I have an attitude problem. Now, if I told you my story - the story of my birth and growing up, the favoritism of which I was on the wrong end, the lost opportunities and failed attempts at "getting it right", the bad marriage, the abuse and divorce and bankruptcy and estrangement from my children, if I told you how many years I spent in disappointment and sorrow you might in the end say to me, "It's no wonder."
I am the first to admit that I allowed the struggles of my life to make me bitter and resentful. Over time, as the troubles piled on, I internalized them, identified with them, formed an image of myself that was something like the PigPen character from the Charlie Brown comics: a sad and lonely figure with a cloud of stink following me everywhere.
I've finally reached the point in my life - thank God - where what's happening around me and to me is pretty amazing, pretty wonderful. I'm a richly blessed, successful, prosperous, healthy, well-loved person.
But I still struggle against the idea of myself as pitiable, unlovable, PigPen. For many years, I allowed what happened around me and to me to change what was going on in me, to change the way I saw myself. Then, when those troubles moved out of my life, PigPen remained.
We all have troubles, no matter how great things are going; we all have things to be thankful for no matter how troubled we are. I know people whose circumstances span the entire spectrum: A woman who is independently wealthy and travels the world is also dealing with having cancer. A successful COO has daily responsibilities for her dying mother. Parents whose brilliant, healthy, well-adjusted children just can't seem to make ends meet. None of us is experiencing a life that is all smooth sailing; none of us has nothing but problems.
Popular thought might challenge us by posing the question, "Which set of circumstances are you going to allow to set your attitude - your negative ones, or your positive ones?" Once upon a time, I might have given the "right" answer; I might have said that it was better to align your attitude with all that is good in your life. But that's still shifting sand. What's working in my life today won't necessarily be among tomorrow's blessings.
Hitching your attitude to a star of happy circumstance only works until the star burns out and falls, as they all do. If we focus on our negative circumstances, we become negative; if we focus on our happy circumstances, we are bound to crash and burn sooner or later. What a sad state we are in.
The solution is joy. Unlike happiness, joy isn't connected to what is going on in my life at all. It comes from a deeper place, from a place that transcends not only what I'm struggling with, but also what I'm writing in my gratitude journal at the end of every day.
Joy doesn't live in time. It's eternal. It's a spiritual quality that I would really like to cultivate more of in my life. I want to develop what I'm calling my Joy Quotient (JQ). So I'm embarking on a journey to discover what that means, and how to go about doing it.
Because the older I get and the shorter my apparent time becomes, the less willing I am to walk around with a sense of burden about life. I just want to lay that burden down and pick up the sense of lightness that comes with being connected at a level beyond humanity and circumstance, one that honors being and life as among the most precious gifts of all.