Sometimes we look at ourselves and see weakness, failure and despair. If we took a look at the whole balance sheet, we would see that the times of strength, accomplishment and pure joy more than compensate.
My mother once gave me a little book marked debit and another marked credit. She told me to write down when I made mistakes in the debit book and to record the good deeds in the credit book. After a few weeks, I noticed that there really were more good deeds than bad and my bottom line was positive.
I think this is a good way to look at life. When darkness comes — chronic illness or pain, marital strife, rotten kids, the boss from you-know-where — we need to pull out a little book, mental or hard copy, and survey the joy and celebration that is our life. I took my neighbor to the store because no one should be on the road if she is driving. I didn't beat my children today. There is no negative sign in front of my bank balance. I planned a surprise party for my husband. I got out of bed today. These are all little things, that when you add them up, will surprise you.
I like to actually assign numbers to mine:
I got dressed today (remember, I'm a writer and I live like a mushroom in my little apartment — don't judge): 25 points.
I ate a piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast: 10 points for pleasure, -2 points for sugar.
I wrote three articles: 75 points.
I had to throw out grapes because they were too old and nasty: -5 points.
I forgot to mail the broken printer back: -5 points.
I had veggie stir-fry with quinoa for lunch: 15 points.
At the end of the day, I'm ahead in points and so that makes it a good day. 113 points. Good for me!
Sometimes our book has dreadful and extreme numbers:
Found out husband was gay: -1K points.
Rescued by a good friend: 500 points.
Made a new life: 5K points.
Became a writer and having a book published: 20K points.
Bottom line: 24,500 points. Not too shabby
Bottom line: 9,000 points plus an extra 5K per child = 24,000 points. Excellent return
Just like with money investing, we may have to wait years to see any return on our sacrifices and sweat. Sometimes we have to not open the book for a little while, but when we finally do, we will see all the little 10s, 20s and 50s add up to a whole lot. The story read before bedtime and the kiss goodnight, the prayer of a child on your behalf, the wildflowers in the Mason jar on the table and the crayon picture on the refrigerator, they add up. In the end, they will more than compensate for the overdraft fees and the flat tires. Even better, added up, they will overtake the divorces, the broken bones and the lost babies. The negatives are momentary. Once over, we can toss them away and forget them. The positives, we collect and store in our mental ledger. We need to use them to see us through the tough times.
The ledger can be kept mentally, though when things get rotten, it is harder to remember the good, so I suggest the little books like my mother gave me. One for the good and one for the "things that need work."
Also, the credit book makes for great reading at 3 in the morning when chaos hits your brain and all you see is debit. I don't know about you, but some nights all I see is big, old minus signs and things look impossible in the dark. By the light of day, they become more manageable.
The bottom line is that the bottom line will almost always be a positive and we need to hang on to that fact and remember all the tiny credits that add up. A penny might not seem like much, but a million of them is a big hunk of change.