When I’ve played the New Year’s resolutions game I usually think in self-improvement terms: I will work on my Spanish; I will exercise more; I will clean out the basement etc., etc.
This year, inspired by my good friend Cathy Schrader, I’ve decided to focus on attitudinal change. Cathy has been dealing with a major, life-threatening illness for many years. She’s always had an upbeat temperament and it has served her well during this difficult time. This year she and her husband and two good friends went on a much anticipated trip to Italy. They flew to London, spent a few days enjoying London’s museums and theatre , then flew to Venice for several magical days with perfect weather, then Florence which Cathy fell in love with and finally Rome.
Cathy at our New Year's Day Party, 2013
Then the perfect trip unraveled. Cathy got sick in Rome and because of her medical history was rushed to the hospital. When she told me this I felt sick with disappointment—after all Cathy’s been through, she sure didn’t deserve this.
To my surprise, she said it wasn’t so bad. The Rome hospital was fascinating; she met some really wonderful people and discovered much about Italian culture she would never have learned as an ordinary tourist.
My response: I was amazed that she managed to salvage something from the experience. I know I would have been in a deep, dark depression about my ruined vacation.
Cathy’s response; Well, with what I’ve been through, I’ve had to learn how to how to focus on anything positive which comes my way.
As long as I’ve known her-–about 50 years—Cathy’s always been looking at the glass half-full. We traveled together to Italy in the late 1960’s and her sunny disposition and tendency to think the best of people got us into some dicey situations, including two near-miss sexual assaults. We decided not to go to Italy because we had been having a hard time fending off predatory French men and had heard that Italian men were much worse.
I’ve had the good fortune to go to Italy many times since then, but this was Cathy’s first trip back since 1969. It seemed so cruel that she had to spend part of that time in the hospital.
But she focused on the positive. She was happy she convinced her husband not to spend his time hanging around the hospital and was glad he had the opportunity to explore Rome. If it had been me, I probably would have wanted Rick to spend his time keeping me company in the hospital.
So inspired by Cathy, this is my New Year’s resolution: to try to salvage something positive from whatever life brings--without getting ridiculously Pollyannaish about it--although that’s never been a danger for me.
Karen Bojar blogs about retirement life, feminist activism, grassroots politics and gardening at http://www.the-next-stage.com/
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