Setbacks.

Have you ever felt like your life has come to a standstill, or even begun crawling backwards?  Nothing is going the way you wanted and your instinctual reaction to the situation is ‘this sucks!’ Yep, I’m having one of those.

In my particular case my chronic illness healing process is refusing to comply with the time schedule in my head. I’m exhausted, painfully bloated, the glands on my neck sting and I feel constantly  icky and toxic as if I’d eaten nothing but takeaways and alcohol for a month.

Also affected include my concentration,  meaning the projects I am working on to make a living in the future have ground to a crawl. One of my least favourite symptoms is that my sleep pattern has reversed – those two things combined have made it difficult to see friends (plus I am boycotting facebook and most social media interaction because it just doesn’t feel good for me). So I have become queen of  hermits and presently bent in ‘anti bloating’ yoga poses which helps perhaps 1%. Sometimes there is loneliness and I think about how I would rather be basking in the sunlight (that I mostly sleep through) but the rest of the time it’s not so bad!

Because no matter what happens you can surrender to the situation knowing two things:

  1. Suffering is my choice
  2. This too shall pass.

Suffering is a choice?  But bad stuff happens to me all the time that isn’t my fault, you may say. Sure, we all experience challenging situations which we didn’t invite into our lives – call that ‘pain’ if you will. Pain is not the same as suffering. If you are very conscious you can be in pain but not suffer. You may not be happy in the typical sense that you are excited about your current circumstances but you still be at inner peace. You can bring your focus back to the present moment and what action can be taken or enjoy an aspect of what is that you formerly took for granted. You can hold with you an understanding that this circumstance says nothing about your value as a person or your identity unless you choose to give it that power. You can find solace in knowing that the circumstances that caused this situation are not stagnant and fixed but ever flowing to create new circumstances in your future – as surely as clouds part after the rain you will not hold this burden forever. In fact that is often the point, that we hold on to our problems when they truly exist only in the past. It’s a bit like an exercise  band – we ache from stretching past pain into the present but often that pain is dull, such that we can push it aside. The fear of the band snapping back in our face when we face the heart of why we are suffering so much can feel worse that continuing to walk whilst being pulled back by the weight of the band. You could perhaps call a ‘mid life’ or existential crisis the turning point at which walking with the band becomes so sore that we are forced to let go. But a lot of the time we haven’t reached that critical weight of suffering and so we continue to carry the past into the future, often unaware that we do so.

Don’t let external circumstances decide your identity.  Those will always change. If things are going great, appreciate it! Things will change.  If things are really hard right now, find solace – things will change. If something is holding you back from achieving your goals remind yourself there are a thousand flights to Success City, and failing that, the long road. You’re not lost – you’re taking a detour. Maybe you’ll even end up with a different destination, but one that you appreciate more in hindsight. The longer road might create something even better!

As I sit here and try and think of examples the only thing that spring to mind is the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria which was a trigger of World War I`; the Archduke’s car drove a different route than planned – had the assassin not stopped for a sandwich along the way he would have missed the Duke driving by. Not a great example for things having unexpected benefits…(except for the sandwich shop owner, they were probably lovely.) However it is an excellent illustration of how the mind is not something we can hold to expectations…(My mind gave me lemons, I’m making lemonade!) Either way you can see that just a small change from the original plan produced vastly different results and if your aims are purer than the assassin this could be a great thing!

For a more positive example, think about how improbable it was that all the factors lined up perfectly for you to be born: For starters imagine if your parents best friends hadn’t met at that college party and introduced them, of if they had stayed in their previous relationship, or they hadn’t taken that job and moved to the same city or if an ancient war had taken a different turn and wiped out your ancestors? All that doesn’t even factor in the miracle of conception, that we live on a planet that has trees to recycle our lung poison and breathe out our air, or that we are at the perfect distance from the sun to sustain life… Just one of infinite factors changing could erase the possibility of you being alive here and now. Here and now going through a difficult experience you don’t know where this chain of events is leading you into the future – for your ancestors their break ups, losing that perfect job or having to move back home to care for an elderly relative probably felt like massive losses at the time but without those happening you couldn’t be here! In that way we were all accidental children and disasters are in all our veins somewhere along the way. You can’t plan for success – only for yourself successfully acting.

If things are said to be looking down, then you yourself cannot be down, since you must be above the thing you look down upon.You’re still up there, you haven’t tripped, you aren’t face-down-in-the-pavement-broken.  I have a newfound love for that phrase for it secretly expresses that wonderful truth you are not your circumstance. 

Good luck can come your way as easily as bad – your job is to maximise how well you respond to the silver flecks of luck in every cloud. Play a game of hide and seek with gratitude – what blessings have been hiding from me until now? When life doesn’t hand you lemons,  what other fruits are in reach?

Today’s fruit for me is that I think I might have enough energy to keep myself awake through today and sort out that pesky sleep cycle.

Another detour worth taking is a walk in nature. That seems to make everything seem a little bit better 😊

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