Struggling into the light

Hardship. Some of us seem to have so many problems and worries, while others swim through life avoiding any simple misfortune. It hardly seems fair.

Robert Frost once said “Depression occurs when one looks back with no pride, and looks forward with no hope.” I think this is so poignant and true. If we can isolate an event, or even several events, to certain times in our life, it becomes much easier to deal with. If we can say, “I have so much in my past to be happy about, so much up until now that is good” it makes it much easier not to dwell on an unfortunate circumstance. The same is true about the future. Looking ahead, if we can say “Wow, there is so much to be excited about and look forward to” no matter what age we are or stage of our lives, it makes it simpler to believe that this too shall pass.

We all know people who seem to be permenantly upset. Things are always going wrong for them, they always have something to moan about. Conversely, we all have neighbours and friends with constant sunny dispositions, happy-go-lucky types who never complain. It can’t be true that everything in the happy persons life is always great. Similarly, it would take an extreme situation to have absolutely nothing to be glad about at all. I believe that how we show ourselves to friends and acquaintances is key to our own mood.

Dont get me wrong, when it comes to close family and friends, there is nothing better than a good cry and a vent, both of which can be surprisingly therapuetic. Letting yourself say how unfair things seem and expressing your misery is a valid step in the process of getting through any upsetting event in your life. But then what? However many times life knocks you down, there isnt an opt out button. A quote from an excellent film while discussing a characters wife’s death expresses this more succinctly than i ever could. Forgive my paraphrasing.

“I don’t think i could continue living”
“That’s the worst part of all, you do.”

And so we search our lives for the pride and the hope which Frost is referring to, and we try as hard as we can to rebuild whatever is broken and where that is impossible, just clear away the shattered pieces of ourselves and start again. And it’s difficult, and painful, that cant be denied. But at the same time, it is growing, and changing, and learning more about yourself and your life and the people in it during the stormy parts than you could in a lifetime of calm waters. Some people find it harder than others to pick themselves up again, and some people undoubtably have to do it more times in their life than others, but for everyone, it is possible.

I don’t really think going through difficulties is the hardest part. After all, we have no choice, and unless you enjoy being miserable, we dont even really have a choice as to how we respond and whether we pick ourselves up again or not. Plus I have seen firsthand how out of some of the most painful experiences can come the most wonderful rewards.

No, going through hardship isnt the worst thing, because it’s all about your own choices and what decisions you make and when. You are in control. Harder in many ways is watching the people we care about have struggles. Helpless to do anything, impossible to take it from them, wincing at their mistakes or their lack of ability to move onwards and upwards.

All we can do is try to remind them of the pride they should feel in all their past accomplishments, the unlimited hope and faith they should have in their future, and try to keep them company until they can find a way out of the darkness on their own.

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Playground swings and Mood swings

What happens to us between babydom and adulthood?

When R is happy, he is completely entirely happy. He will laugh with no inhibitions, flash a huge grin at strangers and family alike, and spread joy to everyone around with the sheer simplicity of his own. Similarly, when he is miserable, regardless of the source of his sadness, (generally food being removed from his vicinity) it is the worst calamity to befall any person ever in the history of the world. His entire face will scrunch up with the force of his misery, and his cries can be truly pitiful to hear.

So why do we hide our emotions behind a ‘brave face?’ I dont mean pretending to be fine. That’s a different story, and there are many occasions where full throttle screaming or uncontrollable giggling are socially unacceptable, and rightly squashed. I mean the people (and we all know a few) who are desperate for you to know how irritated/angry or conversely how happy/excited they are. But they cant tell you. Oh no, they have to sit in a corner with a face on. And it’s just as annoying whether it is a badly suppressed scowl or a barely hidden smirk. Just say what you want to say!

It makes life so much more complicated when people feel the need to hint towards their hidden emotions, or to give you a sliver of what they’re thinking, but hold the rest back and make you dig for it. In this respect, I think babies have it right. I am left with no doubt that R is slightly displeased that I’m putting him down for a nap. I dont question for a minute that he is enjoying his chumus sandwiches, and the look on his face when I walk into his room in the morning,.. well lets just say I think he may be pleased to see me. 🙂

Additionally, once a situation is over, it’s over. While a person can hold a grudge for weeks or months, a baby forgets in the time it takes to hand them a breadstick. Really? You took away my scrunched up piece of foil? I dont remember that at all.. and equally, You have always been mean to me and never let me do anything fun, thats why you wont let me climb that bookshelf…

A grin can turn into a wail, and a scream can turn into a smile, all in seconds. While adults are left wondering how to awkwardly break the silence, or what words to use for an apology, or even how to show someone that they are not okay, a baby has either got over it or made it obvious in the blink of an eye.

At this time of year, when we are all trying to find ways to build bridges and speak from our hearts, I think we could take a leaf out of these mini people’s book, and just say what we’re feeling, both good and bad, and try to start this new year with a clean and honest slate.