Yesterday started like a fairly typical day. Got up, drank my coffee, worked out…did P90X for the first time and immediately renamed it P22.5X because not only was I half-assing it, I was quarter-assing it! Bring it on, Tony Horton, I say…no matter that both knees were rug burned/blistered by the number of “knee pushups” I did on the berber carpet. You can’t beat me.
Showered and met my parents and sister for lunch, at our favorite local Chinese restaurant…when my mom told an awful story, the latest chapter in the lives of some old and dear family friends. The chapter was about a young woman. No risk factors. And lung cancer. I felt sick to my stomach as I tried to digest the news. I mean, I had just seen the young woman’s parents and sister at the road race I did on Sunday. It was so great to see them…we talked, we ran, we met up afterward for beers and cheers…it was at the time, as well as in hindsight, impossible to detect that anything was amiss, let alone that their lives had been upended by cucking fancer.
My mom was talking about the conversation she had with the young girl’s mother, and how upbeat and positive she was. As my mom was updating us, my mind wandered…my mom would know a thing or two about a positive attitude. My dad–her beloved husband and partner in crime–was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer 26 months ago.
I can’t even begin to detail that, nor is that my point.
Sometimes when we’re down, the old cliches make us feel worse, not better…someone says “when life give you lemons, make lemonade,” I think, “When someone says that stupid shit about the lemons, shove a lemon up their ass.” Sure the speaker means well, but really…lemonade?
In some situations, it’s hard to find the silver lining. And in many cases the silver lining is so tarnished it looks black, and casts a heavy shadow.
My point is this: platitudes and cliches delivered in a way devoid of empathy are not often useful…we hear “blah blah blah blah blah”…but at some point, usually when left to our own devices, we must think “Yes!” Yes, I can get through this? Yes, I can handle this? And yes, maybe there are some quotes or stories or something that I can read to re-frame my thinking.
Let’s face it. In some situations, there is no good. Looking for the good is futile (not to mention more depressing), and even the most helpful-intentioned people don’t help if they don’t get it. But in a situation where I can’t see good, I look at what surrounds it. And there, inevitably, is good. I inventory the good, I supplement the good with inpirational quotes and affirmation. Whatever it takes. I start to build momentum and volume and provide myself with context…I look at the big picture. Does that in any way change the root issue? No. But I can and do change how I respond to it, how I think about it, and how I choose to live in the face of it.
It’s not about listening to others and proving them right or wrong. It’s not about wallowing. It’s not about delusion or denial. It’s about a place for everything and everything in its place. And some things will be big. Huge. Overhwleming. Scary. And it will take time and patience and diligence to find positive context. But it will come. Sometimes the issue is small, and all it takes is a few focused moments to right one’s ship. And sometimes it is revealed that what seems big is in fact small, a realization that will get you back moving on your path to happiness.
We’re all different. We all do things in our own way and in our own time…but we all must stop waiting and start doing. It’s no different for our physical health than our emotional health. Start taking care of things, start influencing your thoughts and choices. Starting is a change in and of itself, and poitive change will beget positive change…if you let it. It’s ok that sometimes when others talk all we can hear is “blah blah blah.” But we must always remain open to listening to ourselves. Find quiet. Listen. Then be the voice. Be the change. Weather the storm.
To paraphrase Martin Luther King: Have faith and take the first step. No matter that you can’t see the whole staircase.