On a cold October morning, in 1968, my life was forever changed with five little words.
I was barely six-years-old, but sophisticated enough to know that my mom’s Barbie Doll like figure had not begun to change from fudge and potato chips. No, I knew something very special was developing in her womb. A little person was growing and about to become the fourth child to Jack and Lassie Madden.
“Wake-up kids. You have a new baby brother!” My father said joyfully to us. “His name is Michael.”
Dave and Tim immediately shot up and began bouncing wildly on the queen size bed, their heads nearly touching the ceiling. I, on the other hand, stood in complete and utter shock then performed a swan dive back under the covers.
“No! Not another boy!” I sobbed.
Later that morning, my father piled us into the family car and drove to meet this new creature. The minute we walked into the hospital room, my mother could see how desperately disappointed I was from the pained look in my eye. She wrapped her one free arm around her only daughter as she cradled this so-called “bundle of joy” in the other. “I’m sorry honey. It is what it is. And it will be alright.”
As the years passed, that simple line became my mom’s mantra. It was her answer for everything, and to me, it seemed to state the obvious. But in my adult years, I discovered there was an unspoken part to this infamous line that would resonate with me forever – “So what are you going to do about it?”
Throughout my life, I’ve thrown many a pity party. I’ve wanted to blame everyone and everything for whatever I deemed unfair. But looking back on my childhood, I’ve come to understand the importance of her mantra.
The season I sat on the softball bench, keeping it warm for my more athletic teammate’s bottoms, she never ran to the coach and demanded more playing time. Instead, she’d smile in my direction, encouraging me to be a good sport. And when Suzie was mean to me, rather than run to her mother to complain, she’d gently kiss me and help me find someone else to play with. My mother’s greatest tutorial was to take a cruel hard fact and learn to over-come it.
“Jackie,” she’d begin.“You can’t help what others do to you, but you are in control of how you react. When something bad happens, rather than take it personally, you can either fix it or change the way you think about it. It’s all in your attitude.”
And how right she was. I couldn’t force the coach to give me more playing time, after all, I was one of the worst players on the squad, but I did become the best cheerleader that ball club had ever seen – chanting songs, dancing wildly and encouraging my team mates on to victory.
Today, we are facing extremely difficult economic times. The jobless rate is at an all time high, people are losing their homes and the education system is a mess. But each morning, we’re given a gift when we wake up – the gift of choice. We can allow what is negative to eat away at our hearts, or we can open up our minds to what is possible.
We’re all partners on this human journey called life. Why not make it a joyful one? Learn to let go of your stress, acknowledge it is what it is and smile. You just might find it to be contagious.