Tag Archives: hope

Gratitude

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the things that aren’t right in life. The small setbacks can loom out of all proportion sometimes, while bigger challenges can entirely take over. It’s all too easy to get a ‘doom and gloom’ mentality.

There is always something to be glad about, and thankful for.

However awful, miserable, demoralising and frightening life is, it is essential to look for those little lights, those moments of value and joy that are scattered through even the worst days. The smile on a face of a stranger. A kind word from a loved one. A thing made, mended or tidied up. The small victories are worth so much. On the worst days, there might still be moments when the sun literally breaks through the clouds, a bird sings. Just having survived is a thing to celebrate. There will be another day, and where there is life, there is hope. 

These crumbs of goodness, these glimpses of hope and joy can be enough to stop your soul from starving when times are painful. I lived for the small things, for quite some years, built my sense of self and happiness around the slightest details. It’s come as quite a surprise to find there’s a lot more in life to enjoy and feel hopeful about. But those small things sustained me when I might otherwise have felt myself entirely lost in the dark. There were sunsets, the things I was able to make and mend, the times I gave my child a reason to smile. There was music, one of the greatest blessings I have ever known, and friends who were kind even though they did not know the half of it.

Perhaps today has been a good day for you. Perhaps it was like all the others, or notably bad. But there will have been something that was sweet, good, or worthwhile. Hang on to those details. Treasure them, celebrate them. Some days the small things are the only things we have. And often, it’s not in the huge triumphs and wild excesses that we find satisfaction anyway.

Seeing the Opportunities

And so I continue with the project of trying to milk meaningful thoughts and reflections out of the current mess of my life. There is that piece of wisdom, ‘when life sends lemons, make lemonade’. I’ve seen it amended in a number of ways lately. ‘If it doesn’t also send you water and sugar however, your lemonade will be vile.’ ‘Ask for salt and tequila’. There’s a truth here, and it pertains a lot to what scope we have for happiness. It does assume that there can be good in any situation.

One of the key notions in Buddhism is that life is pain and the only way to transcend that is to learn not to want. That philosophy allows a certain kind of contentment with very little, and a way of getting through hard times by trying to want and need less. I’ve tried that as a way forward, and I’m not going to recommend it. Learning to make do with less, can enable you to tolerate all sorts of things that it would be better to fight against. It can lead to a paring down of soul and self that is neither happy, or noble.

So, my challenge for today is to see the potential for good in what is happening to me. To stop drowning in pain and dismay, and try to find a way of relating to things that not only makes it easier to bear, but helps me move forwards.

There is always scope for learning. Whatever is going on, where there is life, there are things to be learned, even if they are things we have no desire to know. Accepting that possibility and looking for the lessons within experience can soften the stings.

I’m personally inspired by Brendan Myers work on heroic virtue (see ‘The Other Side of Virtue’ which is brilliant). Even if we have no apparent choice about our fate, there is always the choice of how to face it. Heroic cultures, pagan cultures, favoured facing your fate on your feet, with a weapon in hand. Certain doom can be faced with style, panache, courage and honour. Sometimes, it turns out not to be certain doom after all, because the insane, desperate attempt against all odds does work out sometimes. There is a solace of sorts to be found in taking a heroic stance, willing to accept whatever blows honour or passion demand. Celtic love stories are seldom happily ever afters, but they are epic, wild, and love burns very brightly in them. And so I will take it as a challenge, a chance to shine, not as a setback.

There’s scope for looking at accidental benefits that can be caused by challenges. The changes and demands of hard times can set us in new directions, creating new opportunities. Looking back at previous setbacks, some of them turned out to be blessings in disguise, most made me stronger, there were often unexpected ripples.

What do I have here? No shortage of opportunity to learn, grow, become stronger. I have a challenge to face, and it is going to take courage and determination. So be it. I have the chance to demonstrate to the love of my life, how far I would go for him, how much I would do and give to be with him. And he has the opportunity to do the same for me. Watching his eyes as we talked yesterday, seeing the fierce passion, the fire and determination in him, has affected me deeply. It is inspirational. Out of the pain we craft something stronger, deeper. Most people do not get chances to fight monsters and risk everything for the sake of their beloved. Life for most people most of the time is unremarkable. But I am caught up in something huge, shattering, hard, and I will have to fight, and so will Tom. My life is an epic romance. Seeing it in those terms makes it a very different thing to deal with.

We have this, now. We have moment to moment the breathtaking reality of living with a love that will cross oceans and do battle with bureaucrats. And I also see how this is touching all the people around us. Friends and family who are stepping up to help, and who are investing in our struggle. And so you too become part of this story. We had best make it a good one. Something worthy of remembering and repeating. A tale that in future years, people will look back on and say ‘I was there, I saw.’

Who knows what that might bring into the world?