“I hate my life right now!” Leigh had been lamenting for most of the evening.
It was New Year’s Eve, and I had invited a couple of friends over. I like to celebrate the lessons of the past year, in anticipation of what is to come. But the night had turned into a pity party for Leigh.
“My ex isn’t cooperating with the divorce demands.” What ex-spouse does? I wondered.
“I have to decide whether to keep my kids in violin lessons or hockey, but I can’t afford to both.” I hadn’t been able to afford any extracurricular activities since my marriage fell apart.
The rest of us poured some more wine, and tried to listen sympathetically.
“If he doesn’t come through, I will have to sell the house. The children are entitled to live in the same standard they’re used to!’
“Downsizing is a typical consequence of couples splitting up,” I offered, looking around at my tiny abode. Homes are what you make of them, I was thinking.
“I just don’t know how I’m going to do it!” This party was going in the tanker. As Leigh ranted, I became more and more aware of how much better off she was than me.
“Leigh,” I asked. “How much money do have in the bank?” Leigh is a professor, so I knew her salary was better than mine at the time; mine being below the poverty level.
“In savings or generally?”
“I have 80 cents, period. No savings, no money for groceries, bills, or anything.” The wine was talking now and I couldn’t stop myself. “In fact, if you haven’t noticed, I lost my home, and everything in it, but do you hear me complain?” Not giving her time to answer, I continued. “I couldn’t put my children in either hockey or violin lessons if I wanted to right now, but you know what? We’ve got something you don’t.”
“What’s that?” I could tell by her voice she was angry now. I had crossed a line. It didn’t stop me.
“Happiness. What’s wrong with you is that you just can’t accept your reality the way it is. This may be all I have, but I choose to accept it. Until you do, you can’t be happy.”
Leigh stormed out of my house.
“You only spoke the truth,” Jan offered.
“But suffering is relative,” another said.
“Yes, it is. But it’s like that serenity poem – you have to accept the things you can’t change.”
Truth is, I probably sounded just like Leigh, or worse, when my marriage fell apart, especially since I didn’t see it coming. But in time, I got sick of myself, and realized that nothing was changing as long as I kept wallowing in the muck. So I adopted a new mantra. I told myself that all life is transition, and this is what is for now. Accepting the moment freed me up to focus on making the most of life with what I had.
What is that saying? The one about the present being a gift? Celebrate what is.