Life Is What You Make It

Life is what you make it. . . now this is a subject that I believe I can write about with a fair amount of personal knowledge. When I write about this subject, I’m not just guessing — I’m actually telling about what I have experienced. As a matter of fact, as I reflect more on this subject, I have a great deal of experience in this area.

I believe that the above statement is true — Life is what you make it. The actual quote comes from Eleanor Roosevelt and the entire quote goes like this: “Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.” Now here was a woman who didn’t mince her words. What she meant was that you can be content with your life or you can be unhappy with your life; it’s up to you. Your life will be whatever you make it to be. Let me give you some examples from my own life because that’s the best yardstick I have by which to measure the truth in this statement.

When I was growing up, our family was, for loss of a better word, “poor.” I grew up as the middle child of seven children. My father, who had been a truck driver, was disabled from working because of illness. My mother stayed home to take care of him and us children.  At that time, a woman working outside the home was not the usual thing to do. Therefore, in order to keep a roof over our heads, clothing on our backs, and food in our stomachs, we lived in a public housing project and on welfare. We had an elementary school which was built- in the center of the project; therefore, all the children who attended were in the same situation as we were.

Now our project was actually a very lovely place in which to grow up. Everyone took a lot of pride in their home, or apartment. The lawns were fertilized or sodded and mowed. The children were taught to respect others’ property, so there was no vandalism. There was no violence or crime. It was an everyday normal neighborhood, except for the fact that it was in a housing project.

How did we fare in the welfare system? Money was tight, which I heard years later from my mother. But my mother knew how to stretch a dollar, and she could prepare the most delicious meals for nine people and it would cost ten dollars or less. Most of the clothing I wore were hand-me-downs from my cousin, Sandy. I remember how excited I would get each time I knew my aunt was coming to visit, and my mom would tell me she was bringing some “new” clothes for me. I didn’t care that they were second-hand. I was just happy that they were something new to wear.

That attitude is the attitude we all grew up with — to be happy with what you have, to be happy with the life that God has given you, to be happy to be loved by your family. We didn’t realize we were poor. We thought our house (housing unit) was wonderful. We had great friends and our family loved us. Those were the most important things, so we were content. We lived happy so we were happy.

Have you ever heard the expression: “You need an attitude adjustment”? Attitude affects everything you do, say and feel. I know many people who struggle with their attitudes, and most of the time their attitude problems affect their lives in such a way that they keep them from being happy. I believe that if these people had “attitude adjustments,” then perhaps they would be happier in their lives.

I also have experience in this area as an adult. I worked full-time as an R.N. in the operating room for over twenty years. I was friends with everyone in the Surgery Department, as well as other departments, because I worked as the Charge Nurse of the department for six years. I had the respect of the surgeons, and I had seniority, with the choice shifts and at the top of the pay scale. I loved my career. Life couldn’t be better at that point in time. My husband and I had a happy marriage, and three fabulous children. We had a wonderful life together. Basically, we had just about everything we could want.

Then one day my world came crashing down. I became seriously ill, with one medical condition occurring after another. All of a sudden I could no longer work. I was permanently disabled from the career I loved so much, and I was sentenced to spending most of my days in bed.

I won’t lie to you. I became depressed about my situation; I couldn’t believe such a thing had happened to me, and I couldn’t understand why God would allow such a thing to occur. What had I ever done to deserve such a fate? It was at that moment, when I began to ask those questions, that my attitude changed. I was no longer the cheerful, happy person I used to be. I no longer saw the glass half-full; rather, I saw the glass half-empty. This was not the way I grew up. I decided in those moments to be unhappy, plain and simple.

After watching me struggle with this for a few months, my husband came to one day and said this to me, “Cindy, I know you’re sick and I’m sorry that this has happened to you, because you know how much I love you. But you know what? I think you need your attitude adjusted.” I felt as though someone had thrown a bucket of cold water in my face. I’ll admit that at first I was quite upset by what he said to me, but then after thinking about it, I realized that what he said was true. I needed to hear those words. Idid need my attitude adjusted, and the only one who could change my attitude was me.

Sure, my life had been so wonderful not so long ago and all of a sudden it was taken away as fast as you can blow out a candle, but things could be worse. I could be all alone, with no family, no friends, and no God who loves me. After thinking about it, I knew I had the things that were important in life, the things that make me happy. In that moment I readjusted my attitude back to where it had been all my life and I was happy again.

Yes, I do have days in which the pain is almost unbearable and I think I may not make it through, but somehow I always do, and my family, the ones I love, are always there, and I’m happy. Because after all, life is what you make it. Always has been. Always will be.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY:  “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”  ~ Maya Angelou ~

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