See Things Differently: Appreciating How Lucky We Are

So, Memorial Day was yesterday, with all of its emphasis on acknowledging and honoring the sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands of US service members and their families. As I was reflecting upon this and feeling guilty that I have not made a similar contribution, I began thinking about what a charmed life I lead. Despite the bumps in the road and the flaws I struggle to overcome, I am a very lucky person. The fact that I know this and am grateful for all the positives plays as much a part of my re-booting process as does the impetus to make some major shifts in my life. It’s important to remember that as hard as things can feel sometimes, we have much working in our favor. We always have more than we lack. In any situation, we bring with us the ample talents and strengths we’ve developed to support our efforts. Nobody starts from zero. Not one single person.

How charmed is your life? How have you been lucky?

It’s easy to gloss over the things we have working in our favor when faced with serious struggles that haunt our thoughts, reminding us of ways we have fallen short. For me, my despair and frustration about looking for work but loathing the idea of returning to an office hover over my my head, like a little black cloud. My worries color nearly everything I do, except for those times when I forget about them because I’m having too good a time doing something else. I could spend all day fretting that I’ve missed the boat repeatedly, paddling away in my own little circles doing whatever it is I think I was doing. But losing myself in such thoughts is not only a waste of time, it completely bypasses how much of the honey pot I get! To have had five years of total protection and support as I’ve gone about the business of re-booting my life is enormously unusual and has given me the luxury of time as I’ve clawed my way up over the sharp surfaces of my fixed ideas about how my life should be, let alone the excruciating process of forgiving myself for not seeing what I should’ve seen, for obstinately sticking with a course of action even when I knew it was a bad choice with less than primo values attached. To have had the opportunity to revisit and revise my ideas and priorities without feeling life grab me by the throat to feed my family or pay my bills is a gift from the angels. As terrified as I remain about all my unanswered questions, I can see how lucky I am to know what I know today, recognizing that all the things I thought I wanted turned out to be a burden I’m glad I’ve escaped.

What secret treasures have you uncovered in your struggle? In what way has life unfolded, enabling you to grow wiser and stronger?

I mentioned early on in this post my sense of guilt in the face of so many who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us. Of course, there are many, many ways we all contribute to the greater good—ways that extend far beyond serving in the military—and most of our contributions lay in how we care for those around us. Guilt is something I believe most people struggle with throughout their lives. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all gone back on our word or done the wrong thing or been unkind. We all know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of somebody’s betrayal or power grab or belittling. These experiences are as much a part of the human condition as living and breathing. But, as important as it is for us to “forgive those who trespass against us,” it may be even more important to forgive ourselves, since our guilt is the root of so many of our struggles. We must forgive ourselves first before we can hope to forgive others.

For me, I remain appalled and angry at myself that I turned out to be so needy and superficial that I was willing to put myself in a deeply uncomfortable place. I was so desperate to hear that I was smart and beautiful and charming and clever that I was willing to turn myself into a pretzel. Pathetic. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. It makes me sad for my younger self. I’ve had to work long and hard at finding sympathy for who I was when I made these decisions, at forgiving myself for being so recklessly stubborn about what I wanted and how I was going to get there.

What guilt are you holding onto? What is that thing that makes you angry at yourself?

Now that I’ve got you thinking about this tender place in your heart, I want you to try something. I want you to try looking at yourself from a place of calm benevolence, of seeing yourself struggling under this burden of anger and guilt. I want you to send calm, healing energy to that suffering version of you, placing your hand on their forehead, the way you might a sick child. I want you to try this. Close your eyes and do it. This is the highest and best part of you taking care of yourself.

We have to start by forgiving ourselves.

Our life journey will always involve bumps in the road—it’s how we learn. The fact that most of those bumps were usually constructed (or made worse) by us, making our path significantly harder or sending us on unnecessary detours is bound to provoke irritation. We could spend all day being pissed off about it and furious when we realize we did it to ourselves. All this is possible. The way forward is to recognize what the errors were and finding a way around them. This is the heart of re-booting. This is how we will find a new path, the one we’re meant to tread.

Arriving at this point is a miracle.

See? You do lead a charmed life.


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One Response to “See Things Differently: Appreciating How Lucky We Are”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Good write Chrisanna. Well done.

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