In 1984 when Hank William’s song Attitude adjustment was gaining ground, my son Rick, with his son Justin in hand, translated its value in a quick trip to the restroom of Perkins Family restaurant. And guess what? Justin ended up wearing its lesson for the rest of that day.
It was a rare family visit. At the time they lived in Utah, which is more than a hop, skip, and a jump from Wheeling WV. Justin was the first grandchild, and of course, Grandma thought he was simply the cutest, smartest, and most loveable little kid in the universe.
I had spent the two days since they arrived lavishing Justin with my undivided attention, waning energy, and bright ideas of how to ensure that he was having the best time of his life. I did everything but stand on my head and walk a tight rope to keep the circus going.
So, when Rick suggested we go out for breakfast that Sunday morning, I was all in.
Perkins was packed with Churchgoers and there was a fifteen-minute wait. Rick gave me a should we stay look and I nodded yes, figuring it would be the same no matter where we went. We took a seat in the alcove. As soon as I lifted Justin up on my lap he began squirming and whining. When he began tugging at his father’s coat sleeve, Rick picked him up and patiently whispered something in his ear. Seconds later all hell broke loose. Justin wriggled out of his grasp and took off screaming down the center of the restaurant. He collided with a server and damn near caused an elderly couple to wear, instead of ingesting, their breakfast.
Shocked, I watched in awe as my little angel transmuted into a bratty monster. Rick took off after him and swooped him up before he did any real damage. Onlookers, wearing a variety of expressions were sizing up the situation and forming their opinions about the lack of parental discipline.
Instead of joining me on the bench, Rick brushed by and calmly announced they were heading for an Attitude Adjustment, then disappeared around the corner and into the restroom.
I have no idea what transpired in those next three minutes, but whatever it was, I am guessing someone’s bottom could tell the story.
Years later when I was introduced to a twelve-step program and became reacquainted with the phrase attitude adjustment, I was reminded of that incident in 1984 and understood its significance.
But how to achieve, and when do I need, an attitude adjustment can still be a real dilemma.
When I checked Merriman-Websters definition I found this:
A mental position with regard to a fact or state.
A feeling or emotion toward a fact or state.
Okay. Is it helpful or destructive? Is it negative or positive? How does it affect me or you?
These aren’t easy questions since my emotions are usually enmeshed with my belief system, which isn’t always authentic. Many of my opinions and beliefs are derivatives of parental and society’s influence and often override my sense of right and wrong. Often, they are knee-jerk responses. So, once I have wrestled with and untangled these elements, and am able to determine that an attitude adjustment is in order, how do I change it?
The miracle of twelve-step programs is that they give us little morsels of wisdom that leads us much like Hansel and Gretel to solutions that used to baffle us. The avenues open to us are countless. Attitude adjustments can be found buried in any one of the twelve steps. Sponsors, who can be found either in person or by simply punching in a number on the keypad of our cell, can guide us. And many of us have developed our own small library of daily meditation books that literally spell it out for us. Finally, when all else fails, we each have a Higher Power who is always just a prayer away.
While others are likely to profit from my changed attitude on occasion, the primary beneficiary is always me. And today, someone tells me I need an attitude adjustment, I usually succumb to their recommendation.