I often make a list of all the calamaties that have not befallen me and use that list to inspire myself to be thankful despite anything that has happened. I describe this process by a phrase that I invented: “On a scale of Nirvana to Bosnia, I’m somewhere in between”. I consider life to be a continuum of wonder and wickedness; and I count myself as fortunate if I hit dead-center or inch closer to glory.
Ironically, I discourage others from measuring their lives against mine. I often proclaim, “It’s not a competition, it’s an exhibition.” I usually deploy this instruction with people who dismiss their own suffering. How are you? I ask. They roll their eyes and shrug, saying, Well, I don’t have to put up with nearly the pain you experience, but I did….”. Fill in the blank with their injury, ailment, loss, or longing.
It’s not a competition. I don’t have a monopoly on suffering. You’re entitled to your share.
I do know that my life holds much for which to be grateful. I’m not rich, but neither am I poor. The comforts which surround me inspire my quest to help those who do live in poverty. My relative good health draws my determination to donate to medical research for crippling and fatal diseases like cancer and ALS. Even though I have my own illnesses — none of which are sufficiently glamorous for walk-a-thons — and regardless of the struggles which face me when I try to walk, or stand, or pay my health insurance premium, I acknowledge that I have it fairly well off.
On a scale of Nirvana to Bosnia, I’m somewhere in between.
That’s why I’m still smiling, though sometimes with gritted teeth and pursed lips. I’d rather my life had taken a few different turns. If I felt vengeful, a handful of names would be on the hit-list. I do rage. My face contorts as I lift it toward the sky where we presume the deity reigns, and wail in anguish. Why? Why not? Why me? Why not me?
Then I grab a broom and start cleaning the front porch. The air soothes my skin and dries my tears. The wild banging of my aching heart begins to calm. Peace descends on my soul; a peace more cherished because it can be fleeting.
I put aside complaint. Life continues.