When you experience a series of calamities in life, including some of your own making, it seems only natural to begin looking for the WHY. As in, why is this happening to me? Why does it keep happening? What have I done to deserve this? Why am I being punished with such gleeful karmic abandon? Have I offended the Cosmos in some unknown or unremembered way? Why can’t I manage to rise above, no matter how hard I try? Must it always be this way? What else is there to life than this constant, demoralizing struggle?
And … after so much effort, why should I continue trying to overcome?
Pulling Yourself Into the Picture
If you’ve ever pondered these questions as I have – time and time again – chances are you’ve come up empty more often than not. In my own case, the frequent recurrence of these existential thoughts has led me even to question my faith – religious, interpersonal and otherwise. It has also led to a great deal of negativity at times, and that negativity – mostly sheer, unmitigated, towering frustration – has led to some choices that didn’t help matters in the least.
Sometimes, when a person is suffering what she – or he – perceives as an injustice or undeserved setback, it’s much easier to cast blame than to look in the mirror and admit even the smallest measure of culpability. What’s even more difficult to face is this: Even if some misfortune (or a series of them) came winging at you like a thunderbolt from Mount Olympus, aren’t you at least partly responsible for your reaction to them? You might not have caused or even deserved the circumstances, but don’t you have some element of choice in how you will react to them?
The answer, of course, is yes.
It’s a very hard, very stark truth, but a truth nonetheless. No matter what happens in the course of a lifespan, and things can and do happen like a freight train on crack, in the end, it is entirely up to us how we deal with it. Do we whine and cower and wallow in self-pity, blaming some deity of choice who doesn’t seem to be there, a close friend who really let us down this time, a loved one who brought much disappointment into our life, a boss or a co-worker who never seems to agree with our views?
Or, do we stand on the tracks and face that hurtling engine with all of the fortitude the Universe gave us?
If Only We Could Stop that Train
Oh, I know what you’re thinking – easier said than done, right? Right! When you’re in the midst of a struggle – a Herculean, epic, knock-down, drag-out fight to the death and beyond – time has a way of warping so it’s nearly impossible to see past the crisis at hand. When the heat is on, it is so infinitely easy to make the tiny, immutable misstep that, at its most extreme, can alter the trajectory of a life. Wouldn’t it be great if, in the middle of such a dilemma, we could step back and hit the pause button?
Unfortunately, life isn’t a movie we can stop and start through the wonders of technology. It’s a narrative that doesn’t pause until our lungs and hearts finally give out from age, injury or infirmity. Usually, the only pause we get is the hindsight we gain over time and through the many challenges we either face or fumble. The school of hard knocks is, if nothing else, informative, but, just as in a high school geometry class, you have to be willing to listen to your instructor, and like that instructor, the lesson often is served up with a generous helping of things that are initially difficult to understand.
You Have to Work Your Way Out
Take a young man named Kyle Maynard. Maynard, the keynote speaker at a recent event I attended, has overcome more than most of us could ever imagine. Despite having been born with arms and legs that end at the elbows and knees, respectively, this young man from Georgia not only jets all over the country as a motivational speaker, but he’s a gifted athlete. Don’t mess with Kyle, or he’ll wrestle you to the ground. Wrestling is one of his many passions and accomplishments, and he’s even been recognized twice by ESPN for his prowess in the ring.
About 28-years-old, Maynard owns and runs an exercise facility, can type 50-60 words per minute using only the stumps of what should have been his arms, and counts his disability as a blessing.Yes, a blessing. He even said he wouldn’t trade a pair of arms and legs for a billion dollars.
Is he nuts? No, on the contrary; Maynard has grappled with his own karmic freight train and pounded it into something sublimely inspirational. What should be a curse is a gift he has used, and continues to use, to try and get people to understand the one thing that so often eludes them – no matter who you are, or where you are, you can overcome.
It might not be in the way you expect or desire, but it is entirely in your power to do something much better than doing nothing at all. “Anything we want badly in life … can become possible,” Maynard said during his recent remarks, “We can bring whatever we want into the realm of possibility, I believe, through our spirit.”
Believing in the Journey Ahead
I believe it, too. I can’t help but believe it because I’ve seen it happen so many times. I’ve lived it. I’ve struggled and fought with it, scuffled with and harangued it, bargained with and cajoled it, sometimes winning a battle, but not yet having won the war. That war, for each and every one of us, equals the sum total of a life.
The question is, will it have been a life well-lived?
In Kyle Maynard’s case, it already is a life well-lived. In my own little microcosm, and possibly in yours, that remains to be seen. Each of us is a tiny grain of sand on a vast stretch of shore, but even so, we are intimately connected in ways that are difficult to understand, but no less compelling and true. We’re never acting alone, although it might feel that way at times. Everything we do affects someone or something at some point – usually several someones and somethings, present and future.
The key to it all is to keep that in mind. You might be the captain of your soul, but you also serve as an example in whatever sphere of influence you have around you. Responding appropriately to challenges large and small is the best way to build a well-lived life, and it often takes a lifetime to master.
So, start down a new road today. Start by doing something with your life that will help other people. My journey included writing this article in hopes that it would help someone else on their own journey. We’ve often heard in reference to life that “the journey is more important than the destination.” Indeed, this is true. Your journey can be a very rewarding one. The choice is up to you.
“Happiness is not something ready-made.
It comes from your own actions.”
Written By Lindsay Jones
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