Have you ever seen a tornado in person? I haven’t, but I have seen enough movies and newsreels to know the kind of destruction they cause. Of all the natural disasters, tornadoes fill me with the most dread. They strike with little warning and are unpredictable. Tornadoes are powerful and frightening.
Many of the events of last year made me feel like I was watching a tornado through my front window–part disbelief, part fear, part isolation, part anger, part overwhelm.
At the end of 2020 when we were reviewing the year, my kids told me it was the worst year ever, especially their summer. They reported that it was terrible because they had no swimming, no lessons, no friends or cousins. No trips. We spent most of the summer looking for homes, packing, moving to a new city, and taking extra precautions because of COVID. It was like dodging a tornado jumping all around you and changing directions but you couldn’t leave your house (literally) because it stayed on the horizon.
It made me realize from a new perspective how critical and important it is to choose a positive attitude in a spirit of gratitude. That catchy little phrase has become a well-known sound bite, but it’s powerful when actually applied. When you review your week (or your life) or even evaluate past goals, it’s always more helpful if you filter it through the lens of gratitude, which inevitably helps you adjust your attitude. Did you see that? One doesn’t come before the other necessarily; they work together, awesome right?
I had to remind my kids of the blessings we received as well. We were able to find a home in a good neighborhood similar to where we moved from, which I seriously doubted because of the strange market of low inventory and high prices, along with the difficulty of looking at them in person. We found a house that had everything on our “need and want” list (for myself and my husband) and was in our budget. The closing went smoothly, even though it took extra documentation and time, and even with a tight timeline, we were able to move in before school started. I reminded them that they were blessed to be able to attend school in person when so many other children didn’t have that choice. We had our health and food and work and plenty of toilet paper.
I chose to set almost all of my goals aside last year to focus on my family and my sanity, but the timing feels right to start looking ahead again, so I’m cautiously planning activities. I’m getting my COVID vaccination. I’m doing the mental work to move from a place of fear to one of hope and gratitude.
If there’s one truth I could remind you of, it’s this: “You can’t always choose your circumstances, but you can always choose your attitude, and an easy way to improve your attitude is with greater perspective which can come from a place of gratitude.”
In the words of Helen Keller, “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars or sailed to an unchartered land or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”
This one from William James is another good reminder, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
And finally from Sydney J. Harris, “Happiness is a direction, not a place.”
Last year brought the unexpected and unanticipated, but as you move through 2021 and beyond, perhaps desperately wanting to leave your bunker behind to watch the weather change from stormy clouds to sunny skies, hopefully you’ll remember what you’ve learned while being there–how to be resilient while focused on gratitude, choosing a joyful attitude, and trusting God through it all.
What have you learned through the events of last year (and this year) and how has gratitude helped you adjust your attitude in the middle of life’s difficult circumstances?