Choose Life

When you fail, how does it feel? When you get up early to start your day headed to a job that you took just to make ends meet, what do you tell yourself? Do you lay in bed until the last possible minute and run like a tornado through your house just to make it out the door on time? When you have spare time to prepare for the week ahead do you do laundry and go shopping or just sit on the couch and continue your 14th run through Friends to ensure you stay a regular at the local fast food joints?

When you run into problems, who or what do you blame?

It is a guarantee that you will suffer in life. That’s nice and vague so let’s clarify what I mean. Defined formally, suffering is “…the basic element that makes up the negative valence of affective phenomena.” Simply put suffering is the garbage. Its the boss you don’t like, its the sick relative, its that extra 25 pounds, its too much month at the end of your money. Negative things will inevitably happen to all of us and most of them are relative to our personal experiences and our individual suffering is something we are marinating in. If you open up to an outsider they are likely to see the problem(s) without your internal fog and give you blunt advice. This can make it especially difficult to talk about how your day to day life makes you feel to someone else. What may seem world-ending to you is like a walk in the park to another when seen without your subjectivity. Toss in a cultural stigma of expressing feelings being a sign of weakness and you have a recipe for a bitter existence.

The recipe feeds the feeling that keeps your head down and tells you that you aren’t good enough. The feeling that builds up your walls and tells you that maybe you do deserve the short end of the proverbial stick. But you don’t go down without a fight. You don’t deserve this treatment. You deserve happiness and fulfillment!

So you shirk the blame. You start looking for the fault in someone else. You didn’t fail, your coworker screwed you over. Your boss is just looking for someone to take the fall so they can keep their position (this one is ironic isn’t it?) You can’t help your weight problem, your parents didn’t teach you proper eating habits. No way could you miss another episode of your show, you have to stay up on pop culture so you can be a part of the discussion.

It’s not you. It’s never you. It’s the world who is to blame. Right?

Bullshit.

You know it too. Deep down you know that there are answers to your problems that are well within your control. We will always be at the mercy of malevolent forces. The manipulating coworker or illness that strikes or financial floundering that makes life damn hard. Suffering is undeniable and, sometimes, unavoidable, but the best tool you have against that suffering is your interpretation and reaction to it. Do you see a failure as a learning opportunity or is it the world intentionally ruining your life? Do you recognize that there were things you could have done better that may have prevented the failure and take ownership so you may apply the lesson learned in future endeavors?

Next time you run into a bit of suffering, try to observe it as objectively as you can. Instead of viewing your life as a dunk tank full of cold water with a gaggle of MLB pitchers queued up in front of you, take a moment and really look at the situation. Chances are that momentary pause will be an immense help to frame things a bit differently. Give yourself time to breath and be honest with yourself. Could you have done better? Will you do better in the future? There is absolutely nothing wrong with failing when you honestly try.

I’m beginning to drift into the cliche self-help realm so I’ll wrap this up before it gets too corny.

There are no quick fixes or cure-all pills. There are no memes or catchy quotes that can wash away the suffering that we all run into. Drugs and drink will only mask and exacerbate your suffering. We only have our view and changing it is hard, very hard, but it works. Little by little you begin to realize that the world is not against you. The world ticks by with little regard to how you interpret it. It is entirely up to you to reframe how you fit into the world and take these experiences as moments that have positive and negative features. We can’t control what happens to us all of the time but we can damn well control our reaction to it.

Don’t let life happen to you. Make the choice yourself.

Live

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