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Counting Our Blessings

by Jili Hamilton

It’s so easy to get into the widespread doom and gloom that people seem really to enjoy sharing with us. If we read the mainstream press and watch television, there is very little good news, news that makes us feel lucky to be alive. It is said that bad news makes for higher sales, and the publication Positive News, which only prints positive articles and has stayed a marginal newspaper rather than a best-seller, tends to bear this out.

What is it about us that makes us want to lock into the negative side of life? Is it because we enjoy thinking that we’re at least better off than the cases reported in the media? Does this make us feel superior in some way? I find it pulls me down so I’ve put a stop to reading newspapers or listening to the news.

We so often forget to count our many, many blessings and thinking things are going from bad to worse is a very uncomfortable way to live.

Another factor is that a belief that bad things are more likely to happen to us than good invariably draws them into our orbit and I remember being told that the incidence of lung cancer had increased when the warning started to appear on packets of cigarettes. People who hadn’t realized that smoking was bad for their health were suddenly confronted with their worst fears.

When you’re given lemons

It’s interesting how people who seem to be in really difficult situations are the ones most likely to have a positive turn of mind and who tend to talk about the things for which they are grateful rather than expressing their woes. I have heard one or two stories of terminally ill patients in hospital, knowing that they haven’t had long to live, who have been the ones to cheer up their friends and relatives. Hospices invariably have a very uplifting atmosphere and I’m sure so much of that comes from the letting go by the patients and the love and caring which pervades the whole place. When you know that your days are counted, you can truly be yourself and perhaps find the courage to tell people how much you have always loved them and what they’ve meant to you.

I once had an elderly neighbor in London whose Jewish parents had fled Germany in the 1930s when she was still a child. As a teenager she had had an accident in a swimming pool and as a result had great difficulty walking, even with two crutches. One day I mentioned that I had never heard her complain about the difficulties she had in doing so much that we take for granted.

She explained that she was eternally grateful that she and her family had found a safe place to live and anything else that happened to her was just an inconvenience. She was happy to look after the spare door keys for many of the more forgetful residents, and I enjoyed spending time with her chatting about life in general.

On her mother’s suggestion, she had taken up painting in her youth and had painted (and potted) until almost the end of her life. Several times we visited exhibitions together in the big London galleries and I learnt so much from her trained eye. There is a print of one of her paintings on the wall at home so I think about her often. She was someone who regularly counted her blessings; life had given her lemons and she made lemonade.

And very good it was, too.

Jili Hamilton is a translator, proofreader, writer, teacher and therapist. She has been working on most of these activities for many years, and for the past 25 or so has been involved in the self-development field. Her belief systems have changed radically through her studies and she wants to pass on the insights she has gained to others. She writes a fortnightly column for a small online magazine on various aspects of self-development, and this has led her to put the articles together in book form. She lives in Geneva, Switzerland.

A Seeker’s Guide to a Life Worth Living is published by O Books, August 2013

Paperback: 978-1-78279-118-8 | $22.95 | £12.99
eBook: 978-1-78279-117-1 | $9.99 | £6.99

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