Life can be incredibly complex. Its ebbs and flows are overwhelming enough but tack on to that our perception and somehow we manage to complicate it even further. Take my life for instance. A few weeks ago, life hit me with something I wasn’t anticipating. Despite my best efforts, dotting every ‘i’ and crossing each ‘t’, calamity paid me a visit. But it could have been worse. I could have made it worse.
The world is ending. Entire industries are crumbling, AI is making humans obsolete, wars are breaking out, environments are slowly imploding, and governments around the world are too underwater to solve any problems. This is 2023. Oh, no actually, it’s just my Twitter feed. According to today’s daily summary, the world is officially f’d. There’s also a cute video of a cuddly cat, the only glimmer of joy within this dying world.
Twitter is the point of view app. Through it anyone with a stable internet connection and a story in their heart has the power to speak to millions of users. Within each of these perspectives, past all the emotions and biases, there are some hints of truth able to chirp through. But in order to see it, I have to suspend my own view to understand it.
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with having an outlook on life, it undoubtedly complicates things. Take the news as another example. Personally, I don’t watch the news. Why? Well, I disagree with how the news is delivered to us. Call me crazy but I don’t think the news is a place to be emotional. If it’s delivered with attitude similar to a 90s diss track, it’s not news. Reading it is no better. With all the slants and perspectives nested within articles, it’s difficult to get the real story. What was designed to inform is instead being used to influence.
How I feel, what I think I deserve, my wants, all have some level of dominion over my life. Whether they originated from me or if I was influenced by someone else, the fact of the matter is that they manipulate me. Rather than dealing with the things that happen to me, I find myself first addressing the feelings and emotions attached to it. Somehow, I make the circumstance worse.
So is there any way to make unforeseen, uncontrollable conditions easier?
I found my answer in a story that was sent to me a few days before my predicament. My flight had just landed and upon turning on my phone, a text popped up. It was from my best friend. The text read, “this story reminds me of you”, with a link just below. I clicked the link and was led to a tale about a farmer.
The story begins with misfortune. One of the farmer’s horses escaped his corral. Having heard of the farmer’s misfortune, a few neighbors visited the farmer and said, “What terrible news!” The farmer replied, “I don’t know yet if it is good news or bad news. I don’t have all the information.” Days passed and soon his horse returned with two other wild horses. When his neighbors heard about this, they visited the farmer again and remarked, “How fortunate for you!” To this the farmer responded, “I’m not so sure yet.” Later that week the farmer’s son attempted to tame the wild horses, causing him to break his back in the process. “We heard the news of your son!”, the town exclaimed, “What awful luck.” True to his character despite the horrible undeserved fate his own flesh and blood fell to, the farmer asserted, “Bad luck, good luck, I can not say. I simply don’t know how this will end until it does.” Finally, in the midst of his son’s recovery, his country’s army visited his town, seeking any able bodied man to embark with them to war.
Nice story, I thought as closed my phone and moved on with my day. The next day, a question was posed to me by my professional community during our weekly hang. They asked me to describe an instance where I was faced with adversity and how I got through it. I was asked this question the day before my trial began. Although I don’t quite remember my answer, looking back on these two sequential events, I can’t help but feel that I was being prepped for what was to come. And had I not been at least somewhat receptive to them, perhaps my outlook would have led me down a path worse than the one I already had to deal with.
Like I said, it’s been three weeks and I can honestly say my outlook is the same as the day life tried to hit me with the rope-a-dope. I’m alive, my love ones are good, there is so much to look forward to, good and bad. Life is good.
Here is a what I’ve learned from all this. A lion’s share of life is just things happening to you. I can’t control them and despite my effort or any amount of preparation, nothing will stop them from occurring. There is another part of life, though. The part where I get to respond.
In the midst of storms, I can still be kind. When failure visits me, I can take it in stride. Even when life takes me to new heights, I can practice humility or share the accomplishment with others. My conditions and how I feel about them does not have to dictate my actions. Throughout my life, I’ve lived emotionally, wearing my heart on my sleeve, allowing my feelings to control my reality. I’m not mad at that, I accept it but it comes with instability. Instability brings anxiety which leads to emotional decision making and then all of a sudden I’m not living, my emotions are.
Relief comes with taking a breath. Pause. Taking time to reflect. This has helped me do what I really need to do, make my next move. I also recognize had I not stop, I would have done something that I would regret. Something that’s not me but is sort of a shadow of me. Ideas still lingering from my past, my habits and tendencies, some which I thought were dead for years. Yet there they are, arising to the surface and enticing me to act upon them.
But I don’t. Because I get to choose. Crisis is going to befall me but it does not have command over me. My emotions, they work for me. In the midst of trials, their weight can fell immense. But I have options. I use it as inspiration. I can share them with you. Maybe it will help someone. Maybe this will be a turning point in my life. Maybe it will be a complete disaster. I’ll let you know what happens.