It´s All in the Attitude
Coming out of the grocery store this morning, I struck up a conversation with a friendly, spry gentleman who worked for the store and was bagging my groceries. With a look of amusement on his face, he shared with me an incident that had happened to him the day before. He began, “Yesterday, I carried a man’s groceries to the car for him, and I could see that he was having some difficulty walking. Before we got to his car he took one look at me and said, “Sonny, when you get to be my age, you won’t be able to walk like that!” Laughing, the grocery store clerk continued, “I asked him how old he was, to which he replied, “I’m seventy.” After unloading his groceries, before I went back into the store I could not resist saying, “I’m eighty.” I chuckled as I got into my car and headed home. On the way, I thought about how folks have such different attitudes.
My grandmother was a quiet, easy going kind of lady who lived alone for many years after my grandfather passed away. When she became unable to take care of herself any longer, she went into the nursing home. She showed a lot of courage and made the transition well without any complaints. During the day she kept her mind active by reading books and magazines, doing crossword puzzles and watching the news. Many times when I would visit she shared a joke with me giving us both a good laugh. However, I began to notice when mealtimes rolled around she ate in her room instead of going to the cafeteria with everyone else. One day I asked her, “Mammaw, Why don’t you go to the cafeteria?” Her answer surprised me, “I don’t like to eat with all those old folks, it’s too depressing.” At that time, she was in her early nineties, and probably older than most of them in the home, nonetheless, she still had a good attitude.
I remember another relative of mine similar in temperament to my grandmother but with a high level of energy. If you went shopping with her, she was always in the lead by at least fifty feet, and that was her normal way of walking. She always liked the outdoors, and especially mowing grass in the summertime. Since she has such a large lawn, her two daughters decided to buy her a new self-propelled lawn mower. It was a month or two later that I was at a cookout at her house and overheard someone ask her, “How do you like your new lawn mower?” Her reply was, “I like it fine except it won’t run fast enough!” Everyone burst into laughter knowing she was in her seventies. Later in the year her son bought her another mower, and she claims it saves her thirty minutes mowing time.
Another man very similar is my neighbor, a kind, white haired gentleman who also has a delightful attitude. Every day you can see him in his green pickup truck on his way to the nursing home to visit his wife who has Alzheimer’s. He is always full of fun and has a twinkle in his eyes. More than one time he has shared with me how he has wrecked thirteen vehicles in his lifetime. It was only recently that he was stopped for speeding. When the officer began to give him a ticket he grinned like a small child, and said, “I promise I won’t do again.” A few days later, he was flying down the highway again.
This is the same fellow, whom the doctors told ten years ago if he didn’t quit working so hard in his garden he´d have a heart attack and die. His answer to the doctor was, “You know that would suit me just fine, I´d just as soon die in my garden as anywhere!” He is now ninety-two years old and is making three gardens instead of one, mowing his lawn, taking care of his small farm, and his doctor continues to warn him about his health.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to learn just how important attitude is. I was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy, and the diagnosis came immediately after a spinal fusion that had taken me months to recover from. I went through the stages of deep grief and was forced to deal with pain on a daily basis. Regardless of how I felt every morning, I took a shower, got dressed and applied makeup whether I left the house or not. On bad days when I was not able to do a lot, I curled up in bed with a good book. When I tired of that, I picked up my notepad and begin to write a poem or story. I begin to pace myself. I learned to paint at my easel for thirty minutes instead of hours on end, and I found it was amazing how much I could accomplish in a short period of time. I worked on relationships by calling friends on the phone, and sometimes I found a good movie on TV. Instead of complaining about what I couldn’t do, I became grateful for what I could, and I learned my happiness did not depend on what I achieved. I learned not to compare my accomplishments to others, knowing we had not been down the same path. In quiet times, I learned to pray and meditate and rely on my Higher Power for my strength. Months later, I accepted my losses and began to see them as valuable lessons. After dealing with the grief and changes in my life, I wrote a very personal essay called, “Bracing Up,” and it was published in a magazine in Illinois last year. The bottom line is, what I thought was the worst time in my life has turned out to be one of the most fulfilling with some very valuable lessons.
A few days ago, I had a new pain in my knee, and I went to see my doctor about it. He took an x-ray, looked it over and said, “I believe you have some arthritis in that knee.” Since I have a permanent brace on the other ankle, I was so relieved to hear the word arthritis that I blurted out, “I’m so glad. Is that all!” He smiled before replying, “It´s quite obvious you have a different perspective on life,” It occurred to me he was right.
Today as I write this, it is raining outside, and has been for a week. To some folks it would appear dark and gloomy, maybe a bit depressing, but not to me, I have found it to be a perfect day, they all are. You see I´ve come to believe that it is really all in the attitude!