In Chinese calligraphy there is a symbol which represents crisis. They see crisis as an opportunity. In my work as a mediator and consultant, I help people to see other options and find the opportunities to grow in what they believe is a terrible mess, which life can be at times.
Perhaps if we were taught in kindergarten that life will not always be a bowl full of cherries and how to handle that, we would not be so devastated and disappointed when terrible things happen. In a Harvard study conducted a few decades ago, they found that most people would get sick if they scored over 300 points on a life scale of change in less than a year. On this survey were all of the good and bad things that can happen in a lifetime. For example, get married, get divorced, get a great job, lose a job, loss of a loved one, injury, vacation, hospitalization, etc.
I am sure if you reread that list you will find all those factors to be true. So, how does knowing that both opposites can, may, or will occur help you? I recommend to my clients to learn how to breathe in ways that are comforting to them in times of stress. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teaches these techniques and I provide my clients with relaxation and stress reduction exercises which include deep breathing, observing the breath and visualization.
How does this help?
For example, when you watch a sunset, a rain storm, or are stuck in traffic, how do these events affect you? I am sure each one elicits a different response. What one learns in stress reduction is to stay in the moment. Just as the body breathes regularly by itself, so too do these transitory events come and go in your life. By learning to observe the breath, you learn to observe events, difficult or pleasant as they may be, come and go.
Sorry if you are disappointed, but that is the nature of life! That is why more people today are learning about living in the moment and not regretting or feeling bad when a good memory is over because in fact all memories we make are fleeting. All experiences come and go.
I recently had a client who was going through a difficult time because her Mom is over 90 and not in good health. She made a telling comment about her Mom not teaching her how to live without her. I reminded her that perhaps she was seeing the picture incorrectly. The fact that her Mom was suffering and sharing her suffering with her and telling her this is no quality of life for her was the gift her Mom was giving her by being honest. The problem of course was the daughter accepting this reality.
I read two interesting books a few months back which were autobiographies by two women who were married for a long time to their husbands and in each story both husbands died unexpectedly. One from a heart attack at the dinner table, the other from an infection he got in the hospital after going in when he got pneumonia. What was interesting was reading about the very difficult time both women had grieving and losing their husbands. Their identities were so wrapped up in being a couple that they had to learn to redefine themselves as individuals. This is normal because we get so attached to people and conditions being the way they are, that we forget that everything in life is temporary.
In closing, I cannot tell you what to believe or think or what will work for you. I will, however, recommend that learning to accept life in all of its beauty and tragedy is indeed a gift that will make you appreciate it more. Feel free to share your thoughts, questions and comments.