Like many people, I have a tendency to spend more time thinking about what's wrong than what's right, what's missing rather than what is there, what I don't have instead of what I do.
My mother was a world-class worrier and a hopeless pessimist. If you asked her why, she would tell you that it was because she lost her mother at 18, a loss she never recovered from. This was something I didn't fully understand until 50 years afterward, driving along a highway in Florida, she finally told me that her relationship with her mother was not quite what she portrayed for so many years -- her mother was not quite the saint she invoked every time we had a fight. Or maybe it wasn't really that but just genetics, the Nana genes that I am not the only one to have inherited.
So I start out as a half-empty sort of person, even when the glass is far fuller than that.
I have friends who were born with the happy gene, who are by their nature sunny, who resolutely believe there is a pony in every pile of you-know-what. If you're one of those people, you can stop reading now.
But if you're like me, holiday times start out bittersweet, full of memories of lost family and friends, of dreams that will never be fulfilled, of time passing faster every year. It's easy to succumb and hard to resist. It's easy to look at friends my age, whose parents still grace the table, whose marriages have grown stronger over the years, whose children all live close by. It's easy to look at young parents who are in those golden years, even if they think of themselves as sleep deprived and overwhelmed. It's easy to covet what you don't have.
And it's tempting to try to fight those instincts by focusing on all the people who are worse off, the friends who don't have jobs or families (even far away); those who are fighting illness and not just worrying about the possibility; those dealing with children who are in trouble, bills they can't pay, homes they could lose. But it doesn't really work -- there are starving children in India, but I don't think knowing that has ever really brought comfort to an unhappy child right here.
So this is what I try to remember. Choose life. Choose to forgive. Choose to accept, to neither covet nor compare. Choose to see how much is in the glass, not how much isn't.
I write to myself sometimes. This is one of those times. I write to challenge myself. This is one of those times. I know how hard it is to break the habits of our youth, how difficult it is to fight genetics and upbringing and experience, how challenging it is to change. But I also know that the alternative can be far worse. I have spent too many sad holidays feeling angry and bitter, not blessed and grateful.
If you're still reading, if this is your challenge as well as mine, then know that you are not alone. Know that there are others who look lucky to you but who, in truth, are fighting their own demons, just as you are. I am truly blessed. I know that in my head or at least in the rational half of it.
I also know that I have a fight on my hands. But I am determined to win it, and I believe that I -- we, all of us who fight these battles -- have it in us to win.
Let us be grateful for our blessings and be kind and loving, not only to those we love, but also to ourselves. Let us see the glass as half full, at least. For us, that might be harder, but it is still a choice. Choose well.
© 2012, Creators Syndicate Inc.