Having my Grandmother living with us has taught me a lot. A lot about my Grandmother. A lot about accepting responsibility for our situation in life. A lot about having a good attitude, and yes, a lot about thankfulness.
It is very hard sometimes to really see our part in our own lives. Let's face it, as much as we may want to whine about how awful certain situations are, we are directly responsible for a huge portion of our own lives. Take for instance an abusive and/or alcoholic spouse. Well, you married them - it can't get any plainer than that. We don't really have forced marriages in this day and age, at least not in this country, so we are the only ones we can REALLY hold responsible for who we married. "But", you say, "I didn't know he drank/was abusive before we got married." Generally speaking, there are at least a few little clues about a person's true personality that show through, usually more than a few. We just tend to try to excuse them away when we don't want to accept them.
Okay, what about situations like having a parent die. Certainly the child cannot be held responsible for that. True. I'll give you that one, but we've all heard the saying that our lives are 10% what happens to us and 90% what we make of it. I know that as children it's much harder to see things clearly or adapt well, and some children do not have good examples from which to learn, but all these things can be overcome if the adult starts to accept his/her responsibility for their own lives. We can't possibly go back and change how things have happened in our lives, but we can pick up the pieces and try to make something redeemable from them.
Constantly bemoaning what has happened in our past; not wanting to accept that, at least as adults, we have had a share in most of the situations that have shaped our lives, will leave us angry and bitter.
Part of growing up is learning to accept responsibility for all of our decisions and actions. It's hard to be objective about ourselves. It's painful to admit that the reason your child is whiney and difficult is because you're not effectively training him/her, or because he sees an example of whining in you. As adults our whining usually takes the shape of complaining, but it's really the same thing. Sure, we all need to get things off our chest from time to time, but how often do you do that and in what way? A very wise women told me once, years ago, that she had tried to develop a habit of taking stock of her own attitude/behavior when she started to notice behavior problems in her children. She began to see a pattern of them acting out more when she was going through problems with her own attitude. Maybe she was resentful of a decision her husband made, or maybe she didn't want to accept something God was trying to teach her. Her rebellion sparked rebellion in her children. She didn't ignore the behavior issues in her children, she corrected them, but often it was after she admitted to them that she was setting a bad example and started correcting her own behavior. That kind of personal honesty and responsibility is hard and I've got to admit I fail miserably at it sometimes, but I do try to keep it in mind.
The other big part of all this is learning to have an attitude of thankfulness. It's hard to be thankful in some situations, but we can try to develope a habit of looking at the situation through a different pair of glasses. Yes, getting sick and having to be in the bed when you've a lot to do can be tough. Having to deal with a broken limb, or even the loss of a limb is difficult. The loss of a job, or losing your house to flood or fire is awful, but when you get right down to it, you can always think up how your situation could have been (in many cases, much) worse and try be thankful that you are not in that type of situation. Sometimes our difficulty in dealing with a situation lies in assumptions we made. My grandmother is having a hard time dealing with having to live with someone else. Her biggest problem with this is that she thought she would always be able to take care of herself. That was a pretty resonable expectation when she was younger, but to think that you will always be able to take complete care of yourself, no matter how old you get, is not at all resonable. And there are all kinds of situations that may necessitate someone requiring help at a much younger age. We are given no guarantees in this life. And no, having faith in God will not prevent things from happening to you, though it can help you deal with them.
I am not ignorant of how terrible life can be. There are plenty of situations where someone's life has been completely ripped apart by circumstances totally beyond their control. This probably happens more often with children because they cannot have control over the circumstances of their lives, but there are exceptions to everything. For the vast majority of us though, our lives have not been all that horrible. Even if we have had some terrible incidents in our lives, it is nothing compared to what some people have had to deal with.
I may have rambled a bit in this post, but the bottom line is this: One of my biggest prayers that has come out of this experience is that I want to watch my attitude as I grow older. That I do not want to waste my life focusing on how things didn't go as I wanted or expected, and making everyone around me, as well as myself miserable because of that. I'm not complaining about my grandmother, I just truly want to be a good example to my children and grandchildren as I grow older. Showing them, through example as much as words, how to be thankful in all things. I also want to be pleasant to be around. Lets face it, as parents, sometimes our children do not want to be around us.:D It would be nice if, once we are no longer "the heavy", they actually enjoyed our company.
As we grow older we should do all that we can, whenever we can, but we should also be able to accept, with dignity, any help that may be needed. Let us grow old gracefully, fully accepting the fact that our lives were, for the most part, under our own control, and that we are responsible for the outcome. Let us always, always remember that we are an example to others and that we want our children, granchildren and great-grandchildren to enjoy our company. This has become one of my prayers.