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Friday, August 26, 2011

The Power of Positive Choices

© Jarek Tuszynski: Joshua Tree - Old Woman Formation

Recently I saw a quote from Norman Vincent Peale posted on Facebook. “Live your life and forget your age.” I felt as if I had been hit with a jolt of indignation. Forget my age? I like my age! I can’t really take credit for it, but it came as an unexpected surprise when I celebrated my 62nd birthday. That’s not something I want to forget because, with a bleeding disorder there were lots of medical professionals along the way who predicted a substantially shorter life span for me. When I was twelve years old and too big to crawl under the desk, I did not morn that my body had grown. Why now would I want to feel sorry that at the age of 62 there are things I cannot do that were easy when I was younger?

However, that wasn’t the only reason why the quote set off a spark of anger.

When I was a child, one of my cousins would send me a subscription to Guide Posts each year. The magazine in the 1950’s was filled with anecdotes about the power of positive thinking. They offered an easy fix for all ills. Just pretend that there is nothing wrong and it will go away. My cousin hinted that the magazine was what a little girl with a severe bleeding disorder needed to be healed.

Now I like chocolate, it makes me forget my troubles, but I know it doesn’t make them go away. I also know that the only thing I can change is my attitude. Most of the time I am an optimist, but when I have negative thoughts I don’t want to sit in judgment by someone who thinks I am undermining my health.

If my cousin thought that I lacked positive thinking, then he really didn’t know me. Yet, even as a child, I understood that positive thinking was not enough to make my body suddenly produce fibrinogen.

What is healthy is to acknowledge that my bleeding disorder (like my age, my eye color, the gap between my two front teeth) is a part of me.

What angered me was that the underlying message seemed to be that if you were sick you didn’t have enough faith. I didn’t believe that having a bleeding disorder was my fault. It was not only foolish to pretend that having a bleeding disorder had no effect on my life; it was dangerous, both physically and emotionally.

After church one Sunday I saw a friend of mine who had undergone chemotherapy treatment for cancer and was now in remission.

I said, “It’s wonderful to see you looking so well!”

Her husband beamed and said with pride, “Yes, if you have the right attitude you can beat cancer.”

Without thinking, I responded, “Sounds like blaming the victim to me.”

My friend’s face relaxed into a warm smile and nodded as her husband looked confused.

I believe she understood that if her positive thoughts could cure the cancer, then her negative thoughts might have caused it to occur in the first place.

So excuse me if when I look in the mirror I see a 62 year-old woman. Some days I like the way I look, some days I don’t, but I believe I would be foolish to wish that I wasn't my age.