You can’t always get what you want but if you try some time, you just might find
You get what you need.”
That’s a quote from those great Western philosophers, the Rolling Stones. Of course, you have to look past their opulent life style and colossal self-absorption to appreciate the wisdom of the words but it’s there nonetheless. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’ve been pondering what I can be thankful for. I’ve decided that to a great extent, it depends on your perspective.
If I made a list of all the things I don’t feel thankful for, chances are it could be a very long one. When I look around, I can see many people who have a great deal more than I do in terms of material wealth. There are folks who can drop $10,000 on a meal and not think twice about it or fly off to Paris (France, not Texas) at the drop of a hat. When I contemplate this, I could let it bring my mood down, no doubt. It could really depress me if I let it because I know not only can I not afford these things now, there’s almost no chance I’ll ever be able to afford them. Shoot, I can feel the wind going out of my sails as I sit here and type this. What in the world can I do about this?
Well, the most obvious answer is to make a list of what I do have to be thankful for and compare the two lists. Like the Rolling Stones, minus their opulent life style and with only a fraction of their self-absorption, I addressed this in my song, “Borrowed Time,” which I wrote about what’s really important in life.
“Get a dog, get a wife, have some kids, get a life
And shame on you if you neglect’em, that’s a dirty rotten crime
Cause we’re all livin’ on borrowed time.”
In the song, I go on to mention grandkids, fishing, horses, friends and singing your heart out. Since I’ve got all those things in my life in various quantities, you’d think I’d be pretty doggone content most of the time. My problem is that I’ve also got things going on in my life on occasion that are difficult and, dare I say…UNFAIR! Sometimes these things are only unfair in my mind and sometimes they truly are unfair by any measure. I’d like to ignore them but often I’m just not able. I’ve got them sitting there on my list of things interfering with me being thankful and they get in the way of me letting myself appreciate my life. I’m not sure how to shorten that list and balance things out.
My friend George Ensle, an Austin-based singer/songwriter and a sure nuff real Western philosopher, wrote a song with another great songwriter, Richard Dopson, which helped me tremendously. Here’s a portion of their wisdom.
“I asked for strength and I got troubles to get me straight and strong.
I asked for wisdom and I got problems that taught me right from wrong.
I asked for courage and I got dangers to get me through my fears.
I asked for answers and I got silence that taught me how to hear.
I got the world in a rain drop, I got the promise of a seed, I got all I wanted when I got all I need.”
I’d heard George do this song in the past but just a couple of months back, I had the privilege of hearing him perform it again. All of a sudden, it was like a light bulb went on in my head (sometimes it takes me longer for the lights to come on than it does for other folks). I realized that there were things I was viewing as burdens which were really opportunities for me to become a better person. Maybe I had them on the wrong list. Generally speaking, you don’t build your character by taking the easy way. Good times aren’t really what make you stronger, it’s the hard times that forge the steel. Getting through those times with people you love, helping each other along the way, forgiving each other when you’re less than perfect, getting up when you get knocked down- that’s what really matters.
So thank you for the hard times. Thanks for the chance to show the people I love that I’m there for them, not just when it’s smooth sailing but also when the waters are rough and we don’t know if our little boat is going to get swamped. Thanks for my dogs, my wife, my kids, my grandkids, my two new grand nieces whom I’ll get to meet for the first time at Christmas, thanks for all the wonderful music in my life and thanks for the great friends who have made me one of the wealthiest individuals on the face of the earth. Turns out there’s a lot to be thankful for, it just depends on how you look at it.