JUST THINKING: Freedom to choose

Just Thinking | Julie Stafford

Earlier this week, I was talking to one my mom’s childhood friends about some of the bumps and bruises that life has thrown my family’s way during the past couple of years.

Pretty significant life events on a scale of 1 to 10, even though the challenge meter by which I judged those events was fairly limited at the time. She shared some of the hurdles her grandkids have had to maneuver during their short time on the planet, too.

Because of how heavy and difficult some of my trials have been, strictly for survival sake, I took the attitude that I need to focus on the here and now and make things happen for me instead of letting them happen to me, if that makes any sense. No looking back, no mulling what could have been or should have been. It’s just not helpful.

My mom’s friend had an interesting way of looking at how we choose to address our problems. Key word there being “choose.” She said if a group of friends stood in a circle and threw all of their worst struggles into a pot, mixed them up, then could grab anyone’s problem out that they wanted, most folks probably would snap their own issues right back instead of swapping them for someone else’s. The notion being, of course, that what seems tough to us likely doesn’t scratch the surface of what others are dealing with.

I heard her explain, too, that we have a choice in how we deal with most things. Her way of looking at the world is that a lot of people can’t affect their challenges — maybe they’ve been diagnosed with a disease, or are dependent on a wheelchair, or they’re a young child who doesn’t have a choice in where they live, how much they get to eat, whose car they ride in.

Most of us wake up with the freedom to decide whether we’ll move through the day happy or sad or angry. We make the decision to drink too much beer or alcohol or do drugs or text and drive. We choose whether to sit on the couch and watch TV or fill out three more job applications. We can decide to exercise and eat healthy or down an entire gallon of ice cream.

There is absolutely no question that life is hard. Sometimes it’s really, really hard. And sometimes you have to squint to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we do have a choice about how we affect our day and impact the world around us.

A therapist once told me that there is no use for “guilt” or “regret.” We all have things we wish we could have done differently. The point is we can’t change the past. But we can most certainly change how we use those past bumps and bruises to affect our future for the better.

As hard as some of my trials and tribulations have felt, I know that each and every one of them has made me who I am today and helps me focus on living each and every day to the max with purposeful intention, positive inspiration, and lots of gratitude.

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