Monday, March 8, 2010

Attitude Of Gratitude

I wasn't watching the Academy Awards last night, I have spent several years covering them, when I worked for the media corporation I worked for, doing research on the movers and shakers, and I just wasn't interested. That, and I must confess, I still haven't see "Avatar" or any of the other movies up this year.

I was channel surfing and came across a gentleman on a news station, talking about positive attitude. I must confess I had never heard of this man before, his name is Wayne Dyer and he was talking about keeping and maintaining a positive attitude. But I was struck by two things. He was in his sixties or early seventies and looked about forty. And he made a comment that he was diagnosed as having leukemia, and he still manages to swim every day, walk every day and do everything he use to do. It wasn't going to let him slow him down.

What ever he is doing, he must be doing right, I thought, snuggling on the couch, sleepy cat by my side. I grabbed the remote to make the show louder, much to the feline's consternation. I have committed the horrible cat sin- I woke up a sleeping cat. I guess my mea culpa will be a tin of Fancy Feast when she wakes again.

But I realized, as I woke the cat and grabbed the remote, it wasn't going to let him slow down. Now I can rationalize and think- well, the dude's is older, he's lived 20 or 30 years longer than me. That's silly thinking. Then it occured to me- maybe Nietzche was right, "that that doesn't destroy me will make me stronger".

One of things I noticed when I first got sober was this. How good orange juice tasted without Vodka or Everclear in it. When I had my first glass of OJ, two days after experiencing a hellish withdrawal from said Everclear- I couldn't get enough. Like one of Dickens' orphans, I asked for more. Indeed, it was the best thing I have ever tasted.

When I first got sober, I took pleasure in everything. Every sunrise and sunset. Every star in the sky. Everything my first kitty did. I walked, got my body back in shape because it had been so damaged by the Vodka and Everclear, cooked healthy meals, lost 35 pounds, and a year later, got a job at the best company I have ever worked for. I faced my demons about traveling alone, and toured England, my life long dream, on my own. And did fine. I stayed busy by a part time job in a book store, reading books to inner city children, and doing my own writing, which started to take off. It wasn't perfect, but it was good. I was grateful for every day.

Eventually, after the years passed, sobriety was no longer hard work anymore, I got complacent. I realize that now. I got disgusted with office politics, something I could never figure out how to play. Disenchanted with the whole dating scene, kissing so many frogs and never a prince. Sad from the psychiatric meds, and the whole going to the p-doc and t-doc thing. I was really unhappy, something that leaked right down into my soul. I know that now.

It was perhaps this unhappiness that started to destroy me, to make me walk to the other side, the dark side. I didn't want to live anymore, I took no pleasure in anything. No pleasure in sunrises and sunsets, staring at the stars, or beautiful days to walk in. I just saw unending days that were all the same, and my life being stuck in a rut and unable to get out, much as I feel like again at present.

Cut back to last night. Watching this man on TV, talking about recovery, dealing with leukemia, and not letting the bastards get him down, I actually started to think- this man might know something. I am about a year away from full blown leukemia- according to the oncologist I have seen. It most likely is a side effect from over a score of taking lithium. While I realize it's no longer the death sentence it was 40 years ago, I still am upset. Maybe I shouldn't be.

Maybe it's time to really get off the pity pot. The longer you live in life, the more experiences you will face. Good, bad and ugly. Bad things happen to good people. It's part of life. It's not a pleasant thing for me to know. But I cannot change this, just as much as I cannot change the fact I pay taxes, or will never be 5' 2".

One of the things I got when I first got sober was a little mirrored plaque with the Serenity Prayer. It eventually shattered, no doubt from a gust of wind from an opened window, or a cat playing with a catnip mouse. I need to start following the Serenity Prayer again. I cannot change the fact that my brain and my body isn't what it should be. They never will be again. But that shouldn't stop me from smelling the roses. Well, the daffodils are blooming soon, and they, along with white roses, are my favorite flowers.


Steve E said...

Last night I also did not watch the "Awards"...instead, I went to an AA meeting.

I'll give you one guess what was the topic...yep! "Positive Attitude". That topic quickly evolved into more like an "Attitude of Gratitude"
...same thing, for me.

Just HAD to let you know--grin!


Steve E said...

By the way...I just became a "grateful" follower of your blog.


susan said...

Thanks Steve! I like your blog too. YOur story is really amazing.

Wendy said...

I'm a sorta fan of Dyer, sometime he overwhelms me with holy roller type of stuff, but the Attitude of gratitude is well worth it. So, I'm guessing we are going for that walk? Around the block?

Radagast said...

