Be Happy with Nothing

Reprinted from PN June 2012

Life isn’t always a bunch of roses, but then, it’s not all thorns, either.

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Yeah…right! This is probably what most of you reading this are thinking right now. But this is not just some out-of-my-mind thought.

When I lost the use of my legs, I experienced what most doctors would call a major trauma. This was due to not only a loss of a major body part but also due to a major change of lifestyle. Eventually I had to ask myself why this was such a major loss.

Survive to Write Again

I began to remember a self-taught lesson by a hero of mine, one of our country’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. While he was still printing his paper, The Philadelphia Gazette, he was chastised by a local politician who had threatened him to retract a statement or face possible financial ruin.

Franklin’s initial response was one of fear, but his solution helped me get through my situation quite well. His solution was to eat only porridge for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He also slept on the floor for the entire month with all the windows open.

What he learned was that even if someone took all his money and all he could afford was porridge, and if someone took all his furniture and he had to sleep on the floor, he would still survive to write another day.

I didn’t actually go through all those exercises, but did spend time with quadriplegics. I found their attitudes toward life and their future very optimistic. If they could be happy without use of their arms and legs, why couldn’t I be happy without just my legs?

Count Your Blessings

Basically, I took an inventory of my entire life. I had done this before with many self-help books, but
what I did differently this time was count the limbs in my body as part
of the inventory.

I counted my family, friends, wife, mind, possibilities, and, also, limbs, internal organs, everything. I found I could stand to lose quite a whole lot more in my life and still be happy, as long as I still had my heart, soul, and, of course, my wife.

I haven’t “accepted” the thought I no longer have my legs but have come to peace with it. I believe it means I’ll always have hope that I will eventually walk again. But in the meantime I should enjoy everything else in my life.

Everything I Need

So I am working on getting my arms, shoulders, and back as strong as possible. I will participate in events that I can do in my wheelchair, and I will continue to love my wife, my family, and my friends.

There is a line in a song by Keb Mo I listen to quite often:


Ain’t got no money, nowhere to sleep, ain’t got no family, no bread,
no meat.

Ain’t got no rhythm, ain’t got no rhyme.

Ain’t getting no younger and I’m running out of time.

Well I’m still climbing up that mountainside, don’t count me out.

Long as I got my heart and soul
I got everything…

I got everything I need.


I am not saying how anyone should feel regarding their situation. If someone approached me that way I would probably try to flatten their wheelchair tires. But I have been asked by a few folks how I turned my attitude around.

Not an End to My Life

I may have been a little grumpy during my initial stay here at this wonderful day spa called the VA medical center.

The easiest way to describe it is that I stopped thinking of my situation as an end to my life as it used to be, but as a beginning to the rest of my life. And the best way for me to make this situation work is by being happy at ground zero, so to speak.

First, it took realizing I needed to stop complaining about my condition, since all I was doing was annoying those who were worse off. Then, I stopped lamenting about the old friends who stopped talking to me and learned to enjoy the company of the new friends I had made in the hospital. Instead of being angry about not being able to continue on my career, I focused on finding a new one.

It’s Not All Thorns

There is a famous saying from the first line of a poem called Solitude by Louisa May Alcott: Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Weep, and you weep alone. For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, but has troubles enough of its own.

I basically realized this means everyone has stuff to deal with and they don’t want to hear more of mine. It doesn’t mean they don’t care, but be careful who you complain to.

I am not saying to be happy with nothing. I am saying that before nothing happens for the day, before nothing is given to you, before nothing is said to you, choose to be happy. And if you can manage to be happy at that moment, imagine the joys the rest of the day can bring.

Life isn’t always a bunch of roses, but then, it’s not all thorns, either. 


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