A Night from Hell or One of the Luckiest of my Life?

Arriving in Portland one recent Saturday night after driving 6 hours down the I-5, we were shocked to discover that there were no motel vacancies to be had anywhere between Portland and Eugene Oregon, 111 miles away. As luck would have it, we snagged the only available online reservation in a farm town, 30 miles beyond our destination of Corvallis. Exhausted, we arrived well after midnight, having now traveled for almost 10 hours. The soft-spoken manager explained that he’d been fully booked for days, due to the tractor show in town. An online reservation glitch. Feeling desperate, frustrated tears leaked. I said to him, “we can’t drive any further, and even if we could, there are no available rooms anywhere”. He hesitated, “Well, I don’t usually do this, but I could let you sleep on the floor in my room.” My 12-year-old son looked shocked when I said, OK, we accept.

I work on cultivating an optimistic attitude and using that lens through which to experience the world. Optimists have a strength that allows them to interpret their setbacks as surmountable. Optimistic people tend to interpret their troubles as transient, controllable and specific to one situation. A Mayo Clinic experiment indicated that optimistic people are happier and live 20% longer than pessimistic ones.

How do you experience the world? What is your predominant lens? Is it a positive one that contributes to your happiness? Martin Seligman, author of “Authentic Happiness” has done exhaustive research on the subject and his happiness surveys are available free online. The good news is that you can develop your sense of optimism through developing mindfulness practices and techniques to recognize and dispute pessimistic thoughts.

From my perspective, this was one of the luckiest nights of my life. Alex and I set up the mattress, and my son and I slept heavily. (If you are sleeping on someone’s floor, you are on a first name basis pretty quickly.) The next morning, after displays and words of gratitude, we showered and left. Alex was kind, considerate and inspired me to continue believing in the goodness of people. And the attitude of optimism that I work on cultivating every day enabled me to appreciate my incredible luck that summer night.