Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What Do You See?

Could we change our attitude,
we should not only see life differently,
but life itself would come to be different.
~ Katherine Mansfield

I received the nicest email from Terry, a fellow blogger who creates the most amazing quilts. I hope to one day be half the quilter she is! Check out her Quilt Nut blog to see the incredible work she produces.

I asked for and received her permission to share her email on my blog. She said:

I love your positive attitude and it is something I work on everyday. I was born a pessimist and am trying to become an optimist with a positive attitude. I have made progress but it is hard. I fight it daily. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

First of all, thank you for your kind words, Terry! I am very proud of you, and those out there like you who work hard to look at things in a positive light. It isn’t always easy, but choosing to see things differently is half the battle.

I am by nature a fairly optimistic, positive person. I’ve even been accused of being perky (there are much worse titles to wear, in my humble opinion!) But those who know me well know that optimism is something I’ve had to hone over the years. I have down times when all I can see is the darkness and the sadness in life. I wouldn’t be human if that weren’t the case.

Twelve years ago, I was married to a wonderful man who was my best friend. We’d been married for sixteen years when he came to me and said he could no longer deny the fact that he was gay. We spent about a year trying to work things out, each of us in therapy, to accommodate what he needed and what I needed. At the end of that time, we knew our marriage was over and we split. I’m now happily remarried (to a delightfully straight man!) and my ex and I are still dear friends to this day.

I make it sound so easy, don’t I? It wasn’t – believe me.

He was my other half, my soul mate, my dearest friend. The thought of losing him as my husband brought thoughts of suicide, and even of a sex change (hey, if it meant not losing him, I was game! Thank goodness, his saner head prevailed!) My ailing mother was living with us at the time, and my marriage was literally falling apart. I was searching for ways to feel like I had some control over my destiny.

One day at the gym, I heard a new song being played overhead by an artist I didn’t know. It was Alanis Morissette singing, “You Learn.” Her lyrics caught my attention…

I, recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone…
I, recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone…
I, recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time…

You live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn
You grieve you learn, you choke you learn
You laugh you learn, you choose you learn
You pray you learn, you ask you learn
You live you learn.

I immediately ran out and bought her CD, and listened to this song over and over.

It was at that time that I started to look at my situation through different eyes. I decided that I could either become bitter over what happened, or I could become better. I could live the rest of my life the way some people do after a painful event (angry, hurt, sour on life.) Or I could grow and move forward, learning what I could from the experience. I realized that I couldn’t change anything in my situation – except my attitude.

I lost my husband, and my sweet mother passed away. We sold our home and I moved on with my life. It was an incredibly painful time, and boy, did I learn a lot about myself and what I wanted from life.

It’s about choosing to look for the good in life, choosing to find the lesson in every hard thing that comes our way. Lord knows, I’m not perfect at it. I can get on my pity-pot and really feel sorry for myself some days. But overall, I believe my life is a positive experience and because I look for the positive, that’s what I draw back into my life. It’s that whole Universal Law of Attraction idea.

So Terry, and anyone else who’s trying to be a more positive person, my advice to you is to stop the negative thoughts as soon as you’re aware of them. Ask yourself instead, “What can I learn from this?” As corny as it sounds, try to find the silver lining in everything you experience – one kernel of something positive in even the most negative incident.

I think cultivating an attitude of gratitude also helps. You can’t be grateful and negative at the same time! Look for things to feel grateful for every day. Write them down so you can visually see your blessings. This isn’t about being religious: it’s about looking for what’s right in your life, instead of what’s wrong.

Finally, remember that there truly is little in life we have total control over. We can’t control the weather; we can’t control the price of gasoline, we can’t even control how our family behaves most days! But we can control how we respond to the world, and that makes all the difference.

Always remember that Attitude Changes Everything!

Until next time…


RunningNan said...

I'm always so happy that I have come across your blog. You must be a pleasure to know in person. I look forward to reading your posts along with the many other posts of fellow bloggers. I have been working on my positive attitude since I lost my father almost 3 years ago. Even when my heat duct fell to the floor, I cried for a moment because I realized I didn't have my dad to call. Then I smiled because I realized I had great neighbors to call. I just turn things around and look at the positive. I'm completely happy with my life, and I know that I am the one who has control over it. Every once in a while I get caught up in the gasp over gas prices, but I'm doing something about it on my end. Attitude does change everyting!

