotten volume and another, titled Shadows Speaking, that I had begun while still a teenager. The latter is mostly poetic prose but the journal is more a revelation about attitude and expectations.
In an entry to my journal dated April 13, 1975, I wrote:
“Attitude is at least fifty percent of circumstances. If you live in a small house but you call the light fixture in the kitchen THE CHANDELIER and you call the alcove in the living room that holds the table and chairs, THE DINING ROOM, you have a positive attitude. Something is bound to become of you. I’m waiting.”
We know the old adage about choosing to see the glass half full or half empty but, in fact, there is a third option, i.e., being grateful for the glass and anything in the glass at all. Gratitude brings with it peace beyond all understanding and gets us through the roughest of times because no matter how stressful life can be, if we choose to be grateful for what we have, regardless how little, we are better equipped to survive chaos and adversity.
In this pass-the-buck era, self-accountability is nearly stamped out and the self defeating no-win attitude of entitlement has taken its place. When everything is always someone else’s fault there can be no true solace. How we see ourselves, what we expect from others, and from life in general, determines whether we are stagnant or growing.
On July 8, 1977, reflecting on a life crisis after the fact I entered:
“I’ve never really experienced such frustration as last summer. I can look back now and be so thankful for so many things. We aren’t straightened out completely yet but at least I’m not sick worrying about how I’ll buy groceries or school supplies or pay the house payment. I can see light ahead whereas last year there was nothing but darkness. I enter this to remind myself that no matter how bad things can get, if you hang onto faith, and believe, time will relieve your pain. I hope I gather a great deal of understanding and patience with all the good and bad experiences that I encounter in my life.”
I couldn’t foresee in July 1977 all the trials ahead for me to overcome in the next ten years but at that moment I exhaled and paused in relief that I had survived a storm. I was just so grateful for the respite that I looked for what I might have learned from the experience. For one thing I learned that peace of mind is founded in spiritual health. And, more importantly, spiritual health is only acquired from conscious effort. We have to look for it.
Ultimately it is our attitude that shapes the moment we are in and thus how the next moment unfolds for us. If we are basically satisfied with whatever we have, we are, at the very least, at peace. If we are never quite satisfied, we are never at peace, not with ourselves, not with those around us and certainly not with God. It is a fact that a grateful heart can recognize good disguised as tribulation, but dissatisfaction is self-focused and begets nothing but more dissatisfaction and thus self-inflicted misery. We can choose either but then when we blame others for our own discontent we make it even worse.
Life is a daily challenge. Sometimes it is life-threatening, but more often than not it is nothing more than dealing with tedium, monotony and thwarted hopes. It is our attitude of gratitude and perseverance by faith that sees us through each test to the next challenge. My life trials of 1976 provided my first real sobering lesson about gratitude and faith as lifelines to inspiration. I also learned that God provides the seeds of inspiration but if we are not fertile ground within, can we ever bloom or bear good fruit?
In 1968, age 21, I entered this in Shadows Speaking:
“When sleep is near and the depth of night’s shadows cover me, they speak in whispering tones, tormenting me with past unchangeable deeds, and challenging me with impossible adventures.”
The only thing we can claim to own in this life is our attitude which can hold us down in regret and anguish or inspire us upward to do the most with the least. One choice leads us to distress the other to peace. We cannot go back and change what we chose yesterday but we can certainly consider how yesterday ended and if we want it to be different we can decide how we want today to end.
(John 14:27) Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled . . .