As each day goes by, it’s human nature to focus squarely on what’s in front of you. We do the dishes, we watch TV, we make phone calls, and we chase our animals around the house. Life, paired so tightly with time, continues its never-ending journey forward. And so we move forward along with it.
There is, however, almost an undeniable expectation that the next day will be just like the last…or to put it another way, that everyone and everything that we know will continue to move forward along with us. It’s the things we’ve always had that we most think we will always have. Yet this, I believe, is one of the most tragic mistakes that we can make.
Now, I should point out that I am a person that flat-out detests being sad (which is why I prefer having a root canal to having a “good cry”). I am very much an optimist by nature, but not blindly so. For while there are some that will tell you that you can do anything…I am not that person. Because I’ll tell you right now, there are some things you won’t do in a million years. For me, it’s more a matter of perspective.
Let’s take the most illustrative example: life and death. No one ever thinks they’ll lose a loved one. It’s extremely difficult to think about, and it sure as hell doesn’t cheer up the soul. And that’s understandable. But we protect ourselves so much against this thought that we do the opposite: we take life for granted. We go on, day after day, assuming that we’ll have our family and friends forever. We hold in our minds a hundred things that we’ll do someday, never once stopping to consider that the only day we have for sure is today. And each day that passes becomes a missed opportunity.
I think we’ve all lost someone we loved at some point. Surrounding this loss is a feeling that it’s incredibly unfair–that while death is inevitable, there just seemed no way that it could happen to this person, on this day. Deep down, though, I think we all know that this isn’t true. We’re given an amazing gift to live on this planet, but it is not a gift with a guarantee. It can be taken away in a moment’s notice, for any reason at any time. This doesn’t make the possibility of death any stronger–there is nothing that will change that. But it should make life that much more powerful.
And so while we wake up in the morning, hammering the snooze button through blurred vision and cursing another work day, I think there are also countless things to be extremely thankful for. We have air to breathe, and people to laugh with, and a home to live in. We aren’t in a war-ravaged land, as in Afghanistan, nor do we have to fend off disease at every turn, as in many African nations. Most of us still have enough money to get by on, even when the economy takes a bad downturn, and we never have to wonder desperately how we’ll get our next meal. We have family members that care about us, and too many friends that try harder for our happiness than they do their own. We have rarely been the victim of any serious crime, nor do we have to live a life looking over our shoulder. And of course we have the opportunity to live a free life in an incredible country.
Taking these things for granted is a choice we all make, subconsciously or not. But I’ve found that the more you appreciate things, the happier you become. You begin to see that we live amongst incredible gifts, and that even when darkness finds its way to us, it has far more light to offset it. Appreciation is, after all, why a starving child finds so much more happiness in a meal than someone with his own personal chef.
It’s all a matter of perspective.