To trade places

Us near our home in Hawaii,1994, around the time of Matt’s second open heart surgery.
It’s hard to imagine now, but even there, we faced hard times and low moods.

“Today you will be tempted to feel sorry for yourself. Don’t! Lots of people would love to trade places with you. Before you get down in the dumps over whatever is bothering you, read today’s obituaries to see how many people younger than you died yesterday, or visit the burn or stroke rehab center at a local hospital.”Rubel Shelly

We’ve heard similar sentiments before, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still need to be reminded. No matter how blessed we are, it’s far too easy to indulge in self-pity sometimes.

For example, during our years in Hawaii, there were lots of people who said they envied our being able to live in what they thought of as paradise. Some may have thought they would have traded places with us. But those were very difficult years in many respects, and I know I felt sorry for myself occasionally. From where I sit now, though, I naturally wonder how I ever did.

In fact, most of us, if we were able to travel back in time and visit a younger version of ourselves at a time when we were feeling low, would say, “Don’t! Someday you will realize more fully what you have right now. You won’t always have it.” Yet even at this moment, some future self probably could be saying that same thing to us today. For better or worse, today might be as good as it gets, and I want to make the most of it and not to look back with regret.

The trouble with self-pity is the first part of the term: self. There are a number of research studies documenting the positive effects of volunteer work in forestalling or improving depression, particularly among older people. Among many seemingly obvious reasons for this, it surely must be beneficial to re-focus and turn our thoughts and efforts away from our individual cares.

When we are active in faith or community groups, we become involved in the lives of other people. We learn to realize that almost nobody has it easy in this life. Even when our personal challenges are more burdensome than average, those difficulties are often inextricably linked to blessings we would not choose to be without.

I hope today is a happy one for you, with no reasons at all to feel sorry about anything. But if you find yourself feeling low, remember how many people, all over the world and throughout the centuries, would love to be in your shoes.


  1. Chris

    My dear Julia, spoken like a real optimist! Such true words. I love the picture! What a beautiful family!
    As God’s children, we are all truly blessed. For most of us, though, it takes some time and wisdom to discern the wheat from the chaff.
    I trust you had a joyous Easter?

    • Hi Chris, by now you probably know that my Easter this year was unfortunately fraught with the pain that sent me to the ER the next morning. I did make it to church that morning, but by the time I got home I felt bad enough to go straight to bed where I stayed until I knew something was badly wrong. I’m thankful to say I feel much better now.

  2. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. How often “picture perfect” is anything but that! Even the ROYALS are having their issues! When Bill and I exchanged wedding vows in 1968, although all the words were musical to me Bill heard POOR louder than any word ever spoken. Maybe because he was a sailor about to leave for Vietnam or that he was taking on the responsibility of a wife. When you look at that beautiful photo and think back on those days, I hope you remember more happiness than sadness and find strength , as well. Thank you for the Easter note that I placed among my Easter treats on our kitchen island for all to enjoy! 💜🙏🏻

    • Thank you, Sheila, I’m so glad you liked the card. Yes, marriage truly is “for better or worse” and though there is a lot of “worse” for almost everyone, in the form of illness or disability or financial challenges or career setbacks, to name just a few, there is a sweet foundation of trust, knowing that there is at least one person in this world who will ALWAYS be there for us. Joys are magnified and sorrows lessened when we have someone to share it all. I’m thankful I had that for so many years.

  3. Carolyn

    Hi sweet friend, we are doing pretty good. Got my cataract surgery out of the way. I have had glasses on since I was 16, hard to believe how things look now. I can see without glasses but decided to get some any way. Dr. Put in a little to help with better distance vision. Hope you all had a great Easter . We had a great time with 30 adults and two under 5. We also celebrated Nicole’s 22nd birthday. Now we are looking forward to June for Emma’s big day. You and Matt take care and hope to see you soon. Sending love and hugs.

    • WOW, that sounds like one amazing celebration! From people who have had cataract surgery, I’ve heard that it makes an incredible difference in how everything looks. I’m glad you were able to get that done. I am looking forward to seeing you soon. Do you know yet what dates you will be in northern VA? I will try to be in town then.

  4. Alan Malizia

    Amen! And a blessed Easter, Julia and Matt.

    • Thank you, Alan. I hope your Easter was lovely.

  5. Beautiful Julia.. The photo is refreshing and serves as a perfect illustration for this post.

    • Thank you, Z – I’m so glad you like it!

      • Julie, I read offline that you’re been unwell and have opened the page (in transit) and will read when at home. tonight. I hope that this finds you feeling better.

        • Thank you, Z. I know it’s often more difficult or limited for you to have internet access, so I really appreciate the time you take to visit. Hope you are doing well.

  6. We live amazing lives – no question. But in that “amazingness” is the spectrum of experiences that challenge and test our emotional endurance. I enjoyed your thoughtful discussion. One of my most favourite quotes is by Meister Eckhart: “If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” Hugs coming your way.

    • Thank you, Clanmother. It’s a mixed bag for sure, but which of us would choose to be without it? Eckhart’s quote is apt, and I must say that I try to emphasize “thank you” over everything else when I pray. Thanks for being here with us and sharing your insights.

  7. Susan

    Julia, this is so insightful! Your reminders are always so valuable and well-timed.

    • Thank you, Susan. I’m so happy you like the posts, and I’m grateful you are here. Wish we were still neighbors in the literal sense, but it’s nice to still be virtual neighbors!

  8. MaryAnn Clontz

    I love you & will see you soon!

    • Mary Ann, “soon” turns out to be a relative term in this case, but I already am looking forward to your (rescheduled) visit! ❤

  9. Well said, Julia. Whenever I start to slide into a poor me spot, I allow 10 minutes to wallow then think of who I can do something. I sent out 4 cards this morning to shut ins. I can still drive and get where I need to go and have help when I need it. Counting our blessings everyday makes such a difference. I look around me and would trade places with NO ONE. I’m blessed in every way. Thanks for a great reminder. Hugs to you.

    • M, I am so happy you feel that way! It’s wonderful to know we are exactly who and where we need to be. Thank you for focusing on others (including me! 😀 ) and for being a comfort and an inspiration. Sending you giant grateful hugs and still hoping one day we can meet face to face.

  10. Ann

    Since you are a reader, you might be interested in “Even the terrible things seem beautiful to me now” A compilation of columns by Mary Schmich”

    • Thanks for the referral. I had never heard of her before, but that book definitely looks interesting! I’ll try to find a copy.

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