Monday, February 6, 2012

The Mailbox

A few years ago, my family moved into a new house on a small acreage. While far from elaborate, it is safe to say that it was our “dream house.” One of the first things that I noticed while driving up to our new home for the first time was the placement of the mailbox. I grew up in a home with a mailbox attached to our house, right next to the front door. You could literally crack the door open and reach your arm around the door frame to grab the mail. This was very convenient, especially on those cold and blistery Minnesota winter days.

However, this was not the case with the new house we had just moved into. In fact, the driveway was quite long and, to make matters worse, it was hilly (and did I mention this was in Minnesota?). Most winter days I looked like Bambi on ice while navigating the long icy hill on a cold and slippery winter day. I am sure any passerby would have been very entertained watching me comically slip and slide my way up to retrieve the day’s mail. Getting back down is a whole separate story that I will save for a different time.

Oftentimes, I would mumble, grumble and complain the entire way to and from that white complex of wood and steel. “I am tired, my back hurts, I have had a very long day, why can’t they just bring it to the door like they used to, most of the items are solicitations anyway, does winter have to last five months, global warming...really, etc.”
Little did I know that, shortly after moving into our new home, my health and life would be held at bay for nearly a year while both become prisoner to a medical issue. In the following months, my rare journeys outside of the house were isolated to occasional visits to medical centers and eventually back to the end of the driveway to retrieve the mail. At my worst, I would have given most anything for the ability to make that climb. In fact, a trip to that piece of wood and steel became a main objective. This was a goal that had never entered my radar screen before and a task that I had always and completely taken for granted
After a few months, I eventually felt well enough (and the need to get out of the all too familiar four walls of my room) to retrieve the mail. To be quite frank, the first several trips were extremely difficult. That short walk and exertion of energy would be enough to throw my body into a complete frenzy of pain and the need for hours of sleep. However and in spite of all of this, I noticed something had changed. Something big.

After the ability was taken away for me to make the daily walk to the mailbox and then given back again, I had a newfound appreciation for the ability to make that once embittered walk. Now, rather than grumbling or complaining during that trek, I found myself being thankful for the ability to walk, even if it was slow and painful. I was also, for the first time, noticing and feeling gratitude for ears to hear birds chirp and sing, eyes to see the radiant colors of a Minnesota fall landscape, a nose to smell the lilacs coming off the breeze, a heart to pump blood, lungs to breathe, etc. I could go on and on. I began (perhaps for the first time since I could recall) to notice and be thankful for nearly everything that I once viewed as annoying, along with noticing (and enjoying) the simple pleasures that I once allowed to pass me by on my journey to “bigger and better things.”

I am extremely grateful for this experience, because, while I lost the convenience of good health for a time, the situation forced me into a realm of necessary reflection and perspective. I was forced to take things at face value and to re-prioritize the values in my life. In fact, I believe I have the unfair advantage of having something, having it taken away, and then graciously receiving it back again. Like so many important things in life, we often understand our appreciation towards something once it is no longer present.

I still deal with lingering effects and most likely will for the rest of my life. I may even relapse. That is all the more reason to make the absolute most of the moments that I “have.” Nothing puts things into perspective quite like not knowing when things may change or how much longer things will be “well.” I choose to view the challenges that I face as reminders of my “Great Awakening.” I choose to live (not simply exist) now and intentionally.

Don’t let the perceived “little things” pass you by or let annoyances distract you from living intentionally. We have the far-too-often overlooked right to choose gratitude today. Exercise that right daily. Identify, understand, and establish your priorities. This will help you live intentionally. Take a few moments each day to express gratitude. This will change the lens you view life through. You check your mail every day...why not check your perspective?

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