Monday, February 24, 2014

Does tragedy beget happiness?

It was 10:30 pm, and I was racing down the highway, hoping to get to the airport before my husband's plane did. That's when I heard it.

"Grateful people are happy people," boomed a heavily accented voice. The sound lilted across the airwaves and into my car.

Is that all it takes? Just being grateful?

I thought about this statement in the context of my life:

  • This past October, Cleveland had a wet, heavy snow that weighed so heavily on the tired trees in the backyard that one let go of its massive branch. It fell on my car with such force that it crushed the hood. I wasn't upset. In fact, I felt lucky, grateful, I wasn't in the car when the branch fell.
  • When doctors told me my 3-month-old son would be blind in one eye, I was devastated, but I came to terms with the diagnosis, mostly by leaning on the idea that he could have been far more handicapped. I began to feel grateful and happy that his condition wasn't as severe as it might have been: it would not compromise his ability to fully function in society.
  • Last year, when I sliced off my finger tip with a mandolin and presented the tiny piece of flesh to the ER doc, he held in a laugh, telling me I was lucky I hadn't sliced off a bigger chunk. I left the hospital with a throbbing finger wrapped in bandages, but somehow I felt happy: I hadn't sliced off a nail or required stitches.
And so it becomes clear: I tend to feel happy after bad things happen. Crazy, right?

But this is good news. The resiliency humans live their lives with is truly remarkable. The vast majority of us, if we truly think about it, are quite good at making lemonade out of the many lemons life throws at us. And, it is often when we are handed a lemon that are lives come into focus, and we see that lemonade is within reach. Perhaps it was there all the time, waiting to be recognized.

That's pretty cool, and it makes me believe we can all be happy, as long as we take the time to reflect and be grateful.

I guess there really is something to the idea of a "Gratitude Journal." Do you keep one?

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