The Difference between Triumphs and Tragedies

This time of the year we often turn our thoughts to gratitude, to the things we are grateful for, both simple and profound. It is remarkably easy to find things to be thankful for, to make lists of things large and small. The reason it is so easy is that it is simply a matter of attitude, of perspective.

The difference between a triumph and a tragedy is attitude. The same event can leave one man cursing his luck and another breathing a prayer of thanks for his good fortune.

Years ago, at the start of my second year of college, my pickup was struck by a semi. There’s a lingering list of problems stemming from that, the most notable being the brain injury and associated faceblindness. Prosopagnosia, or faceblindness, means that I will never again recognize a face in a crowd, not even that of a loved one. In fact, I cannot recognize my own face in a mirror (this has led to some interesting misadventures with reflective surfaces, but that’s a story for another time).

It’s very easy, as one struggles to adapt to all of the things that are suddenly different and hard, to ask “Why me?” and to lament the misfortune. But the difference between a triumph and a tragedy is attitude.

The beauty of that, of course, is that it is a choice. If I say, “I am so lucky to have lived. I am so fortunate to have so much that I can still do.” Then the story is a happy one, upbeat. It isn’t a story without difficulties, but it is a story about overcoming them. If I say, “This was so terrible, there is so much I cannot do” the story is sad. The difference between triumph and tragedy is attitude.

In this time of cultivating lists, perhaps instead cultivate attitude. In the long run, the attitude will be of far greater use.

As for me, well… I have memories that are missing, but the ability to make new ones. I’ll never recognize the faces of my family again, but I know their voices. I may be living life on a higher difficulty setting, but I’m living it.

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