Soon after finally bringing home our preemie first born, I visited the OB/GYN for my postpartum check-up. Here I was with our tiny but thriving miracle, and the doctor, one of my strongest champions when things hadn’t looked good, asked how everything was going. I complained the feeding was frustrating. My hero suddenly turned on me and sharply said I was lucky to have that as my biggest worry.
I later learned another of his patients with the same condition we’d just beat wasn’t so fortunate. Her baby was born and only survived a few hours.
A couple weeks ago, I was nagging our 16-year-old son over course choices for his senior year. How could he be so shortsighted and careless when it comes to his future? I wanted to reach across the dining table and bop him on the head with his baseball cap.
Within two days of our argument I heard about our friends’ healthy, athletic 20-year-old nephew who laid down for a nap before dinner one afternoon and never woke up.
Now I’m in my 50s, by the end of most days, my back, neck, and the balls of my feet compete to see which can bother me most. My hearing is down to 65 percent and getting worse, and my glasses need a stronger prescription — again. I’m sorely tempted to grumble.
Then I think of my “baby” brother who didn’t make it to his 46th birthday. He left behind his wife of 17 years, two growing, but far from grown sons, and any chance of ever personally experiencing the petty complaints of aging.
Perspective is a powerful thing, isn’t it?
Like many of us, I was introduced to it early in life when my mother dangled “all the starving children in Africa” in front of me, as I slid a flabby slab of liver around my plate. It comes to call when, after whining because I’m stuck in traffic, I reach the reason for the tie-up and rubberneck my way past what’s left of a mangled minivan nearly identical to mine. It gently taps me on the shoulder and points to a homeless man, instantly checking my frets about shelling out so much money on heating oil.
I’ve come to recognize one of the keys to happiness, or at least sanity, is the ability to remind myself that compared to a whole lot of people in this world, it ain’t half bad being me. Perspective erases self-pity and opens endless channels of gratitude. If I’m a little smart — and even more wise — I’ll turn a blind eye to what’s wrong, grab hold of all that’s right, and run with it as far, as fast, and as long as I’m able.
Each morning I take a moment to wonder at the miraculous 3 lb. 2 oz. that have evolved into a marvelous young woman, who’s chosen a profession caring for others.
I’m working on backing off on a kid who has every right to be a kid and chase his latest dream — provided he finishes his homework and turns it in.
And tonight, before I peel the icepack from my neck and switch off my bedside light, I’ll utter a prayer of deep thanksgiving for the blessings of another day and a world filled with those I love most in it.
I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.
— Jewish Proverb
Yep. That pretty much says it all.
Susan Writer pens a regular column for fredericknewspost.com and is one of The Frederick News-Post’s Board of Contributors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.