Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I am thankful.

I was listening to Fresh Air today on NPR (my usual program when driving to pick Sydney up from school), and Teri was interviewing Tom Parker-Bowles (Camilla's son) about his new book, The Year of Eating Dangerously. The book sounds interesting enough (although it's not even going to make my list since there are so many things I'd rather read), but it was when the inevitable question about Camilla and Charles came up that he said something I found very interesting and charming. Teri asked if it was hard for him to have the media going after his mother and his family. His response was that actually, no, it wasn't hard. He and his sister discussed it and decided that their feeling was that they've had a charmed life and a wonderful upbringing. They could've been born in the slums, or abused, or lost their parents. They count themselves lucky for everything they have and don't feel sorry for themselves over some negative media attention.

I was floored by this attitude. This seems like such a refreshing attitude from a "child of privilege". Now, I know nothing about this guy (other than whose son he is), so he could just be blowing smoke, but it's so different from the whining that a lot of celebrities seem to do about how difficult their fame is. Yes, the paparazzi is relentless, but without them people like Paris Hilton would not be household names.

It also made me think hard about my own life and attitudes. Why do I feel like the world's going to end when my kids are being their strong-minded, willful little selves? They are both healthy, happy (mostly), good (occasionally) kids. Our family has a nice house to live in, clothes to wear, good food to eat. I'm very fortunate that I'm married to someone I love madly and who is successful enough to allow me to pursue my passion instead of packing the kids off to daycare every morning so I can work all day at an office job that I hate in order to pay the bills each month. I'm so very lucky to have in-laws that I adore and who are very involved in their grandchildren's lives - I can work at a yarn shop thanks to their free childcare services. And yet I still find plenty of opportunities to complain.

What is it about human nature that makes us so prone to negativity? Or is it just me? Is there truly a personality type that only sees the glass half-empty? Was I born this way, or did I develop some kind of mental defect that prevents me from seeing and enjoying everything good about my life? I'd sure like to know the secret, if there is one, to flipping that glass around so it's half full... Maybe the key is to seek out little tidbits, like that thrown out by Parker-Bowles, that make me stop and step outside of myself for a bit. It's always good to get a little perspective on things.

Not that everything's always a black cloud around here - it's just that I spend a lot of time ticked off because the kids are screaming and fighting (and won't listen to a thing I say), Bill left his dirty dishes on the kitchen counter that I spent the morning cleaning, and the living room floor is impossible to walk on without crushing dozens of Cheerios into the carpet. In the big scheme of things, a little bit of Cheerio dust just isn't that big of a deal.


Blogger Yarnhog said...

It's what I call "The Power of Negative Money." If you got a hundred dollars in the mail unexpectedly, you'd be happy for about five minutes. If you lost a hundred dollars on your way into the grocery store, you'd be upset for most of the day. Right? We're hard wired that way. We rarely appreciate what we have as much as we mourn what we don't.

(As to your points about privilege, having lived in some places in the world where just surviving is a gut-wrenching daily drama, I feel like I won the lottery of life, and I have very little patience with middle class Americans who complain about how hard life is. Want hard? Try being a woman in Africa, watching your children starve to death while you slowly die of AIDS after your husband has been killed--and you and your daughters raped--by the local militia. This is the norm, rather than the exception, in large parts of the world. Then get back to me.)

5:35 PM  
Blogger Yarnhog said...

BTW--I don't mean you personally, of course. I mean "you" in the general sense of those who might feel that middle class life in modern day America is too tough.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Yep, we are so often caught up in the little things of life that we forget the big picture.

I like to try and remember that things are not inherently good or bad, they just ARE. We arbitrarily assign value to them and we have a choice whether we let that value be positive or negative.

In the big scheme of things, a few ground Cheerios in the dining room carpet isn't such a big deal. The nice part is that you have people around who spill them and grind them into the carpet -- and heck, that you have a carpet and food to spill on it in the first place. :)

Perspective is everything. :)

6:32 PM  
Blogger msubulldog said...

I catch myself feeling like that sometimes. I think we tend to notice the negative because, well, it's just way more interesting than if everything were going along smoothly.

I keep a framed sketch of the American flag by my front door (so I will see it everyday) that says, "As much as I complain, I am well aware of how much I have to be thankful for." It helps me keep things in perspective.

I suppose it's a good thing you notice yourself feeling that way, though. If you didn't we'd probably be worried, right? *grin*

10:05 PM  
Blogger ChefSara said...

There was an article recently in Reader's Digest about the power of thankfulness. Studies were done on people who kept a "thankful journal" and those who didn't. The ones who did were generally happier, more optimistic, and healthier than their counter parts. And all this group did was keep a journal where, at the end of the day, they would write down three things of things they were grateful for that day. I do a similar thing (though not nearly on a daily basis) with an email group of friends, and I'm amazed at the difference it makes on my outlook on life.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Cece said...

Ha. There are those of us that are on year 3 of fertility treatments who would kill to have a truckload of cheerios in the living room!

It's so hard to step out of our day to day lives and realize just who wonderful we've got it, isn't it!

9:24 AM  

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