Do me a favor, please. I know you’re frustrated if your spouse or child or mother-in-law has one of those “labels” like ADHD or Dyslexia, or maybe a physical disability. It’s difficult, trying, exasperating. I know. I’ve been there. In fact, I am there.

Look At The Big Picture

But I’m asking you to do me a favor. Take a step back and just take a walk with me for a few minutes to a higher vantage point where we can get a better view of the Big Picture. I’d like you to do that and tell me what you can see from this more panoramic perspective. What have you learned about yourself because of your relationship with this “labeled” person? What new skills have you gained because you are tied together?

And what has he or she gained because of being in relationship with you? What has he or she learned about handling life and coping with difficulties due to the challenges of the label and the challenges of being related to you?

Why Is MY Life So Hard?

Now you may want to ask me, “Okay, Deb, I see where you’re going, but why should I be learning all that anyway? Some people have life a lot easier. Why can’t I be one of those people living that life instead of the difficult, challenging life that I do lead?”

It’s a fair question, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to respond by asking another question back: Why should a small child, an innocent five-year old be molested? No, let’s not go so far. Why should that innocent child be spoken down to? Why should someone in a war-torn country lose their family to violence? Why did over 3,000 people have to lose their lives 10 years ago on Sept. 11? And in such an atrocious way?

See, when we get to those questions, what we are doing is minding God’s business. That’s not our business. Figuring out how to run a world is way beyond us and sort of pointless for us to waste time trying to worry or complain about. Okay, you don’t believe in God. Fine. The point remains the same: You and I can’t make mountains, hurricanes, or snowfalls. We can’t even get out of hurricanes, it seems. I’m not going to spend my mental energy on things that I can’t control.

Worry About What Is In Your Control, Not What Isn’t

But we can control ourselves and we can control our attitudes. We can control what we learn and how we use that learning. Bottom line: We can control what we make of our lives.

There is a huge, huge bonus to focusing this way, focusing on what is within our control rather than on what isn’t. The bonus is happiness. When we exercise the control that is within us over what is possible to control, we are happier. We’ve achieved something. For some reason hardwired into our brains, the act of exercising control over ourselves generates a sense of accomplishment. That translates into happiness.

Here’s an example. In times of crisis, people who reach out to help others, no matter how difficult, challenging, and huge the task, feel good about themselves. After hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the people who went out with brooms—brooms, not tractors—healed from the trauma faster.

If you’re with me so far, let’s go back to the ADD or the physical disabilities or other challenges. I asked you what you learned, how you’ve grown, from being in relationship with this person who is providing you with the challenge. If all you have been able to do over the years is exercise patience, that’s an accomplishment of major proportions. Topping it off, if you came into the relationship an impatient person, then the ADHD in your life was truly a gift. Without it, you would not have learned that patience. Remember, happiness comes from the sense of accomplishment we have through exercising control over ourselves. The more difficult, the greater the accomplishment, the greater the happiness.

For the person who holds the label, it’s the exact same thing: Being able to set up your environment in a way that helps keep you focused and on task is an accomplishment. Being able to control your impulse to blurt out something when you shouldn’t is another challenge met. When you take inventory of the special challenges confronting you and how you’ve stepped up to the plate to meet them, you should feel a burst of pride inside. And that’s a gift.

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