Count Your Blessings
by Ruby Bayan - 10/15/99
At the most desperate moment, when I feel that things can’t get any worse, in that darkest hour of hopelessness, I take a deep breath and echo in my head what my mother always says... “Ruby, count your blessings.”
Yes, you will ask me... How do you count your blessings when your bank account says you don’t have enough money to pay the rent? When your daughter comes home crying because the doctor said she has a tumor? When your boss tells you the company is laying off a few of its employees, you included? How can you muster the strength to count your blessings?
These are the perfect times for us to focus on the good things we have. It doesn’t guarantee that the pain or the dilemma will suddenly go away. But it gives us a better perspective of how critical the situation really is. It helps us calm our nerves, think clearly, and act on the problem appropriately.
Counting our blessings doesn’t require much effort. In fact, it’s very simply put in short sayings we often take for granted.
“It’s alright. Things will work out fine.” I say this to myself when I can’t make heads nor tails with the many tasks I have to attend to. Writing deadlines piled one on top of another, interview subjects nowhere to be found, editor requests needed yesterday, proposals taking forever to get approved. When I start feeling the acid in my stomach, I sit back and talk to myself. “It’s alright. Things will work out fine.” I do a little stretching and concentrate on tackling the challenges one at a time. And deep inside me I’m reassured. I am still capable of meeting the challenge and I can make things work out fine.
“Look at the bright side.” This is my partner’s favorite advice. When his company re-assigned him to Orlando, we had one week to find a new apartment, transfer all the utility providers, pack, rent a truck, and move all of our stuff from Jacksonville, a good 4 hours drive away. When we were reviewing our to-do list for that move, I couldn't breathe -- I was getting stressed just imagining everything we had to take care of in a hurry. My partner noticed my tension and whispered, "Well, look at the bright side -- we'll be living right next to Disney World!"
“Relax. It could’ve been worse.” I’ll never forget my son's words when I broke the news that my purse was snitched while I was having lunch at a crowded restaurant. I was hysterical and I couldn’t forgive myself. I lost my ATM cards and all my money. He said, “It’s okay, Mom. It could’ve been worse. You could’ve gotten hurt. They can have the money. As long as you’re safe.” I learned my lesson but more importantly, I felt relieved. My son helped me see how fortunate I was at the worst situation.
“It’s a blessing in disguise.” How often we hear this said at the most desperate moments in our lives. It’s the catch-all phrase said by the more optimistic when no hope is in sight, when weeping seems the only thing left to do, when only a miracle can save the day. With this phrase you dig deep into your soul or you reach far into the heavens praying that somehow, this wretched moment will have something good to offer. If you dig deep enough and reach far enough, you will discover the blessing in disguise.
Death, illness, pain -- these are the extreme human conditions that really dare us to count our blessings. Death in the family. A prognosis of a dreaded disease. Pain from rejection, misfortune, or some irreparable damage. With such intolerable distress, how can you even start to count your blessings?
Let me share my little secret. When I feel that the world is caving in and my tears of hopelessness are just about to fall, I look down at my hands. I stretch my fingers and I start to count... my blessings. I say to myself, “I have ten fingers... 1-2-3-4-5... I can move all of them. My skin is clear. I can see. I can hear. I can talk. I can walk. I have a family. I have a home. I have friends. I have a job. Not everyone has these. I am a very lucky person. I am whole and I can cope with this minor setback.”
Try it. In your darkest hour, at the height of a most unfortunate situation, count your blessings by starting with your fingers.