From Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi
“Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone”
Ever noticed that we really don’t know what we have until it’s gone? Ever noticed that when something goes wrong in your life, you just want back the life you had and didn't appreciate?
I started to think about this when I was reading about Joffrey Lupul during the NHL All –Star weekend. I always embrace the ‘comeback’ stories but in this case, I really wondered if there wasn’t something more than the ‘comeback from injury story’. I don’t profess to know the Lupul situation – I just know that I had heard that prior to this injury, his lifestyle choices had gotten in the way of him achieving fully at the NHL level. As it outlines in this story– Lupul had injury and infection issues, and it looked like his career might end. He’s come back in great shape, is playing his best hockey, and was an All Star this year. The many stories about him emphasized how he worked to get himself in shape and keep himself that way. I've also heard that he has cleaned up his lifestyle choices (at least to the point that they don’t impact his game). This made me wonder how much motivation came from the realization that he almost lost his NHL career. In other words, perhaps he didn’t really appreciate what he had until he almost lost it.
Another hockey story that is even clearer about not appreciating what you have until you lose it - Max Pacioretty. As he says in this story “When you’re as close as I was to having everything taken away from you, you look at life completely differently. I think I grew up there in the 48 hours I was in a hospital bed.”
It is easy to look at those stories and shake your head and say "they should have appreciated what they had", because NHL players are viewed as having a pretty sweet life. But appreciating what you have isn’t just for people with big lives – it is for all of us. I’ve been listening to casual conversations differently with this awareness in mind. Listening to strangers, to my friends and to myself. I am starting to see things differently. What struck me in the past few weeks was how often all of us (myself included) complain. When you face a very serious health issue, I doubt that the price of humidifier filters would enter your mind as something to complain about. But get your health back, and complain you do! When you have had no income and been unable to find a job, complaining about the people you work with seems silly. But get the job and let the complaining commence!
I give you those real examples as context to invite you to think about those times in life when things were bad (health issues, jobless, relationship issues), and think about what you said to yourself. Quite often it is ‘if only I … I would be okay’ (could get through this treatment, had a job, got through this divorce, found the answer to my child's illness). Now think about how you are after you got to that ‘if only’ and became used to it. Have you started taking that for granted? Are you once again filling your life with complaining and wanting?
What if we didn't wait to lose something to appreciate it? What if we chose to appreciate what we have instead of looking at what isn't right? I don't know the answers, but I intend to start living my life in differently so that I find out.