Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Worst Times in My Life


The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.

Aristotle

This morning I took my daughters to their first day of the new school year.  They were both up by 6:00 a.m. and we were at the school an hour early.  They were excited about the new school year.  I really want it to be a good one for them.  I want all their years to be good.  But will they be?  Probably not.  I’m not being negative.  I just know that some years or some seasons of life are better than others.  The worst periods of my life were the following:
·      The 7th grade
·      1979
·      1983-1984
·      Certain jobs and the years I was in them
·      1999-2000

I won’t go into the details of each of these now, but I remember all these periods vividly.  Within these periods there were some good days and within some of the better times there were difficulties.  There were also incidents in my life that were extremely painful, but they lasted less time.  But these periods stand out as the worst of my life, partly because of their duration.  I then wonder if there is a common theme or set of principles to the bad times.  Is there anything I could do in order to prevent or shorten future bad periods?  And if more difficulties arise, can I find joy in them so that they don’t seem so bad?
When thinking carefully about the worst times I see that they have the following in common:
·      Unwillingness to take responsibility for my happiness
·      Looking for others to “save” me or solve my problems
·      Blaming others for my problems
·      Allowing others to make crucial decisions for me
·      Unwillingness to do my best work.
·      Making excuses.
·      Not taking care of my health.
·      Lack of self-discipline
·      Lack of initiative
·      Complaining and negativity, inwardly or outwardly
·      Dishonesty
·      Laziness
·      Lack of forgiveness
·      Making decisions that weren’t aligned with my heart or my values

Not all of my worst times had all these factors, but they had most of them and usually all of them.   As I look at this list I can see now that I could have changed most of those times and made them better, if not great.  What none of those times had in common were the circumstances.  Not only were the circumstances different, they were all within my control had I simply changed my way of doing things.
Yes, sometimes circumstances surprise us.  I have been sucker-punched by something completely unexpected.  I’ve been in shock with disbelief at how some things changed in an instant.  There were even a couple of events that were completely out of my control.   But those were isolated incidents.  Most of the time, and especially for the longer periods of pain, I was the cause of, and the solution to, my unhappiness.
What does that mean then?  It means that I can control, largely, my happiness.  I can’t control events, but I can control my actions and attitudes.  I can stop complaining.  I can work harder.  I can find my Purpose.  I can take action.  I can make my life easier by working harder.  If I get knocked down, I can get up again. 
Life has problems, but I don’t have to suffer, at least not indefinitely.   Being happy is a discipline, not luck.  It is rarely given, or if it is, I must work to keep it.  This is something I can share with my daughters.  Maybe they won’t have to have the hard times I had.  Maybe they can have a happier and more fruitful life.  Maybe all of us can.  To be happy, as happy as I’ve been since I found my Muse, I have to Get Started and Keep Going.