“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have to enough, and more.” – Melody Beattie
Today was a very different day for me. As I am writing this post I am sitting in the window seat of airplane heading back home to California from New Orleans, where I have just dropped my oldest daughter off for college. For the last five days I have I spent some of the most memorable times I have ever had with my oldest kid. Although I can no longer call her kid, she of course will always be my baby no matter what age she is, but as much as I want to share that experience with the world, this post really is not about her this time.
What I do find myself contemplating on in this moment is being grateful for what I have and what I understand as a man. There were many obstacles in these past few days that tried my patience, stability and courage. Essentially a test of my will I suppose.
When I think of the word grateful, my thoughts fall in line with a definition I found on dictionary.com, which is – “Having a due sense of benefits received; kindly disposed toward one from whom a favor has been received.”
So I got to thinking as I normally do and thought about the things that come to try us and test our resolve and since I am a firm believer that how we respond when someone pisses us off, deeply hurts us or takes any action that does not necessarily support our well-being is a direct measurement of how much we have grown emotionally and spiritually (or not), I wanted to take the time to share my thoughts and experiences and hopefully challenge you to see yourself and continue on in your own journey of growth and maturity.
And before anyone thinks that this is a post to cast judgement, bring shame or incite anger, please know that it is not. We are all at different places in our walks and why we are at those specific places is based on our own personal stories and circumstances. I respect that and in no way will I compare my story to yours, but I will say that as citizens of the world we have a responsibility to ourselves, our families and our communities to grow, and hopefully age like fine wine over the time we have on earth and leave a legacy that promotes the truest and best parts of us.
I also feel it is equally important from time to time to ask ourselves provocative and deeply intimate questions that challenge us to take inventory of where we actually are in our lives when it comes to our courage, mental and emotional balance, stability, resolve, faith, anger management, peace of mind, along with a host of other things that can be tested. Some of the questions that come to mind are the following:
1. How did you respond the last time you were provoked or irritated?
2. Do you remain angry or hold grudges for long periods of time with people?
3. Do you lose you temper or cool easily when things do not go your way or as planned?
4. Do you find that you avoid people or situations that make you uncomfortable, versus facing why this may be happening?
5. Would you consider yourself a reliable person? Why or why not?
These questions are just a snapshot of what we can ask ourselves when considering our own growth, but remember to not make them simple or easy to answer. They should stir some emotion and cause you to dig deep or reflect a little more than normal.
So there I was all excited about dropping my daughter off to school. We had a good time the night before, awoke on time and excited to arrive for the orientation that was to go for the next three days. There were designated times for each parent to arrive with their student based on our last names, but for some reason it seemed that we all (every parent and freshmen student) arrived at the same time. All 750 students coming in at various intersections and back streets to the campus. To add fuel to this fire, it was raining profusely, which made the traffic congestion even worse.
And when I say rain, I mean like real rain. Being from California, I have learned that we define rain a bit differently here. Like it will rain, but it stops. We will see the sun and be good. In the south, not so much. When it rains, it just keeps raining, like all day and all night, and the next day, and maybe even the next week. That was truly an experience, but I do have a new appreciation for dry days in the south.
So back to my story. As we were driving down the street to enter the campus, or better yet as the car was slowly moving along at approximately sixty-feet per hour on this road, we came upon a group of students cheering in the rain in celebration of our arrival. It was an amazing sight and immediately brightened my spirits. I then saw us getting closer to our destination, until I realized the police officer was directing us another way. Like the long way around. “No”, I said in my head with a shout! But I remembered those students singing and dancing in the rain to welcome us. I was grateful.
To make a long story short, we arrived at the campus at approximately 8:45am and I finally parked the car around 12:00 noon and begin the trek to my daughter’s dorm, in the drenching rain mind you. Did I mention the rain?
Once inside there were more lines with ticket counters and rooms full of frustrated and tired parents trying to fiscally clear their students. I ran into a kind gentleman that I met the night before in my hotel and he gave me his ticket, which placed me about fifty steps ahead of where I was. Again I was grateful.
So, what were my lessons with all this and how do they apply to this post? Well at the end of the day, I realize that we are all humans, which makes us subject to frailty. That said, there was absolutely nothing I could have done to change the outcome of long traffic lines, down pouring rain and 750 students attempting to get moved into their dorms and become fiscally cleared all at the same time, but I did have full control on how I responded to it.
That was indeed the key lesson for me. My response to what I was facing proved to be the main factor for me keeping a good attitude while enduring stress and frustration. I have read in many articles that people or things cannot make us angry. Sure we can become frustrated by certain situations, but when we choose to harbor those feelings and allow them to fester and dictate our next steps, this becomes more about us versus someone doing something to us.
So how are you dealing with things when you feel slighted or irritated? As parents say to their little kids, “Are you using your words or throwing temper tantrums?” Take an inventory and ask yourself some hard questions or seek a counselor to help you identify and work through the issues that hinder you from living a more peaceful life.
Add the word gratefulness to your vocabulary and begin to exercise it in your personal life. I am not telling you it will change a situation, but it can change you. Put it to the test.