Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for perspective

Happy Thanksgiving!

In my Briefing column today, I write about one of many gifts from Steve -- the gift of perspective. You can read it here or here:

On this day, I'm thankful for the gift of perspective

At the top of my list of thanks this season is perspective.

The perspective comes courtesy of my late husband, who died last fall after living with brain cancer for a year and a half.

I thought of him this week, for probably the thousandth time, while waiting in line for coffee.

A fit, well-dressed woman behind me was complaining to two younger friends about some minor ailments. The 50ish-year-old ended her monologue dramatically: "It's horrible getting old. I mean, it is horrible getting old."

Steve would have loved to get old. And I would have loved to grow old along with him.

It's the reason I didn't complain about turning a year closer to 40 this year and why I cringe a little when others grumble about birthdays. Because we all miss people who aren't celebrating Thanksgiving this year, people who would have loved to celebrate more birthdays.

There are multiple moments each week when I think, "I can't believe I have to live the rest of my life without Steve."

And then I remind myself, "I get to live the rest of my life."

When I get bogged down thinking of how difficult it is to make decisions about our children or to discipline them by myself, I deliberately stop to remember how fortunate I am to get to perform these important parenting tasks.

Plus, I get to play board games and listen to piano practice and watch cartwheels being perfected.

Perspective comes in handy at Thanksgiving, a holiday sandwiched between Christmas preparations that begin just after Halloween.

It's easy this time of year to get wrapped up in what I don't have. The mailbox is stuffed daily with catalogs, and my e-mail inbox gets hit too often with enticing deals for stuff.

When I get too greedy, I deliberately stop to remember what little significance all that kind of stuff had during Steve's final months. He was never too materialistic to begin with, and he certainly dropped any investment in things when he realized his time was so limited.

It's the reason I don't understand why Oprah's guests go into such a frenzy when they realize they're being given a pile of her favorite things (though I confess to coveting a bag and pair of ballet flats in this year's booty).

And it's why I had to interrupt a recent Katie tantrum for a life lesson.

I had already bought her four books, plus one for her classroom library, at the school book fair. I held fast to my policy of not buying any of the junky stuff – novelty erasers, pens, pencils.

Even after multiple conversations, Katie professed to not understanding my position.

"If you wanted me to be happy," she wailed, "you would buy me more stuff!"

I would typically save big ideas for after an irrational 5-year-old fit. But I couldn't let this moment pass.

"Katie, I believe that things don't make us happy. Our happiness comes from within us and from the good people around us."

Katie paused briefly then resumed her fit.

She's not always thankful for my perspective, but I know I'm fortunate to be able to share it.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. E-mail her at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I learn so much from you. I come here just to see how your lovely family is doing, and I come away with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face. You inspire me to be a better mom, wife and friend.

You and your children are so lucky to have one another, and I know you have a wonderful future.