Thursday, July 8, 2010

Make the Most of What You've Got

It's been a hot and humid week here in the Northeast with daily heat and health advisories. Everyone's complaining about the weather and doing their best to beat the heat. Of course, we are the same folks who complained about the cold, ice, and snow just 6 short months ago...funny how that happens.

Anyway, instead of complaining, I decided to go with the heat and use it to my advantage. One day my son and I dragged all of our throw rugs and area rugs out onto the driveway and washed them all down. Slung over the swing set and backs of chairs, they dried in no time. We made sure to have a water fight in the midst of it all, just to make it more fun, and once we were wet it was rather pleasant outside. In fact, we celebrated the completion of our chore by sitting outside and sharing some ice pops. It was great!

The next day I did lots of laundry and hung it all outside on the clothesline. Why pay to make more heat with the dryer when nature was making too much heat outside for free? As soon as one load was done in the washer, the previous load was bone dry on the line. Easy as pie, I had all of our laundry washed, folded, and put away - including all the bed sheets - and it cost me next to nothing.

So I got to thinking (as is my usual habit) about turning disadvantages into advantages in other areas of know, the old "If God gives you lemons, make lemonade" way of thinking. Sometimes it's as easy as shifting your perspective. Sometimes it takes a little thought and cleverness (like getting your children to help with a boring and mundane chore during a heatwave). Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity. Sometimes it takes a loving nudge in the right direction from a loved one. Sometimes it takes persistence, willpower, and some emotional flexibility. But it always ends up more than worth while and much better than you ever could have imagined.

So why don't we do it more often? Why are we stuck in the moaning and groaning rut? Why don't we quit the bellyaching and get into a positive frame of mind more quickly? Why don't we nudge and encourage each other more often?

Is it resistance to change? Are we so used to feeling helpless and crummy, we don't even realize that there's another alternative? Is it inertia? It's easier to do the same thing we've always done, rather than changing and trying something new? Is it lack of vision? We just can't seem to see or imagine any other alternative? Is it lack of spiritual or emotional confidence? If I try some new way and it doesn't work out very well, will anyone be there to support me, pick me up, or cheer me on? Are we stuck in the blame game? I can't do this or that because it's too hot/too cold, too early/too late, too hard/ridiculously easy, or he/she/it makes it impossible for me.

Whatever it is that's holding us back, it's time to flip those negatives into positives and pop ourselves into a new and better groove. It's time to take an honest look at what we've got to work with at any given moment and turn it to our advantage. It's time to make the most of what we've got. Why? Because life is too short to wallow in self-pity and negativity. Because we are role models for all the children around us, and we want them to learn how to make the most out of their lives. And because it's so much more fun to enjoy what we have and where we are than it is to be grousing all the time.

Where do we begin? It's always best to start with something small, so the next time you hear yourself complaining about the heat, go wash something outside...and get yourself wet, too...and maybe enjoy an ice pop. The next time you think, "oh no!" when you see a snow storm, notice how beautiful the bare tree limbs look blanketed with snow. Maybe even bundle up and stand outside for a bit enjoying the hushed silence a snow storm brings and get some fresh air into your lungs while you're at it.

Once you've stopped blaming the weather for all sorts of inconveniences in your life, try your hand at something a little more challenging. When you hit an emotional roadblock, sit back, take a breath, and decide to look for alternatives. Notice that you don't have to commit to any course of action, just look for a different route. Say a prayer, ask a friend for advice, or just decide to be open to different possibilities.

Did you ever look at your house from your neighbor's yard or look at your neighborhood on Google Earth? Doesn't it look really different from those perspectives? Well, imagine your situation from your neighbor's point of view or from a bird's eye view. Maybe you'll see something totally different than you usually do and it will help you flip an emotional negative into a positive.

Let yourself imagine what it might be like to react differently than you usually do. If you're shy, imagine what it would be like to walk into a room full of people and say hello to someone. I'm not saying you have to actually do it, I'm just saying imagine what it might be like to try it and have it go well. If you're impatient with lines and waiting your turn, imagine how much nicer it would be to be unfazed by an unexpected slowdown, and how much more pleasant your exchanges with people around you might be.

I think, in the end, it's all about understanding that we are not in control of life, its processes, events, or other people. I think, in the end, it's all about understanding that we can only control our own selves and our own reactions, and surrendering to that reality. But that's a whole other discussion for a whole new post.

Until then, get out there and make the most of what you've got, no matter what it is.

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