Martha Washington, the first first lady of these United States, knew something about adversity. Though her husband, George, was one of the largest land owners and wealthiest men in the Colonies they endured many trials together when giving birth to our nation. He suffered horrible defeats, at least in the beginning, and it was far from certain that the Colonists would prevail against the overwhelming might of the British. There was, at times, no money to pay the mostly poorly trained troops. While our newly elected representatives bickered, men died by the thousands (sound familiar?). Desertion, disease, and death were a constant companion, and General Washington carried all of this on his shoulders because he was the man in charge. As today, with military families whose loved ones fight on far-flung battle fields, one can only imagine the pain and anxiety of the families back home.
Martha was General Washington’s “rock”- a constant correspondent and support for him during the war years and then during his years in office. I came across a Martha Washington quote recently that I thought very appropriate for the challenging times that we live in. “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstances but by our disposition”.
I think it a brilliant observation and, like all truths, it echoes through time as if the bell were just rung today. Many of us have challenges, some more now than ever. While it is true that times may be difficult, what really defines us is the way that we respond, and it is the only thing that we really have full control over. It was true in the 1700’s and it is just as true today. You can simply admit defeat and skulk around, or you can take a hard look at how you can be more effective, more causative in the circumstances you face. It is amazing, and quite a powerful exercise, to look at your greatest challenge and to write down a list of things that might be done to solve it or lessen its impact. Then simply pick the easiest thing on the list and start doing it. You will, I predict, feel immediately better.
In all challenges lie the seeds of greatness, because when you come through the other side you will have new skills, and new confidence in your abilities. Remember too that it is your attitude about the task and the difficulty that mostly will determine the outcome. Strange as it may sound, approaching problems with a light-hearted attitude and with a “Spirit of Play” will get you much further than being grumpy. In the end, if the whole thing goes to hell and you fail in this current battle you will have at least had a few laughs along the way. My wife will be thrilled to hear me say this because now she will hold me to my own words. In writing these words I have to admit that I am not an expert in their application. Rather, I aspire to do better at making my own life and the lives of those around me, happier, less stressful and more fulfilled.
Let’s just enjoy the process of creating the kind of lives we want and strike a blow for Martha by maintaining a positive “disposition”.
Yours in Health,
Tim Fargo D.C.