10 Essential Lessons for Life – The Attitude of Gratitude
My daughter, Clara, turns ten this week. Looking back at the past decade of motherhood, it’s incredible to see not only how much she has grown, but how much I have grown. What lessons do we aim to teach our children, and what lessons do our children teach us?
10 Essential Lessons For Life
As I’ve pondered this and started my list, it’s developed into something longer than a single post. Once again, I give you a series of insights that will hopefully motivate and inspire you with your own family. These core lessons and values are the foundation of our family. We will continue to grow throughout our lifetime, and there is no way we can teach our children everything. Yet these lessons are the pinnacle of what we believe in. It's not just us parents teaching our children, either.
The first five lessons are what we've imparted to our daughters. The last five are the valuable lessons they've taught us.
Lesson #1: It’s All About The Mindset
There is so much we cannot control in the world. Curveballs are thrown at us all every day. Our expectations are dashed, people don’t respond how we want, the stinkin weather throws a damper on things (literally for us right now, as we navigate snowy passes through Colorado).
But there is one thing we have 100% control of. I am completely in charge of my attitude. My dad always says “I carry my sunshine within me.” The power of positive thinking may be cliche, but it is so true. I believe wholeheartedly in the law of abundance, and my life has shown it.
We get so many comments about what a fabulous life we’re living and how much fun it is to follow us. It’s not that we have everything perfect, or that we live a charmed life of privilege. Shit happens in our world, too. Yet, it doesn’t get us down.
Let me use Wednesday as an example. After a wonderful stay with friends in Norwood, Colorado, today we set off on our way to Woodland Park – up the mountains to surprise Clara by landing at her cousin’s house! As we’re tooling along down the road, Nathan noticed a tiny bit of what looked like smoke in the rear view mirror.
We stopped to investigate, and here are two versions of the rest of the story:
Version #1: Our Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day
Ah, travel day. And what do we hear but the pitter patter of rain on our roof. Pulling in rain is not as easy – it’s slick and no fun to hook up or set up. We weren’t even two hours down the road and smoke starts pouring out. We pulled to the side of the road to hop out and find diesel fuel from our recent fill-up spewing out from underneath our car as well as all over under the hood. It’s all over the place – all over our car and our trailer. The whole thing reeks of diesel fuel, and now we’re stranded on the side of the road.
The tow truck driver who was “just down the road” took forever – we spent the better part of an hour hanging out by the side of the road as cars rushed pass and shook our trailer, the kids griped about being bored and hungry, and the day started to look bleaker and bleaker.
He finally gets there and we drag our trailer up a bit to get it further off the road. Of all places, he parks it right next to the most god-awful deer carcass I’ve ever seen. We all squeeze into the front of a tow truck – six of us on one bench – and head to town, listening to him act out Tommy Boy in my ear the whole way.
Once there, it was one thing after another. The fuel injector had gone out. Then we discovered this wasn’t the first time it had happened. The previous owner had really done a botch job of it all before. On top of that, we knew our brakes were getting old so we had them check that. Come to find out, our back brakes were completely and utterly fried.
We got to Dad’s Automotive at about 9am. As I write this, it is now 5:45 and the laundry list of things wrong with our ’06 Dodge is getting longer and longer. We’ve had nothing but a granola bar since this morning, my back hurts, work is piling up, and kids are done.
On top of that, freakin snow is coming (we hate cold weather) and we’re trying to figure out how to navigate the weather and scary mountain passes while lugging 7,000+ pounds of weight and our whole family and home. It’s stressful and scary and we’re all sick of sitting at an auto repair place. Our day has been a big waste. One less day to enjoy visiting with our family we are trying to get to.
Version #2: The Silver Lining
This morning a beautiful little drizzle landed, just enough to calm the winds and then lighten up to a beautiful sunshine. We enjoyed a final breakfast with our delightful hosts and hit the road. As Nathan noticed smoke out the window, we pulled to the side to see diesel pouring out from underneath the car. We immediately looked for our “opportunity for a solution” and got on the phone to see what our options were.
Once again we were reminded how many good people there are. My friend Christine stood on standby, ready to drive the hour and a half to rescue us, haul our trailer, loan us her car, and anything else we needed. A couple pulled up in their car to see if they could lend a hand. Another cowboy jumped out of his huge truck to literally climb up under our hood to explain to us what he saw was going on and give us some pointers. Every phone call led us down a trail to that solution we needed.
Once we got a tow, he proceeded to let us know that of all the auto shops in the area, the place we found, Dad’s Automotive, he believes is hands-down the best auto mechanic “in the whole West”. As soon as we walked in to the shop and saw the whole back room with kid’s toys, movies, a dog and a toddler, we knew we were golden.
Levi the mechanic was super meticulous, taking Nathan to the back over and over as he uncovered all that was going on with our truck. Nathan knew our brakes were older in the back, so he asked Levi to check those out. Although we went in there because our fuel injector burst, upon further investigation into our brakes, we found out the back ones were completely shot.
Man, what a blessing in disguise. We were about to embark on an intense mountain pass – a very long straight up and then straight down. We’ve been nervous about this trek already. Now, here we were literally planning on climbing it this day, and we discover that our brakes were toast.
Once again, we’ve gotten emotional simply thinking about how protected we have been on this journey.
Time and time again we “just missed” horrific weather, tragic accidents, and more. So often the drama and turmoil in our life is completely relative. There is so much suffering and pain in the world. My family is healthy, we have a beautiful life. It may not be rainbows and unicorns every instant, but we choose to seek the sunshine, always.
As we admired the gorgeous aspen trees that looked like eyeballs staring at us, we took our pull-through site too close. Before we could react, we had perfectly wedged a tree between our two awnings. Two hours, two 3 ton jacks, chains and two trucks later we finally unwedged our trailer and broken awning.
I finally carried kids to bed and stepped over the shards of broken glass all in our bathroom from my favorite huge mason jar water jug. At that point, there was nothing left to do but laugh at the absurdity of our “Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day”.
Have An “Attitude of Gratitude”
I grew up listening to Zig Ziglar. When I was eight years old, we lost our home, our cars, and had almost a half a million in debt looming over us. My father refused to let that get him down and pumped us all with motivational talks. I grew up getting “attitude adjustments” and being reminded that I alone am in charge of my attitude.
We may have had to hop from rental home to rental home and been down to our last pennies with creditors banging on our door, but I grew up rich. It’s all relative. My family was rich with love and laughter. We “carried our sunshine inside” and found the silver lining despite our circumstances. My family sought gratitude for the little things and looked for budget-friendly ways to still play. We chose to have fun and not have our financial struggles take over our lives. Our attitude was one of abundance and happiness.
I’ve seen abject poverty, abuse of all kinds, crippling anger and hate. Just watching the news will let you know that the whole world is a disaster and there is no hope for mankind. Yes, I live a wonderful life and am overwhelmed with gratitude. I know it could be much, much worse. Unfortunately there is always a story that will make yours pale in comparison.
So let go of the cloud looming over your day and carry your own sunshine.
Take control of the one thing you have complete power over – your attitude.
Choose to be the good and see the good in others.
Just for today –
And remember that your light comes from within – let it shine today!
Stay tuned for next week’s powerful lessons on independence and natural consequences!