Political Scientist Alex Tan said, “Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see Life with a clearer view again.”
(This is an update on a 2012 post near that year’s election…seems like a good time to recycle and update, and relook at it.)
A week ago tonight, after all the nastiness of the campaign, the Presidential Election was held and resolved. Some would say I am a political junkie. I read and watch politics a lot, but don’t worry, this is not a political blog or discussion. What really has been more striking to me this week has been the reactions of some people to the election and to others in the news living with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
I have heard discussions and read posts by folks who seem to feel that the loss of the election was a kind of beginning to the end. One posted comments about the fall of the Roman Empire. Of course others, those who won, celebrated as if the salvation of the world had come. The truth is probably neither extreme will likely prove true. Still, the heights and depths that people experienced from the same event is directly connected to viewpoint and attitude. And it is attitude that interests me.
Sunday night we watched a segment on Sixty Minutes on a beach community, Belle Harbor, where many houses burned after the area was inundated by the recent hurricane. Like others hurt by Sandy many were without power, without heat, and some were homeless. The fortitude and positive attitude showcased was amazing. Despite terrible loss, the community was pulling together, and those interviewed were moving forward, cleaning up, even if they were unsure where the future would lead.
And of course these events come on top of the last several years of economic struggles, during which along with 10% of North Carolina I was unemployed for more than a year. Again it seems like there are very distinct ways that people have reacted to these tough times. I think all of us have defaults set to cup half-full or cup half-empty positions.
Some time ago in the much less deep recession in the 90s I had to lay off some staff due to funding cuts and close cases to families as a result. Thanks to a great exec and a phenomenal staff we came up with answers for our clients and ourselves.
At that time I stumbled across a quote that has stuck with me through subsequent times of trial. It is by Charles Swindoll, and though a little long I think it is worth reading.
“The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
How powerful that one string is! He’s right. The past is done and cannot be changed by regret or second guessing it. The future can be built by choices made in the present but still is unknowable. But today, today is where we live. And we can actually decide how we experience it, even if we are natural half-cup people. We can look at the vagaries of life, the losses, the problems, and choose to be happy anyway. We can live and love and laugh in the now, despite everything.
And even if we only have one string, we can play it for all we’re worth, adding our note to the plinks of others, creating a symphony.
So pluck away my friends! It will make all the difference.