Terry@quilt-nut said...

All I can say is WOW! I'm totally amazed at what you have been through and still remain positive. There is hope for me. At the beginning of the year I started a gratitude journal. It really does help to focus on the blessings in my life. Thanks for the great advice and even though I know it will be a daily struggle at the end of the day I can look back and say I tried to be different. Terry

HappyBlogChick said...

Oh, I'm so sorry to hear about the pain you went through when you found out that your husband of 16 years was gay. I have a very good friend going through the exact same thing (they've been married 12 years I think), and it's such a complicated, difficult situation. I'm glad to hear that you guys ended up friends, ultimately.

Your attitude truly is amazing, and your words of wisdom are appreciated. I wonder if you realize what an inspiration you are. I truly believe that you change lives, Pattie!

Grumpy Chair said...

Best post ever written.

Pattie you must be a saint! Thank you so much for sharing something that was obviously painful.

I have walked away (and will be printing this post)with some lessons learned today. Thank you.

From now on I am going to start my comments like this "Oh teach me wise one!"

Becky said...

What a great post! I have marked it so I can re-read on those days when all I'm seeing are clouds and no silver linings.

Scale Junkie said...

I agree with GC, best post ever written!

I'm married to the eternal optimist and slowly I've become one too. So many bad things happens in life, you can dwell on them and let them consume you. Draw from your past but never let it draw from you.

I agree with the Alanis Morissette song too, its all a lesson

I'm so glad that you've found your way into my life Pattie! You are an amazing woman with a very special gift with words

Manuela said...

Wow, what an incredible story. I so applaud you for getting on with your life and really allowing your positivity to overcome any negative feelings you must have been having.

Thank you so much for sharing.

Holly said...

Patti - wow! You have been through so much ... truly an inspiration! Thank you for sharing with us!!

Irish Mom said...

Wow, you have been through so much and still remain so positive. Good for you, you deserve happiness!!

Hanlie said...

What a wonderful post! I'm also mostly positive and upbeat, despite having a painful history myself. I absolutely love the Chinese proverb that says:

"If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come."

So I always make sure that even in the most dire situation I keep that green bough in my heart.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post.

Ready to Shrink said...

You are an inspiration. I just love this post. I agree with runningnan you must be an awesome person to know IRL.

Apple said...

"Terry" is my mom, and unfortunetly I inherited her pessimistic views toward life. I have tried in the past to be positive, but it is just so hard. I have also been diagnosed with depression so that makes it even harder. I thank you for your post though and I will remember that the only person who can make me miserable is me. If I choose to be positive and happy then I will be. Thank you!!

Exuberant Color said...

It's kind of like the "when one door closes, another opens" too. Sometimes it is so hard to see what is ahead when the grief of the past is so fresh. Your blog is always upbeat and a joy to read.

40 by 40 said...

You have a beautiful attitude and are a beautiful person who we can all learn from. Thanks for always being a ray of sunshine and goodness! I have learned to try to make a "learning experience" out of unfortunate situations..but I haven't really had to deal with that much. I hope, when the time comes, I will have some of the strength and ability to deal somewhat as well as you have!
My husband is extremely positive ,like you , and I soooooooooo admire this quality.

Pamela said...

Great post

Glad Hanlie put us together. Even if it was just so I could read this post.

Ready Maid said...

As I've said before, Pattie, you've got the skeleton of a very good book going here. You're a good writer. You write from the heart. You've got a message. You're believable. I'd buy it.

You're awesome, too.

jillytacy said...

You have a great attitude about life! I believe that the experiences that are thrown at us in life make us better people. You have to go with the flow and learn what you can from each experience. Sometimes growing hurts but sometimes it can be wonderful. Resiliency is an amazing thing! Some people can go through the most horrific things but become the greatest people and others in the same situation get beaten down. I think that attitude is everything! You can't give up and let life beat you. You have to stand up and fight! You're a better person for it.