Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Shit Happens! Now What?

The only thing that will bring immediate effect is infinite patience.
- A Course in Miracles (Foundation for Inner Peace, http://acim.org )

Immediate effect? Yes. If you know that it will take time for something to work itself out, it relieves the stress of the moment.

If you know that something critical in your life might destroy your life as you have come to know it, you might implode and do something that will critically affect your own life without intending to do so. But if you believe that nothing critical will happen quickly, especially if it involves people, then you can plan little steps to take one at a time to avoid the dreaded big crunch.

Does patience solve everything? Look back five, ten, twenty or more years (if you have them behind you) at the matters that caused you the most stress then, the ones you wondered how you would every possibly make it through. You did--you are reading this, so you must admit that you made it.

Maybe one or more of those troublesome times caused you great grief. But now, not so much. You may still grieve the loss of someone, be it through death or unrequited love, but the impact is greatly reduced. Time doesn't completely heal all wounds, it leaves scars.

Patience and time alone won't make pain or troubles go away. We must take steps to rebuild our lives around what happened. Not "moving on" means living in the past. That includes bankruptcy, divorce, death of a loved one or harassment from a boss or neighbour. Doing the same thing you did when the big thing happened is not moving on, it's throwing an anchor into the past and hanging on until you drown.

Remember the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? Imagine having the job of building one of those. The Great Pyramid is still the largest manmade structure, whether today or in history. What if you had been the one who had to build that giant statue that straddled the water in Greece, at a time when bridges were small and only had to hold minimal weights at one time? It might have been stressful if your boss had told you to get it built or lose your head.

Believe it or not, the troubles that most of us have today pale in comparison to those of our ancestors. Women died in childbirth because they wanted to have families. Children died in horrendous numbers before the age of five. Losing one's entire wealth was common, through robbery, natural disaster or war. Some people had to entirely rebuild their lives several times if they lived long enough.

Today few of us need worry about dying as a result of a tragedy in our lives. What we need is to remember that we will likely live through our tragedy and take steps to build new lives sooner rather than later by going through more self imposed grief than necessary.

Patience won't make a problem go away by itself. It will help, immediately, to know that we will get through the problem. Then we have time to climb out of the well that fate threw us down.
If we didn't drown in that well, we will reach the top eventually. When we get to the sunlight again depends on when we begin to climb.

Self pity is an anchor that holds us down. Most of our feeling bad is self pity. Most depression is self imposed in the sense that depression is avoidable, and even as a medical condition it's solvable.

An experienced and qualified clinical psychologist recently told me "Shit happens!" He used those words for effect, to see if I could work my way around them. I did.

Life is messy. Few of us have neat, clean lives. They're cluttered, worn, dog-eared, shabby and threadbare in some places. However, unlike the items to which we usually apply those adjectives, we have fix and rebuild ourselves.

It takes patience. And some work. A bit at a time. Then more patience.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show you the next step up.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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