gratitude-thoughts-02I think it goes without saying that ALL of us come to the table with various chips on our shoulders. While someone’s situation may appear “picture perfect” on the outside, ultimately you don’t know the trials and tribulations they may have faced/continue to undergo. Likewise, things are often not as bad as they may seem. It’s really all a matter of attitude AND gratitude. Given this, it’s important to reserve judgment toward others.  

On the other side of the equation, it’s equally important not to allow one’s battle wounds to permeate every aspect of one’s life. While one’s past largely informs one’s present and reflecting upon past experiences (both successes and mistakes) can be a fantastic means of learning about oneself and the world at large, you’ll ultimately never get to where you want to go in life if your perspective remains stagnant. The example of Thomas Edison’s perseverant quest into the 1000s to establish a reliable, long-lasting, electric lightbulb speaks for itself. The point I’m trying to make? Don’t allow yourself to be stifled and/or suffocated by your own emotional baggage – no one else wants to!

With that introduction, instead of getting heavy into my regular “psychoanalytics” this week, I’d simply like to relay to you two stories in hopes that you’ll reflect on your own attitude toward yourself, others and life, in general:

A few years ago when I was working at the London Musicians’ Association (LMA), I met a man who had the misfortune of being afflicted with a lifelong disability that affected his motor skills. Despite this, he was passionate about pursuing a career in music. Initial judgment would lead one to believe he was making the best out of a bad situation – that he possessed a rather admirable disposition. But the more I continued to speak with him, the more his positioning of what sociological-dramaturgist Goffman refers to as one’s “front stage self” (ie: the way in which you WANT others to perceive you) broke down.

His reason for contacting me was because he was intent on performing at a variety of local festivals. He claimed he had a massive fanbase, his music had wide appeal and that he was being discriminated against by the organizers of these events due to his physical ailment. At the same time however, he also made it clear that he was not a member of our association and in fact didn’t see much point in becoming one…yet expected our services to be granted to him?

I regretfully explained that unless he was willing to consider membership, there wasn’t much we’d be able to do as our limited resources are reserved for those who maintain regular dues payments. With that said however, as one of the LMA’s services is to investigate “unfair treatment claims” issued by musicians against event organizers, I was happy to look into the case for him.

I simply began by asking him to describe exactly what happened. It didn’t take long for his rather harsh accusations to lose speed.

As he explained to me, he applied to perform at a festival and received a generic rejection letter back, advising him that his music did not fall into the genre categories they were seeking. At this point, I reviewed the letter, the genre categories of the festival and asked him to send me a sample of his music. Wouldn’t you know it? The rejection letter couldn’t be any more to the point.

When I attempted to explain that I, myself along with many other musicians, have faced similar rejections and that I did not see any indication he was being “unfairly” treated, he immediately jumped down my throat and ACCUSED ME TOO of being prejudice against those with disabilities…but it didn’t just end there. When I returned home from work, I found a series of “bitch-out” letters from him in my personal email inbox; he had decided to look up my official website to obtain my contact information to continue this “cyber war.”

While I initially empathized with the fact he obviously underwent many struggles in his life due to his disability and commended him for his musical efforts irrespective of his condition, the revelation of his “backstage self” (ie: who he really is) proved that it was his ATTITUDE NOT his limited physicality that was holding him back in life. Like a spoiled brat, if he didn’t get what he wanted, he’d consistently lash out and label the world as prejudice. Moreover he EXPECTED special treatment – as though the world should revolve around his every wish and command. Sad, but true.

In contrast, a few months ago I came across a “Late Night Show” interview with an amazing teenager named Joanne O’Riordan from Ireland who was born with Total Amelia syndrome: a birth defect that afflicts only SEVEN people in the entire world in which the sufferer has not just limited mobility, but literally NO limbs to speak of. Throughout the broadcast, O’Riordan spoke humbly of the “normal” life she lives and her positive, self-sufficient attitude was more than evident as she drank a beverage without assistance.

She admitted to hating being called an “inspiration” and intends on never allowing her condition to become an “excuse”. Equally however, she explained she is happy to engage others when they ask about her physicality. She aspires to become either a journalist or politician, and with her academic prowess and “can do” attitude, I believe there’s no doubt she will get to where she wants to go. She’s already successfully campaigned against a local MP who was attempting to cut funding toward families who support disabled children.

I welcome you to check you the interview here for yourself:

Like all of you, I’ve had many experiences in life where I thought I was beaten down on the ground for good, but somehow I mustered the strength to get back up for another round. The saying is true: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” BUT there’s an important caveat missing from that expression: “it’ll only make you stronger IF you let it.”

It’s okay to grieve, it’s okay to get upset, it’s even okay to scream at the tops of your lungs if you need to get negativity out of your system. It’s not okay (nor mature) however to allow yourself to be victimized or to become an “excuse” king or queen simply because you don’t always get your way.

To quote a rock musician who upon occasion has something insightful to say, “you don’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find you’ll get what you need.”

In conclusion, have an “attitude of gratitude” my friends – you do after all live in one of the most privileged parts of the world.