Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When All Seems Lost

“Anyone can give up; it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.” ~ Author unknown

Yesterday I ran into a friend who went through a very rough time this past year – he lost his job, his mother passed away, he went through a hard battle with his ex-wife over custody of his children, and he struggled with depression. Every time he raised his head after one blow, something else hit him from a different direction, often with not enough time in between life storms to recharge his batteries.

When I asked him how he was doing, I expected a sad answer. To my surprise, he replied that he was doing great. I am not sure if I was more relieved or surprised, and he must have seen it on my face, because he felt compelled to explain.

“When everything started going south,” he said, “I got very depressed. I even thought that life wasn’t worth living any more, and I escaped the pain by fantasizing about dying. The more I thought of it, the sweeter death appeared – a moment of pain in exchange for an eternal sleep I didn’t have to wake up from. Then, one afternoon, I went to the grocery store, and I ran into a neighbor who told me of her thirty-five-year-old daughter who was dying of cancer. Tears welled in her eyes when she told me of her little grandson who was going to grow up without a mother. Suddenly, my depression evaporated like fog in the morning sun. Here I was, mostly upset over minor affairs and wishing for death, and out there was a young mother fighting to live just another day. I was overcome with shame and guilt, and I almost fell into a deeper state of self-pity, but I quickly shook myself out of it; life IS beautiful, no matter how maddening it can be at times. I guess I was like the man who complained he had no shoes until he ran into another man who had no feet.”

Glad that my friend had been able to accept those hard moments as a natural low of life, I said good-bye and thought about the things he said.

It’s extremely easy to become overwhelmed when things start happening, especially if they are unexpected, and it is just as easy to be willing to give up. Once the first set of emotions begin to flow, they rush through every cell of our being and cloud our perception. If we lose a job we feel as if we’ve lost ourselves and our identity; if we lose our house we immediately entertain thoughts of being rejected by society; if we lose a loved one, we feel guilty for being alive while they are gone. In reality, a job and a house do not define our worth, and each of us is here as long as we need to complete whatever we came to do and learn; if we are still here, there is a reason why we are.

The trick is to focus on what we have left, rather than obsessing on what we have lost.

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