It’s been a pleasure speaking to groups around North Dakota this past week, in part because I was asked a lot of intelligent questions, which really forced me to think about the answers.
One young woman asked how I maintained a positive attitude when times were difficult, when my husband died, when there is a seeming unending pile of work to do, when my children are heading in what I think is the wrong direction.
The answer is that I try every day to wake up grateful, and it really is pretty easy if you are realistic and honest about your situation.
Read any history book – and not ancient history, either – about people breaking the film of ice on the pan of water IN THEIR HOUSE, as they started their day, to wash clothes or make coffee.
Even today, people wake up sleeping under bridges, on the ground in refugee camps. I’ve lived in old houses where the wind blows through cracks in the winter.
North Dakota is cold and for almost the entire history of the world there wasn’t much anyone could do about it. Yes, people discovered fire, hunted, had deer skins, tipis. However, it was nothing like the last few days when I woke up every morning, warm and comfortable, in well-insulated houses, on soft mattresses under a pile of quilts.
Being at Minot State University reminded me of my own graduate school days at the University of Minnesota. They had tunnels under the campus, connecting buildings, for which I was extremely grateful because I was a broke, graduate student and I didn’t have enough money to buy a lot of warm clothes. Any time I had to go outside between buildings, I was SO cold.
These days, buying long underwear, gloves, warm coats, is something I don’t even give a thought. If I need it, I get it. Half the clothes I didn’t even buy – my daughters gave me sweaters and coats for Christmas or because they had more than they could use.
Maybe you think it’s silly to wake up grateful that I have warm clothes and a soft bed in a warm house, but I think it’s objective. There was a point in my life when I had neither. Most of the people who ever lived on this earth had nowhere near the level of comfort that I wake up to every day. If they (or me, decades ago), could be magically picked up and dropped into my life, their first thought on waking up would be,
“Oh my God, this is amazing!”
After laying in bed with that thought for a few minutes, I get out of bed.