Courtesy of the Washington Post | By Sarah Kaufman
August 21, 2015
Former President Jimmy Carter walks to a news conference followed by his wife, Rosalynn, on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
Former President Jimmy Carter walks to a news conference followed by his wife, Rosalynn, on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)

“Everything has been pleasant for me. So I’m thankful. And hopeful.” With those words, and a big, toothy smile, former President Jimmy Carter, 90, ended his press conference Thursday. He looked so completely, boyishly happy that you could almost forget he’d also announced he has cancer in his brain.

“I was surprisingly at ease,” Carter told the crowd, recalling his emotions when his doctors told him they’d found the four spots of melanoma on his brain after doing surgery on the cancer in his liver. Carter confessed to being startled at his own response. “I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t go into an attitude of despair or anger.”

[Carter speaks about the cancer that has spread to his brain.]

Call it clear thinking, or mind over matter. Or simply: grace. Carter’s reaction to the very bad news–the kind that could terrify and distress most of us–is a lesson in accepting what comes with the rare virtue of grace.

Grace–meaning elegance, calm, equanimity–is the only strategy that make any sense, really. Disorganized emotions and raging thoughts of worst-case scenarios will only make the situation worse. Carter employed a textbook coping strategy, what any therapist might advise: Try for a balanced perspective, look at the big picture of your life, reflect on who and what is important to you.

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