Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – October 24, 2004
Looking For What Is Right
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – October 24, 2004 – I bought a book last year by Debbie Ford – an American “life” coach. It’s titled The Right Questions. I read it at the time but then put it aside and didn’t really think that much about it. I was cleaning out a box in my office the other day when I came across it. I leafed through a few pages and it seemed a good idea to re-read it, so I put it on my bedside table.
Last night I read the chapter entitled, “Am I Looking For What’s Right or Am I Looking For What’s Wrong?” I thought about this simple question as I drifted off to sleep. When I woke up this morning, I looked out the window to find a dull, grey morning with a light drizzle of rain. I pulled the covers over my head and snoozed for another half hour – all thoughts about what is right about my life forgotten. Finally I heard Augie emerging from his bed in the den. I threw back the covers and got up. Ziggy had crumpled up the mat in the bathroom and was sitting on top of it. He looked up at me – yawned and stretched – ready for the morning. I fed The Alphabet Boys and then had breakfast.
I had a shower, dressed, then got ready to meet a client and present an offer at noon. As I was driving up Logan Avenue to The Danforth, I thought about how I’d rather be doing anything else but working. Then the words from the book popped into my head and I realized how easily I concentrate on what is wrong. Yes, it would have been nice to have been meeting with friends for Sunday brunch or an afternoon movie – but I had an obligation to my client and that came first.
Instead of thinking of what was wrong on this grey Sunday morning, I started to concentrate on what was right with my life. The answers came fast and furious. I’m healthy. I have a good career. I have loyal clients (mostly). I have a beautiful home and a great car. I have wonderful, supportive friends. I am financially sound. I’ve just finished a good breakfast and I have food in my fridge. I do most things that I want to do and can afford to buy most things that I want or need. I can change most of the things about my life that I don’t like if I make the decision to do so. I have choices and free will. Is there anything “wrong” with this picture?
As I was having this mini-revelation I pulled up to a red light and stopped . I glanced over to the sidewalk. An elderly man was pushing an older woman in a wheelchair. She was slumped over to one side of the chair and was hanging onto the arm rests with both hands. Her withered legs didn’t reach the foot pedals below. She was wearing a soft cloth hat that had slipped down over one eye and her glasses were askew on her face. The man wasn’t having an easy time with the chair. I had no idea what their life stories were, but in watching them for that brief moment, I was profoundly thankful for all that is right in my world.
I’m not sure why it’s so easy to focus on what is wrong in life. I think it may simply be a learned, negative response that eventually becomes habitual. I think about all that I don’t have (that I feel I want but don’t need) instead of celebrating all that I do have. I drove the rest of the way to my meeting in a far more upbeat frame of mind. I got there a little early and my thoughts drifted back to the woman in the wheelchair.
She must be completely dependent on other people. She obviously can’t walk. Was that her husband? Where does she live? How does she get in and out of her home – her bed – where does she watch television? Can she prepare her own meals? What about grocery shopping? If the elderly man isn’t her husband – does she live alone? Perhaps in a nursing home? Is it difficult for her to have a bath or get dressed?
I can do all these things whenever I want to. I’m independent and capable. I don’t need other people to look after me. I have my own home. I can eat when I want to, go to bed whenever I choose, rent a movie, read a book, have a long hot bath, make a soothing cup of tea, call a friend or sit alone and be quiet. I can make different “choices” every day, vary my routine and change my mind without inconveniencing anyone else. There is so much that is “right” with my life that it is “dizzying”. I think it’s a learned skill – finding what’s right and opting to change what’s wrong. The things over which I have no control will always be there to annoy and mystify – and that’s just part of life.
If you’re anything like me you can probably come up with a thousand reasons to “moan”. Just for an hour – try to find the good instead of the bad. Then make it three hours and then a day. Finally a week will go by when you recognize all that is wonderful in your life. In the morning be thankful that you woke up and at night be grateful that you have a pillow on which to rest your head. I’m definitely a late bloomer in life, as bit by bit I understand what it’s all about. I used to bemoan that fact, but now I’m happy that I get it at all. Many people go from cradle to grave without learning a thing. It’s never too late to change – are you up for it?