08 August 2002

"Pay as much attention to the things that are
working positively in your life as you do to those that
are giving you trouble."
   - Life's Little Instruction Book

A friend and I were having conversation over dinner the other night. The last time we were together, she was edgy and anxious. She was doing a great deal of soul searching, and in the course of her investigation, she experienced no small amount of existential angst, which she oozed from every pore of her body. She told me that she felt like she'd been turning over rocks, hoping to find jewels, but instead there were only scorpions, serpents, and other nasty things waiting for her. She told me her biological clock was ticking loud, and she felt it was impossible to ignore. She agonized over everything, and it seemed to me she was digging herself a pretty deep hole into which she planned to throw herself. I did what I could to calm her, reason with her, and offer her options I thought might be reasonable, given how she saw her own situation. You're smart, I said. You're able to travel, I said. You have friends, I said. You're a survivor, I said. Give yourself a little freedom and leeway, I said. Shift your focus. Try to look at the things you think are problems from a completely different perspective. See what you come up with. She was reluctant, but agreed to try.

That was before.

The woman who sat across from me at the dinner table was vibrant, confident, secure, laughing, and obviously happy. I didn't think it could be solely the result of me being back in the States, so after telling her how glad I was to see her in this state, I asked, "What was the miracle that brought about all this wonderful change in you?"

She answered, "No miracle. I did what you said. I started looking at what was going on in my life, but not just at the stuff that bothered me. I looked at the good stuff, too." She went on, "I have a great job. I work with wonderful people, doing something that is fun, and they pay well. I'm not in debt. I'm having a good time in my classes, and I'm learning a lot. It's a beautiful summer. I'm getting along with my family. I'm healthy." She ran a hand through her hair, then sighed, "I guess I just decided it was time to stop with all the whining. I was getting tired -- it takes a lot of energy to be miserable, you know."

Yes, I do know. And I also know that plenty of people continuously throw away opportunity after opportunity, day after day, year after year, because they are utterly exhausted from the energy it takes to be miserable. Nothing materially had changed in my friend's life; what changed was her perception. She moved to a spot inside herself and decided to take a look from the inside out, rather than the other, more usual way. What she discovered was that she really didn't have a reason to be unhappy. Her attitude toward herself shifted, and her life improved, almost immediately.

I'm no Pollyanna, but I am a firm believer in the powers of prayer, meditation, and positive thoughts. 

The salutory effects of giving yourself the gift of any one of the three cannot possibly be overstated. 

I'm glad my friend listened to me, and better still, I'm glad she listened to herself. She's better off for it.

Excuse me. I think I want to find a mirror, and give it a smile.


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