Saturday, 31 July 2010

Life Lessons

“Everything happens for a reason.” How many times have you heard that glib phrase slip from the lips of a well-meaning friend at a time of difficulty? But if you question your friend about what it actually means, they will mumble something about ‘life-lessons’. Pressed further they will admit that really, they haven’t got a clue.

Are we are all naughty schoolgirls who somehow need to be taught our lessons?

I mean what possible reason could there be for getting cancer, losing all of one’s income and then being dumped by one’s boyfriend? When those things happened to me I felt that I had been abandoned by God. The emotional pain was so great that I ended up seeking refuge in a psychiatric hospital.

And people started saying “everything happens for a reason.” I wanted to smack them. I do not believe that in some karmic way I deserved to have cancer or to meet a man like Nick. I cannot accept the notion of an interventionist God sitting up above, moving the chess pieces around, pronouncing: “she has to get sick so that she will learn patience.” 

Yet the more I have thought about it the more I have come to the conclusion that everything does happen for a reason.

Here is how I interpret “everything happens for a reason”: things happen but the reason is not pre-ordained. The reason is what we make it. Every situation in life has a positive aspect. It is up to us to examine our difficulty and draw the gift from it.

Most eastern martial arts apply the principle of redirecting your opponent’s energy and using it to your own advantage. So, if someone runs at you, you can block him and suffer the full force of the blow. Or you can sidestep and then give him a push, using his own velocity to unbalance him. So it is with a time of adversity. We can stand still and absorb the punches, or we can turn it on its head and see what we can gain from what has gone down.

Here are the things that I have gained in the last year: I have realised how many wonderful, loving friends I have; I have learned how to ask for help, even in small ways; I have discovered that there are people who will step in to support me financially; I have written a successful blog; I have found the courage to go out and get myself a book deal; I have been told that I have a ‘good shaped head’ and can get away with very little hair; I have made new friends in faraway places; I have found that I can endure extreme emotions - the fear of death, the anxiety of financial insecurity and the agony of betrayal - without needing the crutches of drugs and alcohol.

All of these gains will be advantageous to me in my future life and, believe it or not, my experience has also helped other people. I’m sure there will be more entries on the pro side of the balance sheet before this is all over.

I cannot change what has happened but I still have a choice: to gain some benefit from it – or not.


Unknown said...

I once overheard to my surprise my husband telling someone that I had a philosophy about things happening for a reason.
At the time of an adverse event you're flat out fathoming what the reason could possibly be. But further down the track of life you draw on lessons learned of earlier adversities and are the stronger for it because you know what to do and how to survive it, and your coping mechanisms kick in.
There's a saying amongst greyhound owners that you don't learn anything when you're winning.