Those of you who know me have observed a pretty profound change in my attitude, which was always a problem for me since about age six. Just ask my parents! I don't know how many times I heard as a child, "You need to change your attitude." The biggest problem with my bad attitude was that I liked it and it liked me. So I learned to hide it. Though it would reappear at times, usually in the form of frothing rage - often with little or no trigger. I used to keep it in check by channeling my energy into sports. But as age progressed, that became difficult to impossible. I even tried my hand as referee of kids' soccer, but my temperament was totally unsuited to that. So all I have at this age is motorcycling, which is a good mental exercise, but not ideal for venting. My posture and facial expressions had relaxed into hostile projections that sent negative messages to everybody - almost always unintentionally. I had a pretty successful career in aerospace finance for 20 years, and it bored me terribly. Frustrated continually by the bureaucracy, I jumped at the chance to fight it and switched to a process engineering job at the age of 44 - a complete and total career change. I took to it like the proverbial fish to water, but had less success than seemed reasonable.
One day last year the best boss in the world recognized a problem and sent me to something we at the company call "Charm School." It's official title is "Consultative Skills," but it has very little to do with consulting and very much to do with how to relate to other people without pissing them off (intentionally or otherwise). The boss called me in prior to assigning me to the class and explained that I was making her angry, and how, and possibly why. I was in total shock to hear it, and she explained that she intellectually understood that I didn't intend to send the offensive messages, but that emotionally she was still angry. And sick of it (and me). She asked me to mull it over, being slightly unsure about her diagnosis. Much to her surprise I accepted her premise within 10 minutes, because it pretty much explained something that had always been a mystery to me - why people reacted negatively to me for no apparent reason since about age 10. And so I went into the class with the idea that I indeed had a problem that needed to be fixed (unusual for the folks we generally send to the class). I paid attention and got a lot out of it. Still it was a full week of psychological purging and unpleasantness, taking me out of my comfort zone and keeping me there. It was very emotionally draining. And I did manage to offend the instructor - unintentionally, of course! Suffice it to say that I took most of it to heart, and now I'm one of few people certified by the instructor (who owns the material) to teach part of it (only at my company and within the strict confines of our contractual arrangements).
I changed my behaviors, posture, and countenance. People started reacting to me more positively, and my attitude improved as a result. I liked my process improvement (troubleshooter) job before, but now it has become a real joy and passion. Results improved and new assignments were even more challenging, bringing further success. Then in the midst of this grand renaissance came the diagnosis of bladder cancer. While it's treatable and not life-threatening (as this point), it's still a life changing experience. A Christian lady I work with on occasion had not heard the news, and we spent some time discussing it and bringing her up to speed. I told her I view the cancer as a gift, and she was a bit shocked. She rightly explained that all disease was a result of mankind's sinful state, and not retribution for specific behavior. I agreed, but had some difficulty explaining my point of view. We finally reached a level of mutual understanding that was helpful for both of us.
Another fellow at work asked me why I was happy all the time. "Every day is a good day!" was my reply. It occurs to me that I should try to explain why that's the case. Then I came across a reference to an article titled, "Don't Waste Your Cancer," by Dr. John Piper, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006. It lists ten ways a Christian might waste cancer, and explains each point with Biblical references. Subsequently Dr. David Powlison (also diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006) elaborated on each point. These two guys are theological heavyweights, so the full article will be a bit deep for those readers who are not so inclined. Still the ten main points will be interesting to even the most jaded, and they are presented below:
Don't Waste Your Cancer
1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
Read the entire article by clicking on the link: Don't Waste Your Cancer
And just in case any of you think that all this means that I've lost my "edge," feel free to click on THIS PHOTO of P.A. Regan (with his brother) hard at work at his last job. Thanks Trevor!