Chapter 6 –
When we change our perspective, we change our life.
That’s because we’ve changed our emotions and our thoughts.
That’s because we’ve changed both our actions and our inactions.
Setbacks … dreaded setbacks!
Here’s a truth: setbacks only set us back, if we accept to perceive them as unfair complications. Instead, once the moment of disappointment, heartbreak, anxiety or grief has passed, we could choose to see them as jolts intended to make us ‘be’ different.
Personally, I don’t feel qualified to speak on the topic of reversing odds in our favour. Not when I compare the plot beats of my life so far with those of someone like Rebekah Taussig, teacher/advocate and author of Sitting Pretty: The View From My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body.
Time magazine, in its 5/1/2021 issue, published an article written by Taussig, a woman of exemplary resilience. It is entitled, A Partner With Cancer, a New Baby and a Pandemic: How I Learned to Live in a Tangle of Joy and Pain.
Yes, indeed! Learning to live in a tangle of joy and pain (preferably not too-too much of the latter) is what our lives – as humans incarnated in the 3-D body that bears our name – is all about.
Taussig was paralysed by the time she was 3 but, for her, that was only the beginning of a panoply of complications we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy – should we be so unfortunate as to have one. 😉
That said, rather than summarise what this author wrote so brilliantly, I’d rather let her words ‘do the talking’.
“When I was very little, I survived childhood cancer.
[…] Instead of devouring any bit of light in me, my grief brought into focus my scrappiness and the sturdy beauty of my friendships; it helped me piece together a road map to understand my anxiety; it gave me a fuller picture of my own strength.
[ … ]
A couple of years ago, my lower back became the host for new levels of pain. My legs started spasming and clenching regularly with an intensity I couldn’t manage.
How do you sit with the prognosis of “pain for the rest of your life”?
[ … ]
Sitting in the ambiguity of reality is like balancing a spoon on your nose—it takes intention and endurance.
I can hardly bear to exist from the moment Micah goes in for tests to the moment we get the results to see if his cancer has come back, even though, so far, it hasn’t.
But of course every note in this song harmonizes with another. The pandemic continues to rage as Otto [her months-old baby] bounces in his Jolly Jumper, round and bald and ecstatic with the most expressive set of eyebrows I’ve ever seen.
[ … ]
‘Is there a way to feel loss and hope at the same time?’ Rage and comfort, grief and levity, anxiety and openness, strain and resilience, devastation and creativity—all of it existing side by side, neither experience negating or diminishing the other. I don’t know what I’ll do if Micah’s cancer comes back, if my baby gets sick, if we lose our income or health care. Maybe I’ll reach for different tools. It’s hard to know what we’ll do if.
[ … ]
But when we’re ready to sit in the full stories we’ve been living—when we are safe and have the space—all the pieces are here. Waving to each other through screens and breaking down during Zoom meetings, dancing in our driveways and choking on the chasm between ourselves and the ones we love without us in the hospital, spending hours on the phone catching up with every old friend and even more hours on hold with unemployment, splitting in half when our nightmares come true and exhaling with relief when they don’t, showing up to the same mess day after day after day.
These are our stories. They’re tangled and complicated, but they’re ours. Let them be—messy, contradictory, true.”
“They’re tangled and complicated, but they’re ours.” Yes, they are!
“Let them be—messy, contradictory, true.”
Yes! Let us be brave enough to just let them be while we do our best from the inside-out to keep our little raft on course on wave, one gentle breeze at a time.
‘A quelque chose malheur est bon’ is a French proverb coined in the 15th century. Setbacks/pain of any sort is inherent to good outcomes.
Some two hundred years later, the French philosopher, Voltaire flipped it around in his satirical novella, L’Ingenu. ‘Malheur est bon a quelque chose,’ he wrote. Setbacks/pain of any sort serve a good purpose.
‘Gam zu letova’, as used to say in Hebrew, Yudit CS, my Jewish Israel mentor.
Reality check: how would we ever differentiate malheur a.k.a. unhappiness/pain/setbacks, if not by its contrast to bonheur/happiness?
It is only by contrast that complications become the filters through which we are karmically intended to squeeze out opportunities to reflect, rethink, refine, and evolve.
Besides, as we need to always remain thankful for all that is deep down OK in our day-to-day, we can also desire to appreciate our aliveness.
We’re still here, aren’t we?
Still able to read, eat and sleep – and love and hug and smile.
And, of course, we’re still connected to our inherent resilience.
So, on any given day we could desire the ability to say, “Enough done today”.
We make peace with that.
Tomorrow is another day.
Tomorrow, no matter how familiar it may seem, always presents itself as our completely new Today.
As such, it contains ample opportunities to practice flowing by practising our highest intentions.
So … the desire to accept the possibility of a rainbow embedded in whatever comes down on any given day gets a tick on our list.
So much of our culture is about desire (needs, wants, hopes, aspirations, ambitions, goals, pursuits etc.) it should be easy to have honest conversations on topic with those closest to us.
Yet, once we are considered adults, truly opening up about what we yearn for becomes difficult and complicated.
Best kept private.
Best blocked off.
Might that be so because, intuitively, we sense that the objects of our desires are not always aligned with our inner yearnings? That they would not necessarily be good for us in the long-term? That, for one reason or another, they wouldn’t deliver according to our expectations?
Reality check: after all, as ancestral survival of the species dictated a Me-first and a Me vs You approach to every moment, we were born wired for self-centredness.
So, aware of our ability to identify Weed-Thoughts and to, consciously, refrain from fertilizing them gets jotted somewhere near the top of our bucket list.
As humans, we always want to make meaning of all that is whirling around and through us. We tend to be compulsive micromanagers.
Thoughts are different from knowledge.
Thoughts come and go.
They proliferate endlessly, but they only have meaning when we observe them carefully and slowly.
Knowledge is supposed to be purposeful.
Therefore, we don’t need to know everything or be certain about everything all the time.
Yudit CS, long ago told me about Ben Zoma, a Jewish sage who hails from two thousand years ago. He is on record for having asked the rhetorical question ‘Who is truly rich?’ His own reply was, ‘One who is happy with his portion.’
This mindset is amply confirmed by those who, like many Paralympians and others born with a genetic disease like spinal muscular atrophy are thriving on the other side of deep trauma.
It’s also confirmed by those who feel they have overcome either a debilitating, traumatic or unanticipated mishap [karmically] choreographed in the universe.
‘Accidents’ do abound.