“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
You have an ability to harbor two extremely different mindsets when dealing with adversity and while both are available to you, the one that you choose to adopt will make all of the difference in the world when it comes to your long term success. Often due to a lack of perspective, we have a propensity to get caught up in the mundane. We focus on things that really don’t matter in the broad sense of our lives and we allow our neurosis to dictate our emotional state. We obsess over things we can’t change and we become angry in the wake of a reality that doesn’t match the one that we had envisioned or hoped for our lives.
This affinity to dwell on the inconsequential is the default human reaction. This is especially true when we aren’t the ones who make the decision for change but rather are thrust into a new circumstance that we aren’t ready for. The reality is that we are always only one move or conversation away from chaos. One diagnosis, one break up, one loss of a job, one wrongdoing or one false step can sling us into complete catastrophe and it can happen in a single moment. Things that have always made sense suddenly never made sense. People you’ve always known suddenly feel like strangers. The cosmos, the God, Gods or whatever you believe in, that once seemed to be just and to be operating out of a sense of order now appear crooked and cruel upon further inspection.
This can quickly conjure feelings of anxiety, anger, sadness, embarrassment, shame or often an amalgamation of them all. Interestingly, many people would be surprised to know that the half life of those emotions is actually quite short. While it changes from person to person, anger for example, typically only lasts long enough for your sympathetic nervous system to return to its original state. Yet, how many of us choose to hold on to anger long after our increased heart rate has subsided?
We don’t let it go for days, weeks and if we never feel that the original grievance is rectified, it’s possible that we’ll hold on to it long enough to let it become us. We’ll walk around perpetually angry everyday and eventually if it goes unchecked, that will become the fabric from which our lives are made.
There is however, a second mode of being in the world. It requires you to live and to let go. Not because the other person or the situation deserves it, (they probably don’t) but because you do. Because resentment will breed contempt and contempt will turn your life into a living agony. And you don’t deserve to live in agony any longer. Plain and simple.
To get to the second mode of being, start by asking yourself a simple question. Why is this happening for me, instead of to me? If you think earnestly, you will eventually come up with a reason. And that reason matters because it will help you shift your paradigm and thought process about rough times and what comes next. This isn’t a call for positive self talk that doesn’t match the reality in which you are living and this isn’t easy like a mantra or manifestation of what you want. This is looking chaos in the face and meeting it where it’s at. You have to look hard to find the beneficial side of pain but I promise you that one does exist and if you are able to pinpoint it, you can begin to start making it work for your life. You can take a step forward in the middle of high winds and regardless of how small that step might be, forward progress should never be discounted.
It is important to recognize that although tragedy and pain happen, the fundamental slant of the universe is one of abundance and not scarcity. There is plenty of greatness to go around and you just as much as the next person deserve a great life whether you believe that or not.
So I have to ask, what if this wasn’t the worst thing to happen to you? What if you began to find reasons why it’s even good? Or at least tolerable for the time being? What if finding the reason that things are happening for you instead of to you is the foundation from which you get to build a life that is bigger and better than even the reality that you had first envisioned for yourself? The fact alone that life has the ability to be greater than we ever imagined is reason enough not to hold on too tightly to what we imagine.
While you can’t do anything about the initial response of your nervous system, you can do much about the way you choose to view your subsequent days. There is no question that life is full of struggle and pain that we are ill equipped to deal with. This isn’t an excuse to blow past emotions and not feel them. In many cases, feeling is the only way through. Since the nature of our reality is such that one conversation can change the entire trajectory of our lives, not feeling hurt, sad, lonely or angry in the wake of that would be to deny reality which isn’t a great basis for changing it.
The problem is, when you allow an emotion that doesn’t serve you such as anger to anchor your heart for the day, you have no room or emotional capacity left to embrace the beauty in your life that still exists. Don’t excuse it, just forgive it. Make room in your heart and your life for what is to come. We are wired to prevail against the storm but that is only possible if we don’t succumb to it.
Although it doesn’t seem fair, in many cases, the complete upheaval of our lives is a call to adventure. A chance to burn the old and create the new. Our initial default mode forces us to want to protect what we have as if it is all that we will ever have, but anyone who has been through hard times in the past knows that it always gets better. The fact that you are still here and reading this means that you are living proof of this fact. The human spirit is resilient beyond measure.
Sometimes, we protect things and hold onto them longer than we should and the universe comes along and prys them from us. It hurts, it sucks and it isn’t fair. Life isn’t easy but it is worth it. The happiness found in operating out of a life of meaning far outweighs the storms that we have to pass through in order to get there.The stories in history that we remember, happen because a greater life lied on the right side of a great collapse, not the left.
The catch is, you have to open yourself up to viewing your new situation as an opportunity for what is to come. You are in the middle of a death sentence but it’s not meant for you, only the life that wasn’t going to serve you in the long run anyway. Don’t adopt it as your own because you aren’t willing to let go of what can never and will never be changed. Try to look at the landscape for what it has the opportunity to be and not what it currently is.
What dream or desire have you held onto that you might be free to now pursue? You will always find one if you ask yourself honestly. You might have to get quiet to hear the answer because after a while of being ignored, the universe will stop asking. Now, in the midst of whatever you are going through might be a good time to begin asking yourself what you really want. What you really feel drawn to. You may just find that now you are free to finally pursue it.
Regardless of how small our lives might seem in the moment, we each have our own spot in the unfolding of the universe making them important beyond measure. You and your time here are no more important than that of early man and no less important than that of the greatest world leaders. The large size of a machine doesn’t mean that you can discount the importance of any of its parts. Size and value aren’t related. So while humans may have an affinity to get wrapped up in the inconsequential; our second mindset, the one that is available to everyone simply because we have our own spot in this great cosmic unfolding, is a reach for the awe inspiring.
Great people aren’t born that way, they simply answer their call to adventure trusting that the cosmos will sort out the details. It is important to recognize that those details might not be sorted out in the timeline that you want. You can’t compare how quickly one person might obtain results to your particular path. The chance that you might need this particular setback in order to prevail for the future in store for you is just too great to be calculated. There are simply too many factors to be considered and we don’t have all the details. To a large degree you have to trust the process, not the timeline.
When you are in the middle of heartache or catastrophe, the term “everything happens for a reason” feels like a pejorative critique of your inability to overcome more than it does heartfelt condolence. The profoundness in this realization only comes when you begin to understand that everything happens for a reason AND that you have the complete freedom to choose that reason. The fact that you can assign a justification to your pain shouldn’t be overlooked as it literally puts the power back in your hands. It gives you something to grasp and helps you begin to restore order in the middle of chaos. The situation at hand may be out of your hands but what comes next is squarely in your control.
We all know that when a child is learning to walk, the option to give up after they fall really doesn’t exist. If they were to decide to stay down after a tumble, the rest of their life would undoubtedly become a failure. What we fail to realize is that if we also fail to get back up after a fall, so won’t ours. The good news is that regardless of the pain and the struggle involved, as long as you have another breath, the ability to get back up is always a choice that you have.