June 4, 2010

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

With the right perspective, there’s always something to celebrate

Patti LambI make too many “if … then” statements.

It has been brought to my attention lately, and I’m working to correct it.

The statements go like this:

If the baby will just sleep through the night, then it will be smooth sailing.

If only the house will sell, then I can finally catch my breath.

If I can just get this project done, then I’ll be able to coast for a while.

But if and when, by the grace of God, those things do finally happen, then I find other reasons on which to wait for happiness.

I’ve heard it referred to as the “arrival” fallacy, the idea that when you arrive at a particular destination, you will be happy.

I get caught up on this one all the time. I tell myself that things will be easier when the economy recovers, when the kids grow up, when the house is paid off, etc. I want to get there—wherever “there” is. But I don’t necessarily want to be right here.

The following story explains it well.

A cardinal once gave an address at an ordination ceremony in Rome. He told the seminarians, who had studied at this institution for four years, that if the plane from Rome back to the United States goes down, and they think they’ve wasted their lives because they have not yet gotten to serve as priests then they are wrong.

“Your life has not been wasted,” the cardinal said. “This—now—is your life, and it needs to be lived.”

I’ve always liked that story because it reminds me that we are making a difference, even if we’re not where we thought we would be.

Recently, I read in a book that what you do all the time is more important than what you do sometimes. This statement reminds me that I need to bring the same joyful and eager attitude to each new day, regardless of the humdrum tasks to be done.

My goal is to commit to today, this day that God has made, and stop making excuses about why today isn’t the one to start being happy. Even when I’m in the thick of childrearing—changing diapers, wiping noses, making school drop-offs and pick-ups, helping with homework—I’ve got to embrace this time and not wish it away. These are blessed days.

It would be a shame to look back on life and see myself in a constant state of postponing joy.

That reminds me of a quotation from Colette: “What a wonderful life I’ve had. If only I’d realized it sooner.”

I am trying to take my own advice. Yesterday, after I picked my son, Henry, up from school, we stopped at a Culver’s restaurant for a ButterBurger.

“Is it your birthday?” my 5-year-old son asked from the backseat.

“No, Henry,” I said. “My birthday isn’t for a long time.”

I saw his puzzled look in the rear-view mirror as he racked his brain trying to figure out what special occasion warranted such a treat for lunch.

“Mom, if today isn’t a special day, then why are we celebrating?” he asked.

“It’s Tuesday,” I said. “We’re together, and that’s reason enough to celebrate.”

“Happy Tuesday!” he shouted from the back seat.

I echoed his sentiments: “Happy Tuesday.”

With the right perspective, there’s always something to celebrate, no matter where we are.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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