One of the cool things about reproducing is that you can’t help but take a slow walk down the memory lane of your own childhood. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years thinking about who I am as a person and figuring out how I got here because for me, the hardest part of parenting is deciding which values and beliefs you want ingrained in your children.
As I’ve cultivated various relationship over the last decade, I’ve come to realize that I really lucked out in the parent department. I mean, I have great parents. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t always get along and we both made mistakes, but at the end of the day, I always felt loved, supported and safe. There were a lot of lessons that were imparted to me over the years. There was an undercurrent of “regardless of the problem, everything is going to be ok” and a lot of “you can do anything you put your mind to” mixed in with it, but there’s one lesson in particular that affects me every single day of my life and it’s this: “It could always be worse, so suck it up.”
Let me begin by saying that my mom never put it quite that way, but that’s the way my brain translated the thousand different exchanges with this underlying theme. My mom had a standard answer for most complaints. If I would complain about having to do homework, she would respond with, “Cyn, there are children starving in Africa who would love the chance to get an education.” Translation? It could be worse, suck it up kid. I’m sure at the time, I rolled my eyes and felt sorry for myself, but somewhere deep down inside, I could acknowledge that yes, I was pretty lucky to be where I was.
I know that this particular lesson was supplemented by all of the traveling that we did as kids. When you travel to other countries, it becomes so clear how good we have it here. The Greece that I know and love is not the Greece that you see on the Travel Channel. Certainly, we’ve been to those places, but we’ve also been to small poverty stricken villages where people are barely scraping by. To those kids, we were like celebrities. They wanted to know everything about us and our experiences in a world that they would never see that seemed light years away from their own existence. It was a really humbling experience.
The Irishman has experienced culture shock on a number of different levels over the years, but I’ll never forget the time that we went grocery shopping after having just returned from a month-long stay on the island. He was standing in the frozen food isle of Publix just staring at his choices. When I asked him what was wrong, he looked over at me in disbelief and said, “we have so many choices here!” Yup, in most supermarkets in Greece (which are about the size of an American gas station) your choices for frozen pizza are a single brand that comes in plain cheese or pepperoni. I know this is such a small thing in and of itself, but it’s so indicative of the differences between America and most other countries.
The funny thing about life lessons is that, at some point, you take ownership of them. As I was navigating through college, I found myself hearing my mom’s voice in my head in response to various situations that came up and then, strangely, it became my own voice that I heard.
My favorite thing about this particular lesson is that it’s so true. For the vast majority of us, we have relatively few problems. We have indoor plumbing and an abundant food supply; available health care and some source of income. With these basic needs met, how can I not be elated that right here, in this moment, life is good. When you add in the fact that my son is healthy, I’m batting 1000.
I guess what I’m saying here is that it’s all about perspective. There are so many people in this world going without or dealing with real problems (life or death decisions) that I wake up every morning so damn thankful that I’m here to enjoy another day. When people ask the question of whether my glass is half empty or half full, I respond by saying that I’m just glad that I have a glass at all.