The biggest news of the week has been the overwhelming devastation of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Everything else seems insignificant in comparison.
That perspective can inform our lives today.
The day before the earthquake was a normal day for the people of Japan. Like you and me today, they were occupied with the business of living: going to school or working, listening to their favourite music or watching popular shows, shopping, working out, dancing, eating out, and engaged in the drama of our relationships.
Like us, they never dreamed that everything that we normally take for granted would change.
Tragedies on any scale give us pause. We question how we have perceived meaning in our lives. We realize how important our friends and family are.
Our daily pursuit of pleasure, comfort and excitement seem insignificant in matters of life and death. Our major and minor conflicts with one another seem less important from the perspective of our relationships themselves.
No life is untouched by tragedy, and every day, there are people in your neighbourhood who are coping with devastating loss: the death of a loved one or a terminal condition in themselves.
My work with patients facing these challenges taught me what matters most to me: living a meaningful life, being fully present each day, expressing love and appreciating what I have today, especially the people in my life.
When my own mom died suddenly almost eight years ago, so many things no longer mattered. Loss – or the reflection of potential loss – can put our lives into perspective and make us reevaluate where we place value.
A patient found that he was becoming very impatient with his wife. He would get irritated with her habit of forgetting to turn off the basement light when she came up the stairs.
I asked him to think about how much he would miss that basement light left on if there was ever a time that she was no longer around. The things about our loved ones that irritate us today may be the ones that we miss the most when they are gone.
Your happiness exercise for today: From the perspective of tragedy and loss, look where you have devoted your time, money, energy and passion this past week. Do you see yourself, your loved ones and your life any differently now?
If all that you took for granted was gone tomorrow, what would you do today? How will you live your life this week?
The Canadian Red Cross is accepting donations for emergency relief efforts in Japan.