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Advice to Lean Into

If you don't like it, get out of it.
If you can't get out of it, get into it.
- Grampa Glenn

Recently I had cause to think of these words of my grandfather's. Grampa Glenn we called him. A Scottish fellow, he stood about 6'3" with snowy white hair, with laughing blue eyes and a booming laugh. Grampa had offered me this advice a time or two in my turbulent twenties, whenever I sought his guidance on a tough job that was hard to get a grip on, or a relationship potholed with more cons than pros. He summed up so many life situations in those two lines of advice I was beginning to think that the only wisdom he had to offer was basically fix your attitude or fix your life.

Now, in my mid life, I realize he pretty much nailed it on the head. We've talked a lot in this blog about owning our choices - and the power to make them. That's Part A - if you don't like it, get/do/love/be someplace else. Let your feet change the scenario. Choose a better life. But what about Part B? And isn't most of life Part B? Something we're stuck with? What then? If you can't get out of it, get into it? That's supposed to work? The first time I heard those words I instantly thought of the prisoner serving ten to life that learns to knit. His bunk mate who signs up for an advanced correspondence course in Flemish Medieval Musicology. Lots of time? Do something time consuming. What kind of advice is that? Surrender and accept the miserable horrible life you lead is supposed to cheer me on?

It took me, oh, three decades to get the real meaning of that advice. Get into it. The same powerful choice as get out of it, but applied to a situation that practically or realistically is something that must be honored. Rather than be an anchor on board the party boat, whining and complaining, dragging our way through the cruel lot we feel our life is, we have the option to find a new dial on the attitude wheel. One that has the potential to genuinely make us happy(er).

Right, you say. But hear me out. If we choose to look at our circumstances in a way that suggests they are limiting only in what we haven't yet done to improve them, then the horizon is endless. Many a dreaded job, miserable week in the bedroom, fight with a friend, or slog through a chore has been lightened and inevitably enhanced by a forthright change in attitude. This was aptly demonstrated to me by a college summer job I had as a cashier at a big box store for all of two weeks. Day 1, hated it. Day 2, hated it. Day 3, decided to say hello to everyone who seemed to hate their day more than I hated mine as we exchanged our required checkout transactions. Day 4, added a compliment to the hello. Day 5, began smiling first and last after our contact. Day 6, added comfy shoes (the kind with one inch foam platforms!). Day 7...and so on. What a difference occurred in my satisfaction with the content of the work itself, not to mention the contact with my fellow humanity. To say I found my calling selling twelve pack paper towels is not the win here, or that making employee of the month is the best option in every situation. On day 14 I employed the first part of the advice. I quit my job. But not without having learned the powerful effect of both attitude and choice.

So thanks Grampa Glenn. I know now what to say to my friend wavering in the midst of a punishing relationship. And I'm about to apply the rule to myself. My taxes are waiting. Still waiting. What if I used colored Post It notes, or two squares of chocolate for every perfect set of "zeroes/no change" I ring up on the calculator? That definitely gets me into the mindset. My bank account is ever so familiar with zeroes, smile.
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