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Monday, January 18, 2021

Contentment about the Future: We Are Free To Decide For It

Every four years we have an national election for President.  After one particular election, a coworker and I were having a very civil discussion on the election (and the inauguration) that had just past.  If I remember, her choice did not win.  I said, you know after every election, there is a large segment of the population that is not happy.  I said, no matter who wins or loses, we ultimately have go on with our everyday lives in much the same way.  Besides, in another four years, everyone will get a chance to be heard again.  She seemed to appreciate and accept that point.  This election (2020) and the last election (2016) were no different.  In each case, it seems like there is a sizeable segment of the population that feels hopeless, like it's the end of end of world and that life as we know it is over.  Perhaps at some point in the future, election results may signal the 'end of world', but I don't think we are at point yet.

As bad as some feel after a their side faces defeat in a hard fought election, I don't think it can compare to the end of the world hopelessness that many likely felt during WWII.  I expect that sense pervaded Europe in particular and the world in general at the time.  I can't even begin to fathom what prisoners in places like Auschwitz had to face.  Seeing and facing starvation, cruelty, torture and death all around them with seemingly no end in sight is something I think few can relate to  A friend recommend a book to me called Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  In that book the author chronicled his experiences as a concentration camp prisoner and how he identified a purpose in life to feel positive about and then immersed himself in imagining that outcome.  In other words, in a horrible and seemingly hopeless situation, he was able to find a purpose, meaning and hope.  He was saying that even in the worst situation, that we have a certain freedom to decide how we are going to view life. 

I'm not even going to imagine that I can relate to the search for hope, meaning and purpose in such a horrific circumstance.  Yes, I've faced some blows in this life, but nothing quite like that.  But, I have experienced enough to know that survival and even eventual thriving is possible during and after bad circumstances.  Finding Jewels in the Darkness tells my ability to find good at a bad time in my life.  I'd literally lost much of what was (or seemed) important to me--my brother, my house, my job, my marriage, much of the custody of my daughter--in the space of a year.  However, things started to settle down and I was able to find some special moments with my young daughter.  Moments that I would have not likely had or paused to appreciate otherwise.  I was able to strip down life to the basics and figure out what mattered.  Among the things I found was my writing voice, a greater self-respect and the understanding that I could survive serious blows in life.  In other words, I sort of found myself.   Eventually, my finances and job prospect and personal relationships looked up, but I couldn't have necessarily seen that during the height of the storm. 

I'm not going to be Pollyannaish and say everyone does survive life's seemingly harsh blows or that everything turns out fine.  But, to me life is like a journey where picking up "wins" along the way and avoiding "loses" is important, but not nearly as important as the good fight we fought along the way.  After all, what else do we really take with us besides the intangibles of a well fought life?  I believe there is a dignity of striving to be the best version of one's self even as days grow more cloudy, even as the journey works towards a close.  There are many things we can lose in our life with little or no control over the process.  We can lose our worldly possessions, we can lose others we love, we can lose our independence and in some cases, we can lose the battle with sickness and disease.  However, there are some thing we don't have to lose.  Among them our dignity, our spirit, and our freedom to decide how to see our lives.  Those things we have to be willing to part with.  I'm not saying holding on to those is always easy.  However, we can, if we choose, hold onto those things.  

I believe in the lives of many/most if  you dig deep, you will find a point in which they have felt hopeless.  The key for me and the key for many in that circumstance is to find something to hold onto to or for.  It could your faith.  It could be your family.  It could be your memories of surviving before.  It could be your vision of what could be.  It could be your knowledge that there is someone who championed us--and may have passed away--that we'd hate to disappoint.  It could be our pride.  It is important to be able to find this and when we do we have a choice at that point.  Do we give in to the brokenness or hopelessness OR do we decide that we want to find that which sustains us?  For some, it seems the brokenness is too great and they don't feel like they have a choice.  But, for those who are able to recognize it, we are free to decide to push forward and to decide to accept life on its terms or work to change it.

Tying back to this election and prior elections, many have or had a deep sense of dread or hopelessness afterwards.  For many people, it feels/felt like 'the wrong person' won.  If feels/felt like our country is/was headed down a dark, unrecoverable path.  There is always a risk to what we perceive as poor leadership dragging down our country.  However, elections do not have to feel like an impending disaster.  This election for some, like past elections for others doesn't have to feel that way.  We have always had the choice, even when we aren't happy with the results, as to whether view ourselves as a victim of them OR to view ourselves as those who continue to fight for what we believe in or what is important to us.

Whether you are happy with this election, upset about it or ambivalent, how we choose to view it and our lives in general is ultimately up to us.  This is something I cannot stress enough.   So, let's decide to come together and set an example for our leadership on all sides of the aisle.

Just my 2 pennies worth,
Rich





As an aside, there was another time I was woefully underemployed in my field.   I had an undiagnosed severe anxiety condition.  It hindered me in getting my Bachelor's degree, but didn't stop me.  However, it made it almost impossible to interview effectively before and after I graduated.  Anyway, it was four years before I got a job in my field after graduating college.  I could have given up, but something inside kept me going forward.   Just like the struggle above in "Jewels", I fought depression and a feeling of hopelessness at times, but something inside me said, no, it's not time to give up.

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