There were residents who lived on the sunny side of the nursing home, and others who lived on the dark side. I worked as an aide at the nursing home, for only half a year, a job in the hiatus of my career; but it was over the brief span of this experience, that the most enduring and transformative life lesson was taught to me. Soon after beginning this work, it became very obvious to me that there were two types of residents in the home. There were those who smiled and laughed and were fun to be around, the ones I came to think of as living on the sunny side of the home. And then there were the others, the frowners and complainers who exuded misery, on the dark side of the home. For all intents and purposes, there were no general distinctions between the physical wellness of the residents on either side. Some of the dark-side residents received more visitors than the sunny-side folks. All were given equal care. But they wore their life experiences very differently.
The dark side residents were bitter, angry, depressed, vindictive and resentful. They arrived at their not-so-Golden-Years clothed in blame and victimhood. Their food was lousy, their care worse, their families couldn’t be bothered with them.
The sunny side residents were pleasant, happy, enthused, engaged and active. They arrived at their Golden Years clothed in gratitude and self-empowerment. Although 30 years have passed between my stint at the home and the writing of this article, my memory of one particular sunny side gentlemen remains vivid and indelible. An amputee, who had no arms or legs as a result of his service in the second great war, had an abundance of positive attitude. He had the ability to find the silver lining in every black cloud. When I came to work carrying the weight of my then unhappy world on my shoulders he soon had me laughing along side him as I spoon fed him his dinner.
None of the many self-help books, motivational speakers, or personal development training sessions I’ve invested in over the decades since, has enlightened me as did this man, to understand the power of a positive attitude in determining the quality of my life. Victor Frankl, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, like my mentor at the nursing home, had almost everything taken away from him in the same war, which led to the famous quotes by Frankl: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And: When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
I had no way of knowing the individual life story of each of the residents, but I came to appreciate that happiness isn’t determined by the events in the story, but rather by the chosen response to the events.
This blog post was written by Annie Gyg. Catch Annie at momondays Guelph, ON on 01/23/2017! Get your advance tickets here: Buy Tickets
Drawing from a wide array of personal experiences in roles such as a real estate professional, wilderness camper, mother of four, pet owner, spiritual mutt, and travel companion into the realm of mental illness, Annie uses the power of the time-tested metaphor and vivid imagery in her story-telling to create a sensorial experience that carries listeners beyond intellectual understanding—to feeling the freedom and empowerment found in the release of limiting self-beliefs. For more about Annie, visit http://www.hywtas.com.