Thursday, March 24, 2011

Half Empty or Half Full?

I'm sure we've all heard the adage: "It's important to see the cup half full." Some people see it half-empty on a frequent basis. Personality types are often determined by how we see that elusive cup. Sometimes it depends on the day. I've spent much of my life trying to see the cup half full. But there are days, like this entire past month, when that cup has been looking a tad bit on the empty side. True, I'm still wading through the grief that goes along with losing a good friend. (See post below.) One day I'm fine and figure I've moved on---the next day, not so much. It becomes a balancing act between forcing a smile and ignoring inner pain. One of the lifelines that helps me survive this process is having a sense of humor. A good laugh goes a long way toward easing turmoil. I've also learned that service is a great way to heal. Doing something for someone else chips away at the icebergs that sometimes erupt within our hearts.

We live in a challenging time. (Understatement of the year!) I suspect it has always been thus. There have always been wars and rumors of war. People have always struggled from day to day to make a living. I also think parenting has always been an adventure (think of how our first parents must have felt when one son killed the other--I'm just sayin'). I seriously doubt when we compare notes on the other side, we'll point fingers and say, "Oh, yeah, well you lived during an era of complete and utter peace. There were no trials, no disappointments, no heartaches." There might be one exception to this train of thought, and that would involve those lucky types who will dwell during the millennium, and I think even then, there may be a challenge or two to test their mettle.

Life is a test. My paternal grandmother used to tell me that this world is a giant classroom and we never know when we'll get hit with a pop quiz. Truer words were never spoken. I also think one of the most significant lessons we'll ever grasp during this mortal education is the importance of having a good attitude. This is often difficult when we're covered in something like boils (See the book of Job), swallowed by a whale (See the book of Jonah, or Pinocchio), or driving in Utah (see list of least friendly places to drive).

This attitude extends to how we treat each other. Are we nice to the poor clerk at the store who is paid minimum wage to endure the wrath of miffed bargain shoppers? Do we smile while waiting in the never-ending line at the post office? Are we overly-critical of others who don't measure up to our expectations? Do we take our very bad day out on the people who should mean the most to us?

Since we're all very different, we think in varying ways. We believe in all kinds of things, but there is one item we should consider: We are supposed to look on the bright side whenever possible and play nice with others. If you ever doubt this philosophy, review the Sermon on the Mount.

Bottom line, when this life is but a memory, the thing that will matter most is how we played the game. Were we fair, honest, obedient? Did we try to help others? Were we kind in our dealings with those around us? Did we bring joy into the world . . . or did others tip toe around us because our cup was half-empty and our attitude reflected this mindset? Something to ponder daily. Do we see the cup half-empty or half-full? This question may have eternal significance someday. Definitely a compelling point to consider.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Digging Out

I apologize for not posting anything for a couple of weeks. Life happened and things have been crazy. Ironically, the day of my last post, (the irony is in the content of that post) a good friend of mine suffered a silent heart attack and passed quietly from all of our lives. It was such a shock to me. We've been friends for years, and had fought the same battle against Type 1 diabetes.

She was the one who talked me into seeing a wonderful diabetic specialist in Idaho Falls years ago. Since she just lived down the street from me at the time, we began traveling back and forth together, teaming up to wage war against the dreaded illness that threatened to take over our lives. We refused to let it, and we proved it by forming a local diabetic support group for all of those brave souls who were fighting a similar battle in our county.

We were also called upon to run booths at the health fairs sponsored by our local hospital for several years. And I've lost count of how many newly diagnosed diabetics we visited in our quest to offer hope and courage to those who felt like their lives had been turned upside down.

In short, this good friend and I shared a bond that ran fairly deep. We understood how "fun" the tight-rope of diabetes could be on occasion. We laughed over things no one else understood as we defied the odds on a regular basis.

Eventually this good friend of mine moved 30 miles away, but we still teamed up for various things like our support group meetings, the health fairs, etc. We kept in touch through phone calls, Christmas cards, and ran into each other on occasion at the varying stores in town.

I didn't realize when I ran into her a couple of months ago, it would be my final chance to visit with her in mortal mode. When the phone call came the day of her heart attack, I was unprepared to say goodbye. And a few days later when her body was unhooked from life support, it was like a bomb had gone off in my life.

I was asked to give the opening prayer at her funeral, and I struggled to pull things together to do so. For days it seemed like all I did was cry. With the passage of time it gets easier to breathe, but this has been a loss that has cut deep.

The past few days I've watched in a daze as Japan reels from the mayhem of a horrible disaster. I see the images of destruction and I sit in shock, wondering how these brave survivors will ever rebuild. But in my heart, I know they will. In time, these industrious people will rise above this tremendous challenge and they will learn to go on, despite the pain they will carry inside. So much has been lost, and yet with each new day, hope lives on.

That is what most of us try to do when challenges overwhelm. Eventually, we start picking up the pieces in an attempt to put things back together. We dig out from under the tidal wave of grief to go on. I've been challenged to get back into writing, and it's helping. Writing has always been a comforting balm for me--it was part of what helped me survive my father's suicide years ago.

The other day I wrote a poem I'll probably never let anyone see, but it helped to release some of the heartache. I will find other ways to dig out and one day I will smile again and actually mean it. Until then, I will take life one day at a time as I continue to carry the torch Denise has passed on to me.