When it comes to feeling good about life, perspective is the key.
Great difficulties and painful situations will affect one's emotions, but the person who rises again to joy in the midst of the challenge has adjusted his or attitude and gained perspective.
Most of us know people who seem to have it all and yet are miserable.
They are skinny but see themselves as overweight and therefore unworthy of love.
They are beautiful but need to hide beneath it with an overemphasis on makeup and fine clothing.
They are rich compared to the rest of the world but can't seem to make enough money to feel secure or purchase enough material things to feel satisfied.
Somehow, their perspective is skewed toward the negative, despite the good things in their lives.
In conversation with a friend the other day about something I personally was unhappy about, she told me to imagine a white sheet of paper with a dot in the middle. "Do you want to focus on that little dot, or on the rest of the piece of paper?" she asked me.
I wanted to say, "Yes, but that dot is so distracting!"
I got her point, though, and as I let her words sink in, I agree with her. Her counsel actually made me feel optimistic. I remembered that I had a choice in what I focused on in my situation. I could choose to look at small distracting dots or I could be grateful for all the white space in my life where nothing was going on and all was well.
A friend of mine who has lived a brain tumor for many years embodies this reality for me. Every time I'm with her, I've been amazed by the way she lives. In fact, she is vibrantly alive.
Being with her can mean intense and interesting conversation, easy laughter, spontaneous times of rest, consistent snacking on healthy food, or a sudden trip to visit a friend. If you met her, she may offer you a small gift, stay in touch with you later through email, or take the time to ask you about your life and to pray over whatever is concerning you.
She has never expressed jealousy of others' health or material blessings, nor has she seemed to resent her present challenges. At times she is exhausted from her treatments and the medicines she takes may affect her mood, but miraculously, after a time she is generally able to pull through again and attain her normal attitude of joy.
Because she has deliberately and consistently poured into others, they have poured back into her. She has been unable to work for years, yet she has been given places to live dirt cheap by friends who owned property, she has been offered a car, someone gave her a computer, and often friends walk in and leave groceries in her refrigerator.
Her perspective is that life is good, and when you are around her, you see that her life really is good, despite the glaring dots on the symbolic sheet of paper.
Tabi Upton, MA-lpc is a local therapist and free-lance writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.