One danger of making your personal complaints known, is that they become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I hurt, I have trouble sleeping, my digestion is not what it should be — once such things are spoken aloud, to justify yourself they must be lived up to. Therefore I do hurt, I do have trouble sleeping, and my digestion really isn’t what it should be — in other words, noble sufferer that I am, it is just as I have told you, only much worse. But please don’t feel sorry for me — just give me your undivided attention and tell me what a hero I am.
Complaint is a powerful force. It has a dramatic negative effect on how we are seen, and on how we see ourselves. A positive attitude, on the other hand, has just the opposite result. By patiently adopting it, we teach ourselves strength, and are an example of strength for others. “Ah, but if you only knew . . .” And just what makes you think I don’t? Am I not human like you, and do we not share the common lot of our kind? All humanity is crying out, suffering pain, loss, grief, hunger, satiety, loneliness. We have too much. We have too little. We have everything. We have nothing at all — except this glorious, outwardly expanding breath . . . .
I remember my father, suffering terribly with osteoarthritis, his back a crumpled mass of calcified, cushion-less bone, answering friends’ and neighbors’ inquiries after his health by saying how good he felt. Gone twenty years now, free from his agony, his attitude is still a positive outward vibration.
I also remember my daily visits with a friend, who, with one leg, died of cancer when he was eighteen and I was seventeen. Always a joke, always a smile, painting beautiful pictures while propped up on his side in bed, the soft winter light entering through his window and falling on his hand . . . .
And so I ask, what will be your legacy? What will be my own?