Once upon a time, there was a frail elderly lady, who had lived a long time in a big, beautiful home.
However, as her children were grown and moved away, and her husband had passed away many years ago, the big house was just too much to take care of for the petite woman. Her health declined, her eyesight was failing, and her doctor enlisted the help of a home health agency to visit her. After a short time, the home health agency recommended that Mary move to an assisted living apartment, which Mary did not want to do. At the urging of her nurse (from the agency) and her doctor, Mary eventually relented.
On the day of the move, the social worker from the home health agency arrived to take Mary to her new apartment. Mary asked the younger woman to describe the apartment, and the social worker did her best to describe it in honest terms, so that Mary would not be surprised when she arrived. The older woman smiled and said, “I’m sure I’m going to just love it.”
“But how could she be sure she would love it?” the younger woman wondered. The wisdom of age and the power of choice shined through the older woman who explained very patiently that we have the ability to CHOOSE our attitude. We don’t always have the ability to choose everything about our lives. The woman admittedly didn’t choose for her health to decline or her eyesight to weaken, but she did have the power to choose her thoughts and her attitude about the experience. In choosing her attitude, she found that she DID love and appreciate the apartment: the ease with which she could traverse it, the simplicity to keep it clean and tidy, the security she felt at knowing her neighbors were nearby enough to hear if she had a fall and cried out for help.
She could be sure that she would love it because she chose to focus on the aspects that she loved.
Lesson from Mary’s story: We can always choose our attitude.
Putting it into practice:
Perhaps the most frequent opportunity to remember the power of choice is in our interactions with others. Often a situation will occur in which someone will behave unkindly, or maybe make some big mistakes, as in the situation with my parents. In these situations, we can choose to follow their lead: to “one-up” them in attempting to argue our points, to “retaliate” with anger and rudeness in response to theirs, or to “show them” by giving them the silent treatment. Or we can choose to give a better response than what we are getting (make a new path).
We can choose to focus our attention on the little bits of positivity, hope, and beauty, as Dr. Frankl’s story taught us. We can choose to pay attention to our own attitude as we learned from Mary. Even when the choices are limited, it’s never true that we “don’t have a choice” about anything. These three choices are always available, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Do you have a story about “choice” you’d like to share? Or maybe you’d choose to give me some feedback on this article. Either way, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org