"Fortify yourself with contentment, for this is an impregnable fortress." --Epictetus
I saw this quote on my friend George Throop's website (www.enjoythewalk.com) and I thought it fitting for my first post of the New Year. I am reminded that the one thing I can always control is my attitude toward the present moment. When the present brings joy and pleasure, it is easy to have an "attitude of gratitude" (I think Jesse Jackson might have just sued me). But even when the present brings challenges or pain, I can choose an attitude of acceptance rather than one of anger or stress.
While I am on this topic, allow me to recommend a DVD for the New Year. It is a British film called Happy-Go-Lucky, released in 2008. It is about Poppy, a cheerful North London school teacher whose optimism is injected into every sliver of her life, even those corners which seem most averse to it.
I mention this movie for another reason - my mom really liked it. Jo-Jo has a quirky taste in movies, so that is no small feat. She likes realistic, character-driven dramas, but they can't have too much swearing (sorry Stand By Me). She can enjoy a good kid's movie, just so long as they don't have references to the occult or voodoo (Sorry Princess & the Frog). And once in every blue moon she will enjoy a pure comedy, especially if it stars Bill Murray (come on down "What About Bob"). Somehow Happy-Go-Lucky found a spot in her wheelhouse as part drama, part comedy, part character study. Go figure.
You might be wondering why I chose the picture at the top of this blog. Well, the purpose of my first post of the New Year is not to poke innocent fun at my mom's taste in movies. Rather, it is to write an appreciation. Yesterday was my mom's last day of work as secretary and administrator at Ardmore Presbyterian Church. She is retiring after 23 years as the heart and soul of a church that both she and my dad grew up in many years ago.
It's hard for me to think of Ardmore Presby without my mom coming immediately to mind, sitting at her desk, walking the halls or chatting with a visitor. Pastors have come and gone, I've gone from junior high to high school to college to adulthood, out to California and back, and she has served Ardmore Presby faithfully through it all. She took the job when we first moved back from Zimbabwe in late 1986. For the previous 16 years, through my and Aaron's childhood, she had worked at home, caring for the two of us (Andrea & Heidi might use the word "spoiling" instead). She had been part mom, part housekeeper, part pastor's wife. Then to help make ends meet, and because Aaron and I were now at an age where it was nice to have the house to ourselves after school, she re-entered the working world at a job that was tailored made for her mix of organizational ability and deep and abiding care for people.
My brother and I used to always joke that the highest compliment my mom could give anyone was that they were a "hard worker." She has sprinkled that high praise around to many people we know over the years, but now I am going to boomerang it back to her. Even though her nature is to deflect praise, my mom is and always has been a very hard worker. She didn't want to retire, but the health of her neck dictated that she shouldn't spend such a huge chuck of every day sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen. I have no doubt she will be missed by every single person associated with the church, especially those accostomed to coming through those big wooden doors, walking up the steps, taking a left, going down the hall and seeing her at her desk, ready with welcoming smile. Like me.
Now she starts a new phase of life. My New Year's wish is that she finds a bunch of little things to do that she truly enjoys, be it helping other people, doing things with friends or sitting in her favorite blue chair reading one good book after another. I wish her happiness.
So that is why I chose the picture I did. In it we all are so happy. Me, with my feathered dirty blond hair and Cosby-like sweater. Monicah with her beautiful smile in the far background. My dad and John on the right, enjoying a crisp Zimbabwe morning. And especially my mom, cup of tea in hand, surrounded by people she loves, captured in a full-throated laugh.
Happy Twenty-Ten everyone. May you chose happiness through both its joys and challenges.
"Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same." ~Francesca Reigler