It's a funny thing, isn't it - the way one can play games with one's own mind? For example, if you were to say to me "I'm sad, and I want to be happy," I might reply "OK, so how will you know you're happy? What event will take place that will signify to you that you are happy, and is sufficiently compelling for you to acknowledge it, and return to it, when I need to?" And you might say, "I'm going to listen to somebody tell me the most absurd thing in the world, and then realize that it's true, and laugh like I haven't done for a long time."

Anyway, I'm going to roll myself a cigarette, and walk round the block, because that's something I wouldn't have thought of.


susan said...

Matt, walking around the block sounds nice, and so does the cigarette.

Wendy said...

Walk around the block - no cigarette! Ok, one but no more...
Matt - exactly. My therapist wonders - she has told me everything I need to do to "get well" why haven't I? either done what she said or gotten well?
So I'm hoping a few folks will walk around the block with me and tell if it's any better - maybe it isn't just me??

JourneyBeyondSurvival said...

This is exactly what I needed to hear, and was beautifully written. Thank you. said...

Hi Susan,

What a brilliant and beautiful post. I, too, did not watch the Academy Awards last night. I was busy with other more pressing tasks – marking midterm exams – and really, who cares?

Although I must admit I was thrilled when Katherine Bigelow won her Oscar for best director, and March 8, now yesterday, was International Women's Day. How perfect!

I sincerely hope you will continue thinking and working in this vein. Years ago, I interviewed Wayne Dyer and he has an enlightened attitude about life.

Like him, I am a strong believer in positive energy. It buoys me every day. He's written some wonderful books, too.

Thank you for writing this. Your thoughts on "perspective" are invaluable and universal. Inspired and viscerally honest. This post is a real winner, Susan.

All my best,

Mary LA said...

I love that Serenity Prayer --

Radagast said...

Wendy wrote:
"...My therapist wonders - she has told me everything I need to do to "get well" why haven't I? either done what she said or gotten well?.."

Well, walking around the block, in and of itself, is not objectively therapeutic: it won't work for everybody. So... You decide, Wendy: what event will cause you to feel [whatever it is that you want to feel].

Put another way, it will be you attaching the significance to the event, and it will be you choosing the event. That's why self-help gurus such as John Grinder establish what it is that will motivate a client, and they gain the client's agreement (one of Grinder's "tricks" is to have a man associate breasts with cleaning out the garage). As such, the relationship/association between the desired event and the positive motivating factor can be wholly manufactured by the client.

It's not mind control... It's just how the mind works - one makes associations all the time, for good and ill. Some people (often called bullies), take pleasure in establishing negative associations, but one can be equally ruthless in creating positive ones. For example, you wouldn't believe the number of people I've met who believe they're stupid, solely because they've been told it often enough.


Syd said...

Susan, I see so many things to be positive about, yet I also have my times of despair. I don't like office politics, gossip, meanness, and many more things that seem to be so pervasive today. Yet, I don't have to succumb to those things and can rise above as long as I live the Serenity Prayer. It has been a great source of comfort to me. Thanks for a great post.

susan said...

Syd, thank you. You and Steve inspired me to write a piece on my first sponsor, it's written I am just trying to edit it now.

WillSpirit said...

Great post and great thoughts. I struggle to maintain a positive attitude, and have always appreciated messages like Dyer's. On the other hand, I try not to be too hard on myself when I revert to negativity. I don't know Dyer's past, but I know my own, and so many bad things have happened that it might be the height of denial to not feel rotten sometimes. Whether that's true or not, I can't yet avoid it, and so I am learning to be kind to myself and try to at least steer clear of self-hatred. For whatever reason, people like me have a very hard time avoiding negativity. I am not saying it's OK to give up the attempt, but I also need to recognize that I am not Wayne Dyer, and may never be able to cope the same way as he. But I can adapt to my own mind and my own limitations, and cope in my own way. Since right now that means I still sometimes break down in self pity, I focus on remaining conscious of what I'm doing, and forgiving myself for my discouragement. That makes it easier to smile again when the storm passes.

Herrad said...

Please come by my blog and pick up your Beautiful Blogger Award.

Julie said...

Hi susan,
I didn't know about the leukemia or the alcohol obviously but you may have been there when I talked about all my physical and mental issues. That man was right. And so was Nietzche. I have been forced to become stronger by going through all these things. None of which I asked for or could control. At many times in the last 10 years, when it all started, I felt like nothing matters. The difference is, is that when you start to smell the roses again, to look at the beauty still left around you no matter how bad you feel, you can't help but feel a little better. Even just playing with my puppies on one of my worst days forces me to realize there is more out there than just being sick. Also Susan, my favorite thing to do is to look at the sky. I even took an Astronomy course. Because when you look up into the vast unknown, none of it really seems soo bad anymore, even if only for a moment. I'm sending you something. Julie

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