Well, 2018 has started as a mixed bag. I have a pinched nerve in my back, and my husband has had a nasty cough since before Christmas. On the positive side of things, we have already volunteered for an event that benefited our favorite non-profit, and today we were able to buy a homeless man a Venti Frappuccino (his choice) at Starbucks. Other than our ailments, the year is starting off great – generosity and service are two things I want more of this year, and we got an early start on them.
When I was volunteering at the event on Monday, I worked next to a woman I had never met before. During the concert, the two of us talked. She said she was fired from her job of fifteen years because of an “arrogant” pastor. When I complimented a woman on her outfit, the woman I was working side by side with said, “I don’t care about clothes. I gave away all my dresses and good clothes. I just don’t care.” And when I told her that the non-profit I was representing serves two meals a week to low income and homeless people she said all she could afford is two meals a day and, “Today I chose gas. I filled up the car instead.”
When a man came up who was enthusiastic about talking to us, she said, “Well, he sure likes to talk,” as he walked away. After spending an hour with her, it occurred to me that she is a bitter person. I am sure it is horrible only to be able to afford two meals a day and to have to choose gas over food. Those things are admittedly difficult and sad. But her negative attitude went beyond a scarcity of money. For example, it seemed to bother her when I complimented that other woman on her clothes. What harm does it do to compliment someone else? Why feel negative about someone else receiving something good?
Then it occurred to me, there are times when I feel sorry for myself (oh poor me), but I rarely, if ever, feel bitter. Have I had an easy life? Compared to some people, yes, even though I have experienced domestic violence, addiction, and schizophrenia, I still have an easy life compared to some people. We can all compare our lives to others, and we will find many who have had it easier than us and many who have had it far worse. That is not unusual, that is life. But how we handle the problems we face is what matters.
Even though I have a severe mental illness, I try to make the best out of my situation. Some days are extremely tough, some weeks are difficult, and I have had terrible years. But even with all of that, I was so happy to wake up this morning, and I am thrilled that I can type this blog. I have always been a person that finds pleasure in the little things, and that has kept me from becoming old before my time and from being seen as someone who is bitter.
Let’s try to leave bitter as a reference to the cold weather (there is currently a bitter cold sweeping the East), rather than have it refer to our attitude. I know it is cliché – the attitude of gratitude, but it can make all the difference in how we feel when the tough stuff comes our way.