How do you feel when other people celebrate the good things happening in their lives?
Do you celebrate wholeheartedly with them or are you a teensy-bit envious because their lives always seem sunny-side up?
Yesterday, I went to see the movie “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” with my daughter, Sami. We weren’t planning to go. In fact, we made the decision to go to the movie at 11:23am. The movie started at 11:50am. Out of consideration for the folks in the theater, I managed a quick shower before we dashed out the door and hustled to the theater.
Even though we had to park at least a quarter mile from the building because we forgot that it was SATURDAY AT FRANKLIN PARK MALL and people were EVERYWHERE, we got into our seats just as the movie began. God bless those endless movie previews.
The storyline is simple. Twelve-year old Alexander Cooper thinks his life is awful and he feels that his parents and siblings enjoy wonderful, trouble-free living. At the beginning of the movie, Alexander struts across the lawn toward the girl of his dreams, but trips over a lawn sprinkler and falls on his face. Moments later, the popular kid at school snaps Alexander’s photo and attaches his head atop a lingerie model – and then, texts the photo to the entire school. The rest of Alexander’s day is filled numerous woe-is-me moments that made us all feel bad for the kid.
After his family goes to bed, Alexander sits in front of a homemade ice-cream birthday sundae at midnight on his 12th birthday. He blows out the birthday candle, wishing that his family would experience the same kind of terrible luck that frequents his life.
His wish comes true.
The fun of the movie is watching over-the-top, cringe-worthy mayhem that results from young Alexander’s wish. His unemployed dad, played by Steve Carrell, finally gets a job interview, then bombs it. Alexander’s mom, played by Jennifer Garner, works for a publishing company and launches a children’s book. The book instructs children to jump all over the place. Except there was a very unfortunate typo and the “j” was replaced by the “d.” So, she was having a very bad day, too. (Since I’m proofing my book right now, I broke out in a sweat during that scene).
Alexander watches as his parents, brother and sister experience horrible, terrible failures. We see that as much as Alexander wanted his family to understand how he felt, he hated seeing them actually experience those moments.
And that’s when I got to thinking…
There was a phase in my life – some of you have heard me refer to them as my “Dark Years.” During this time in life, NOTHING ever seemed to go right. #fail felt like the perfect description for my life.
During these years, I struggled to watch good things happening in other people’s lives. This was a time before social media or else I would have had to delete my Facebook page. I couldn’t have handled happy vacation photos, new house photos or someone celebrating anything good happening because envy would scream over their good news.
I felt entrenched in an endless series of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days that I resented other’s good news. I wanted to be happy for them. Yet, my thoughts and emotional bandwidth was consumed by my disappointment with life. My head was filled with phrases like:
“When will I…”
I have so many journals containing those phrases for several years. “Joy” seemed like a word that only went to people who weren’t named Barb and didn’t live in my skin. I kept waiting for that magic moment for things to turn around AND ONLY THEN, I would be happy. Whatever that thing was didn’t happen and so I continued to fight through disappointment each day.
What changed? In a word: GRATITUDE.
I realized the importance of having gratitude for what I still had. I woke up to the realization that I had to stop meditating on what I didn’t have. When we “meditate” on something, we think about it over and over and over and over – you get the drift. When we meditate on unhealthy thoughts, those joy-destroying thoughts become fixed in our mind, continuously spinning like a hamster on a wheel. Those thoughts spin and spin until we have the discipline to stop them.
Meditating on the wrong things puts you in the wrong place. You’ll end up in the wrong place emotional, spiritually and relationally.
(And, while writing this blog, I am convicted of a few things that I need to stop meditating on. I HATE it when that happens – ha!)
In 2011, I read Ann Voscamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Many of you have read it and loved it. In the book, Ann challenges her readers to list 1000 moments that they are thankful for. It’s been three years since I’ve read the book and I’ve only listed 600. It’s not like I haven’t had thousands of moments to be thankful for, but I’m not always intentionally about acknowledging those moments.
Truth is, we are not mindful of all that God has blessed us with. We know this is true because way too much of the time we’re unhappy. Including me.
Too often, I blow right by my blessings and mediate on the bad stuff. It’s so easy to remember the bad stuff, isn’t it?
Gratitude changes and transforms our hearts. You cannot practice heart-felt gratitude and not have a heart filled with joy.
If you are in the midst of a continuous string of terrible, horrible, no good days, I challenge you to grab a notebook or open a note on your phone and keep track of all of the good moments in each day. In fact, I double-dare you. Warning: THIS IS HARDER THAN YOU THINK! You’ll have to discipline yourself to recognize those thankful moments and record them. This is how we become mindful of all that God has done for us.
So, if you are doing the November Thankful Challenge, keep going with that. But, for those who are struggling with feeling trapped in terrible, horrible, no good days, you absolutely need to get connected with gratitude. In fact, you can start here 🙂
How quickly can you list 10 moments that you are thankful for TODAY? I’ll be giving one Kindle or Nook digital gift copy of Ann Voscamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, to one person who leaves a comment on this blog. I’ll pick a winner on Wednesday. (It has to be a digital gift because I want to make sure that you get it quickly.)
If you think this post might encourage someone, feel free to share! In fact, that would be awesome!