One day my mother-in-law turned to me and said, “I used to think my life would get so much easier after I got my children raised. It doesn’t. It just gets worrier and worrier until you die.”
At the time I thought she was throwing a wet towel over all my dreams for an easier tomorrow. Like her, I was living white knuckled hoping my life would get easier some day. From my perspective, her life seemed a lot easier than mine. Her comment got me thinking – maybe life’s challenges don’t go away; they just change to new ones. From that moment on I decided I had no more time to waste hoping for an easier tomorrow. I was going to make every day, the best day of my life.
I think my mother-in-law was trying to tell me that as we age we have more and more people to worry about because we have more and more people we know and love. We start out being concerned about a small nuclear family group and friends. Soon we grow up and that group expands to include our spouse and children. Soon those children grow up and our worries include their spouses and children. Then the grandchildren grow up and our heart grows to include their spouses and children.
Even though we can’t stop being concerned about all the people we love, we can learn the important difference between everything we’re concerned about and what we can actually do something about. Then we do what we can and leave the rest in God’s hands. Understanding that God alone is in control of the universe is the greatest stress reliever in the world. When we develop an attitude of gratitude for everything life throws at us, things have a way of working out.
On the day my mother-in-law left this life she was dying in one room of the Payson hospital while her great grand daughter was being born in another. While I watched my sister-in-law dashing between floors trying to say goodbye to her mother for the last time and hello to her grand child for the first time I didn’t know if I should be happy or sad. Then I wondered if birth and death are not so different. Our perspective makes us sad or happy. If we’re in heaven when someone we love is born, we feel sad because we’re going to miss them and we wonder what’s in store for them. The people on earth are rejoicing and welcoming a new family member. If we’re on earth when someone we love dies, we feel sad because we’re going to miss them and we don’t know for sure what’s in store for them. The people in heaven are rejoicing and welcoming an old family member back home again.
Perhaps if we had a broader perspective, all our hellos and goodbyes, our struggles and challenges would be seen as gifts to help us grow in knowledge, wisdom, patience and compassion. It is our perception that causes us worry or rejoicing. The truth is – there is no easy time of life. In essence, each day is a series of problems to solve, overcome or endure. The secret of a fulfilling life journey lies in our ability to be grateful for everything even when we’re knee deep in challenges. Making the personal decision to be grateful releases us from the quick-sand of self pity and opens our hearts to the personal growth we experience from good days and bad days. Then every day can be the best day of our life.