Friday, April 1, 2011

Reality Check

I can tend to be a "glass half-empty" kind of guy if I don't take a reality check once in a while. I complain about anything to anyone who will listen. My long-suffering wife is clearly the person usually exposed to my rants, and for that I apologize. Politics, traffic, the weather, my aches and pains, thoughtless people...the list goes on. Even if it only reins me in temporarily, I try to get a "glass half-full" perspective every now and again. It's really easy to be reminded how good I have it, all I have to do is look around me at what others in the world must endure.

I live in the greatest country in the world, bar none. I am free to do what I like within the law, and that includes disagreeing with my government. I have the right to marry who I please, practice any religion I choose, do anything I like for a living, and not fear that someone will bang on my door in the middle of the night and take me away for my beliefs. Our forefathers called it "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". As Americans, we are born with these rights, and sometimes take them for granted. We have only to look at what's going on in Egypt, Libya, Iran and Afghanistan to know how lucky we are that our system protects us from such despotic and fanatical leaders.

I've been whining all winter about the cold and the snow as if a little bad weather was the worst suffering a man had to endure. What about starving people in disease-ridden Africa with no hope of a better life for their children; earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan now contemplating an even greater fear of nuclear fallout; flood ravaged families in Queensland, Australia who were lucky to escape the rampaging waters with their lives; hurricane victims in Haiti whose world was turned upside down overnight...I ought to be able to manage a little winter without bitching and moaning.

I take every traffic jam or missed light as a personal affront. I fidget when people drive in front of me as if they had nowhere to go and all day to get there. I curse the morons who tailgate or cut me off. I mentally flip-off the dangerous clowns who run red lights or pass me on the right. I forget that driving is a privilege. People in other parts of the world walk miles to fetch water. Villagers scale mountains to visit relatives in the next town. Poverty-stricken natives ride on overcrowded buses and trains in the company of goats and chickens to get where they're going. Maybe that pot hole on the Belt Parkway isn't the end of the world after all.

My back aches in the morning and my sinuses fill up at night. While these minor health issues don't keep me from leading a full life, including walking three miles a day and playing a round of golf every week, that doesn't mean I'm not going to complain about them. What I need to do is look around at folks coping with life-threatening diseases, or even health problems that greatly impact their quality of life. I need to look at my granddaughter who's had more surgeries than I can count in her eight short years of life, and yet finds joy in even the smallest things. I should emulate my daughter and son-in-law, who cope every day with the challenges of having a special needs child, but don't obsess about it. They do what must be done, and get on with their lives.

It's so easy to fall into a rut. I wish I could say that reflecting on these things will cause me to have a St. Paul-like epiphany and change my ways for the better. Maybe I can at least make it to dinner time.

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2 comments:

The Whiner said...

Why thank you for the nice words! The only problem with trying to emulate me is that I have spent the last 43 years emulating you, which is why I am always complaining. You'll just be right back where you started. ;)

Jim Pantaleno said...

We'll just have to complain together.