37. Losses, Laments, and Laffy Taffy

37. Losses, Laments, and Laffy Taffy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Losses, Laments, and Laffy Taffy

The only disability in life is a bad attitude.

~Scott Hamilton

A week before Christmas, I received a package from an old college friend. “Can I open it?” my daughter, Leah, asked.

“Go ahead,” I said, sliding a tray of cookies into the oven.

She tore open the bubble mailer and tipped the contents — a handful of candies and a small wrapped packet — onto the kitchen table. She looked confused. “Why’d she send you Laffy Taffy?”

I chuckled. “I’d forgotten about that! We used to eat it while we studied. There are jokes printed on the wrappers.” The plump, square, fruit-flavored candies had sold for ten cents apiece in the college store. Banana had been my favorite.

Leah ate a piece, reading the jokes aloud as she chewed. Her sister Chloe ate one too.

“Aren’t you going to have one?” Chloe asked.

“I want to, but it would be murder on my fillings.” I grimaced. “I’d rather not have to visit the dentist this close to Christmas.”

So the girls devoured the rest of the taffy as I read the note taped to the packet: “Just a little something from me that smells good. Love, Lisa.” Inside were two car air fresheners infused with essential oils. Sandalwood and lavender.

“Ohhhh, they smell so good,” the girls gushed. “Can you smell them?”

Although they were a mere inch from my nose, I couldn’t. In fact, I hadn’t been able to smell for ten years. Suddenly, I began to laugh. Here I’d received two thoughtful gifts, and I couldn’t properly enjoy either of them!

My friend wasn’t at fault. Last time we’d talked face to face, both my teeth and my sense of smell had been intact. Since then, however, I’d developed an autoimmune condition called Sjögren’s syndrome that affected my body’s moisture-producing glands. A damaged sniffer and frequent dental visits were among the side effects of the disease.

These losses had been hard to accept. Even though I meticulously cared for my teeth, I faced having to replace all of them, all at once, with crowns — an expensive and painful procedure. Not being able to smell meant I couldn’t taste certain flavors, enjoy formerly favorite fragrances, or detect when I’d left something in the oven for too long. That’s why, even though I’d initially laughed at the irony of the gifts I’d received, a few hours later I felt depressed.

Look at what I had lost! It was so unfair. Why did I have to get this stupid disease?

My mind was halfway down that familiar road of sorrow when another, unexpected thought brought me up short: Was thinking this way going to lead to my happiness?

Over the previous year, I’d spent a lot of time working on my negative thought patterns. As I sat there, I remembered the advice of my therapist: “The instant you hear a negative thought in your head, turn it around!”

Okay, I decided, rather grumpily. What could I say about my situation that was positive?

Well . . . I couldn’t smell good smells, but I couldn’t smell bad ones either, such as garbage, mold, or dirty diapers. That was positive.

Another positive: If I had to lose one of my senses, I was glad it was my sense of smell instead of hearing or sight. Those would be a lot harder to live without.

And another: I might need a mouthful of crowns, but at least we had the money to pay for them. It had required refinancing the house, but still, the money was there, and my husband hadn’t complained one bit.

Once started, I kept going, remembering all the blessings that existed in spite of — and sometimes because of — my struggles: My faith had grown. I had a better sense of humor. I’d learned about natural health. And strangely, but wonderfully, I was becoming more positive!

The truth is, back in the days when I consumed Laffy Taffy by the handful, I’d been a fairly negative person. The imperfections of life often got me down, and when bad things happened, I fell apart. Back then, I enjoyed lovely teeth and a working sense of smell, but I lacked one very important thing: the knowledge that dwelling on what I had lost, or on what I didn’t have, or on what I didn’t like about my life wouldn’t help me. It was okay to grieve for those things, but I had to let them go if I were to be happy.

And I wanted to be happy.

So that day, after turning my mental car around, I made a note to write a thank you to my friend, tossed the air fresheners in the Goodwill pile and gathered up the empty taffy wrappers.

But before throwing them away, I sat down to read the wrappers and enjoy one last joke.

~Sara Matson

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