Recently I played the role of a Tour Director on a trip to Hawaii with my parents to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Together, my mom and I planned their celebratory cruise – to all the islands, which ended-up being quite an undertaking and a fun process at that. My role as their guide was truly a labor of love and a gift to my parents to share my favorite things with them about this tropical paradise with them as well as to explore new adventures. Not only was this a big celebration, but also it had been decades since our last family vacation, minus one, my brother Todd.

Unbeknownst to me, there would be unexpected hidden gifts and opportunities for my awareness, growth and deepening in loving in the process. Starting with the first day out to sea when my body flipped out from too much sun exposure and decided to have a toxic response. Sun poisoning. It swelled to double its size and I felt and looked like a giant, red hive. I was extremely itchy, uncomfortable and my body ached from being so swollen. Not very attractive what so ever! The whole vacation I couldn’t wear any of my cute summer clothes and ended-up wearing the only winter outfit I had (gloves and all) to protect myself from the 80 degree sun. Add to that, the ship’s doctor told me I had to stay out of the sun! “What?! I’m on a week cruise to Hawaii. Are you kidding me?! This seems like a really weird practical joke to have a toxic response to its intensity.” However, it wasn’t.

In the past I would’ve over-reacted, flipped-out, chastised and berated myself for being so careless, irresponsible and complained like a victim. Thus making myself and everyone around me miserable. Instead, 30 years of practicing Self-Mastery Skills guided me to embrace gratitude and humor in the face of the disappointment.

I saw my opportunity to make a firm decision right then and there to employ practical, life-enhancing Self-Mastery Skills and focus forward. Here’s what I did:

I immediately was grateful that I could see a very good-looking ship doctor, as long as I needed to while on the ship. J

I became grateful that I was still mobile and not in bed. It all came back to me in that moment and I remembered having sun poisoning 30 years ago on my honeymoon and being bed-ridden for a week. I was so grateful I didn’t end-up in the hospital because my burns could’ve been far worse! I kept in mind: this is truly Grace-in-Action.

I was grateful for having the opportunity to relax and slow down and smell the coffee. Literally. We ended-up going to a coffee plantation tour together, when I originally had a separate water trip planned with a friend which I had to cancel because of the posioning. Instead, I got to explore this new place with my parents! Hooray!

My mother and I laughed at how absurd I looked in my winter garb on the Hawaiian beach and how I wasn’t much of a “man magnet.” Rather I looked like someone who escaped the insane asylum! This alone created so much laughter, we were crying!

I was grateful to have the opportunity to slow down enough to hold my father’s hand as we were walking. As he shuffled and groaned in pain from a well worn, aging body. I reflected about how strong and stable he was as a young man and what life must be like for him now in this physical condition. I opened my heart to a deeper level of compassion and understanding for him and imagined what it must be like to be in his shoes – as my body hurt as well for different reasons. This was a priceless moment that connected my heart to his.

While I would’ve preferred to have a different experience with the sun on the cruise, I am forever grateful for the precious moments I had with my parents and especially for my ability and skills to “Accept what Is, while reframing the issues as blessings with humor and focusing forward” and creating a great time. I’m not saying it was an easy undertaking, but it sure was worth the effort!

Where in your life can you: Accept what is, while reframing your issues as blessings with humor and forward focus – on what’s REALLY important?