A bottle of champagne has been sitting in our fridge. First, I was saving it to celebrate when my husband got the new job he applied for. The job was offered to someone else. Next, I was saving it for when our daughter got into the elite school for gifted children, where she was in the final round. A few weeks ago, we found out she was not offered a spot. And the list goes on: each time an opportunity arose, I secretly planned to open the bottle to celebrate once things worked out in our favor. The problem was that nothing worked out. And so the bottle continued to lie at the back of our fridge.
One of the more disappointing “no’s” came this week, and ever since I’ve been fighting to maintain a broader perspective, remember that God cares more about my life and my family than I can possibly imagine, and cultivate an attitude of patience and gratitude as we wait for whatever comes next. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster – at 9am I find myself content and thankful, but by 10:30, I’m sad, disappointed, and discouraged. Again. My head knows all the right truths to preach to myself, but my heart just can’t seem to consistently get in line with the teaching.
Yesterday, I decided that we should drink the champagne. Not because it was about to go bad, or because I needed the space in the fridge, but because I realized I need to focus on what we do have– and not on what we don’t.
So my husband and I opened the bottle, and we drank it. We toasted to our healthy family and to our apartment and to our community here in New York. We toasted to each other, because even though we fight and disagree and hold tightly to our own opinions and drive each other nearly crazy – we’re a good team, and we know we’ve got it good. We toasted to our crazy life and our loud kids and our nutty schedule and our ability to laugh at it all, and to all the times we’ve simply held each other and cried. Over the past few months, we’ve done plenty of mourning as the opportunities arose and then passed us by. This time, we celebrated all the many things that we do have.
My sister told me that this year she is trying to be “the most positive person I know” – well she’s already the most positive person I know, so I can’t hardly imagine her being more so — but her aspiration made me think about my own life. Positivity doesn’t exactly come naturally to me, but wouldn’t it be nice not to feel like Negative Nelly all the time? Events, people, postage stamps, conversations, dates, certain sweaters, the smell of roses – you name it – all seem to have a lot of meaning for me. I’m a feeler, and I feel both the highs and the lows strongly. The brokenness of the world and my own life aren’t just lurking at the edges of my mind, occasionally making an appearance – they are a part of my every day experience. However, even if I never become the most positive person I know – couldn’t I become just a little more positive? Could I reframe the disappointments, the sadness, the discouragement? (My previous post discusses this idea too.)
This week, this month, this year: I am challenging myself to reframe more, to return my focus to the positive things — every time it gets distracted by the negatives. I think that’s part of what Paul means when he advises to “take every thought captive” (2 Cor 10:5) and also a bit of what he means when he says to “Set your mind on things above” (Col 3: 2). Grieving a lost opportunity is a real thing. It’s okay to feel disappointed, to mourn what could-have-been, to feel the frustration or anger or sadness at the way things have turned out. But it’s not okay if our vision becomes so narrow that it’s the only thing we can see. At a certain point, we have to take hold of our thoughts – and turn them around. At a certain point, we have to move past the grieving — and set our minds on something else, on something bigger, and on a different perspective.
Open that bottle. Celebrate what you have.