What You Don't Have
There's no better time to reflect on how good you really have it in life when you're in the throes of temporary pain.
When I gave birth to Leo and could not feel my legs for a day, I was inwardly groaning by how nice it would be to just get up and walk and use the bathroom normally. Ugh. It was such a pain to remain stationary in bed when I was used to walking.
When I started to nurse Leo around the clock, I sighed with how wonderful it would be to just get in the car and drive away in silence and solitude for a whole day without being attached to a hungry babe. I should have taken advantage more when I had the chance.
When I was newly married, I lamented how much harder it was to make meals and do laundry now that I had another human to account for. I should have appreciated being single and unrestrained by a picky eater.
Now, as I sit here with my face puffed up and my jaw aching more than it ever has, I think similar thoughts. I look wistfully at every normal human going about their day with a normal jaw, blissfully able to eat whatever crunchy food they desire and laughing away without a care in the world. They really don't know how lucky they are.
When we're enduring something unpleasant, we are reminded of how much we took the thing we now desire for granted. Walking, driving, chewing, exercising: all of the things I was able to do without thinking suddenly become treasures waiting for me at the end of my suffering.
And it's like that in life. We so often fail to say, wow, thank you! for the little bits and pieces of life that we enjoy. Because when our normal, everyday blessings are taken away from us, we gain a sudden new perspective on how richly spoiled we were all along without noticing.
So, are you bemoaning something dreadful? Are you stressed out? Are you stuck in a rut of complaining about the hardship of your current state? Are you whining?
Seriously, take a few moments to consider the multitude of blessings you enjoy that so many others ache to possess.
Do you have annoying children? Someone out there desperately wants to have their own.
Are you frustrated at work? Someone out there has just finished filling out fifty job applications.
Did your air conditioning go out? Someone out there is shivering under a bridge wondering where their next meal is coming from.
Are you ill? Someone out there is dying in a hospital and would give anything to take your place.
Are you suffering? Well, so is everyone else around you. Maybe instead of complaining, we would all do well to express our gratitude for the fact that we are alive. Or that we are near the ones we love. Or that our suffering has meaning if we want it to.
Having an attitude of gratitude isn't just a cliche quote that belongs in our calendars and chalkboards. It's an invitation to exist with purpose, and to not let the richness of life pass you by without noticing, if only we could stop comparing ourselves to the person we think has it so much better.
For "the grass is brown on both sides. In other words, whatever vocation you are called to, the cross is there."
I would add: so are the blessings. The blessings are there.
Try noticing all of the little ones, and see how wonderful and precious your life really is.