One of the good things about having a deeply unhappy mother is that it made me think about the things she does that lead to that chronic unhappiness. Objectively, her life is very, very bad (old, widowed, heart problems, chronic pain, limited mobility) and her life is very, very good (she’s reached a grand old age, she’s got loving children and grandchildren, she lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world, she’s getting state-of-the-art care for her heart and pain, she lives in an excellent skilled nursing facility).
Rather than seeing both sides of her life, or focusing on the good stuff, my Mom insists on seeing only the very, very bad stuff. There is no good. She’s terrified of dying, but it’s awful to be old. She never sees her children or grandchildren enough. Marin is nice, but it’s not Europe. Sure, they manage the worst of her pain, but she still has pain and it’s so terrible. The nurses at her skilled nursing facility are awful. And so it goes, on and on, focusing relentlessly on the bad things, and reducing the good things to bad.
I long ago made the conscious decision to go the other way. Or as I told her, if you can’t change your situation, change your attitude.
There are things in my life I wish I could change; indeed, I wish most desperately that I could change them. But mostly, I know that I’m singularly fortunate. I live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world; in one of the nicest neighborhoods ever imagined; in a spacious, comfortable home; with children and dogs who adore me (sometimes to the point of exhaustion). I have a sister who is my best friend; Don Quixote (another best friend) is just a phone call away; and I have innumerable acquaintances who make my life better. I write, work out, read, and generally get to do things I enjoy.
I think Dennis Prager would be proud of me: