08 Lilacsby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter, 6/1997

Today has been one of those days, although most days lately have been one of those days. The phone won’t stop ringing, people are lined up at my desk at work, traffic’s been bad, and then I come home to deal with house things. (“The plumber wanted how much?”) My mood isn’t helped by the idiot who left a nasty note on my windshield today, eloquently and profanely conveying his disapproval at the way I parked my car. Just what I needed after a hard day, especially since he’s the one who hit my car.

“Every fool’s got a reason for feeling sorry for himself,” the Springsteen song goes. It’s extremely hard not to be weighed down by all the demands that life places upon you – and dealing with the guilt of saying no when someone asks you to do something you just can’t fit into an already crazy schedule. That’s compounded by work, day-to-day living, and also worrying about friends and family and their various problems and situations: This one’s grieving over the death of a friend, that one may lose his job, this one has money troubles, that one may require surgery. It’s times like these that the news seems to affect me more, and these are the days when stories of murder, tragedy and human cruelty seem to cut a little deeper under my skin.

I tend to get a little melancholy this time of year anyway; this would have been Nana’s 95th birthday and I think about how fond she was of the blooming trees and the smell of the lilacs, and the little birthday get-together we used to have for her. But I realize that as much as I miss her, it’s better not to mourn a woman who lived 91 years and had a full life. While I miss her and will always remember her with love, I must not mourn her passing.

Mourning is more appropriate for my beautiful cousin Laura, who died at only 31 from cancer, my Mom’s friend Pat who died from cancer while still so young, or my friend David’s 21 year old brother, cut down in an instant in a senseless traffic accident. This is not to say that an older person’s life has less value, but a person who dies so young, with so much left to do and offer, is indeed a tragedy. These examples remind me that life is indeed a gift: rich, exciting, painful, and precious. In a heartbeat, it can be ripped away, no matter how young a person might be or all they have yet to do.

One recommended solution for these moods is to think about your blessings, but all of us have occasionally had a bad time in our lives when reflecting on our freedom of religion or food in the refrigerator just doesn’t take away the fact that we still have a seemingly insurmountable problem at the moment. I’ve had dark times when even my own legendary optimism wasn’t enough to help me, and that’s when I relied on family and friends to get me through. But for the less critical type of times, it really is important to try to put things in perspective.

I remember my junior year in college, walking down the corridor and lamenting the failing grade I’d just received on a calculus test. As I stomped down the hall, I happened to pass a man in a wheel chair whose paralyzing injuries were exactly like Christopher Reeve’s, and he controlled his wheelchair through a blow tube in his mouth.

I was stunned. As I entered the library, I thought about how selfish my mood was: Here I was whining about a stupid test for a subject I hated, when that poor man could barely move. I could walk, run, and jump. I felt a little ashamed of myself for my selfishness.

That incident taught me that as corny as it sounds, you absolutely must reflect on your blessings during the down times: Not just the obvious things like a roof over your head and food on the table, but I reflect on blessings like a the woman in my life who is my partner and best friend, my mother who is truly a buddy and confidant, and a sister who I think about my new nephew who’s 9 months old and a joy in my life, with his sunshine smile. He’s already said “Mama” and “Dada,” and I know I can get him to say “Bobby” with more practice.

I think about how much I love this town, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of organizations like the Jaycees and Discretionary Fund and friends of the seniors. In my own small way I’m making a difference and helping people, and I get to have fun doing it. I’m also grateful that I can walk the streets at night without fear, and the sense of pride people here feel. Make no mistake – Foxboro is home and I love it.

I’m grateful for this column. It’s nothing short of a privilege to have the opportunity to express myself in this format [in the Foxboro Reporter]. I’m fine with people who don’t read my babbling, or those who don’t agree with my opinions or sense of humor, but nothing brightens my day more than a person recognizing me and saying, “I really enjoy your column.” Someone recognized me the other day and said that – talk about a day-brightener!

Like many things, there are no quick solutions to feeling down, and frankly there are times when we want to be a little depressed for a while. Many of us have valid reasons for being depressed – But it’s important to differentiate between a genuine crisis and something that isn’t really life and death (such as a failing grade on a calculus test). The little problems have a way of working themselves out, and aren’t worth ruining the day.

For the little problems, sit down for a few moments and think about the special people in your life, the many blessings you have, and how very rich you really are.

Hey, I feel better already!

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