I don’t know if one crisis after another is a mandatory rite of passage on the way to 50. I certainly hope it’s not.
The first week of the year for me opened with a loved one’s hospitalization, an illness (mine), and one hysterectomy—my beloved dog’s, not mine. Talk about these events taking place all within the first nine days of the new year.
It’s amazing how some life decisions are validated in the middle of a crisis. Watching a person reveal his or her true colors and their priorities as they go through the wringer always makes for an interesting study in human behavior.
In the eye of a crisis, whether big or small, everything becomes crystal-clear. You get to see that person’s mettle. Often, you have a front-row seat to the inner workings of his or her heart.
Unfortunately, you won’t always like what you see. However, even when it hurts, you’ll have to embrace that pain because it will reveal something to you—about yourself, the inner workings of your own heart, and that of the other person.
I was reminded of the 2005 Diane Lane and John Cusack film “Must Love Dogs,” which wasn’t a huge box-office success but had a wonderful message about the resiliency of the human heart. In one scene, Cusack’s character, Jake, talks to Lane’s character, the newly divorced Sarah, about the many times a heart has to break, and the amazing power it possesses to bounce back.
“I think your heart grows back bigger. You know? Once you get the shit beat out of you. The universe lets your heart expand that way, and I think that’s the function of all this pain and heartache that you go through. You gotta go through that to come out to a better place and that’s how I see it, anyway.”
Pain and crisis come bearing unusual gifts that we may not see immediately, but that we eventually come to appreciate in the long run. I’ve learned to stop, to breathe and focus and, more importantly, to act quickly and decisively when crisis and I come face to face.
Perhaps it comes, too, with maturity and age. The same goes for pain—accept it when it visits, embrace it, rant and rave for a while, but don’t wallow. When you’re done, don’t hold on to it for long, let it go lest it stay in your body and morph into some form of ailment or other.
These behaviors don’t take place overnight, but when practiced frequently, they start to come naturally and, in the end, we all become better persons because of them.
On a lighter note, I stumbled upon a wonderful article in Prevention magazine on the 10 secrets of happy women. Browsing through the piece, I realized that the principles are applicable not only to women, but to men as well.
The “secrets” aren’t really secrets, as they are very doable on a daily basis. It’s impossible, after all, to be completely happy 24/7. The real secret of contentment lies in finding joy in the little moments of each day. Below are my three favorites.
One, sharing happy memories and experiences with others. Posting positive stories or photos on your social media network helps sustain emotions that would otherwise fade. Affirming connections with others in our circle is like a magical thread or glue that holds us all together.
Last night, I was with a group of friends I’ve known forever, and it was both so grounding and refreshing to be around dear friends, trading happy stories from a time in our lives when everything was so much simpler.
Second, compare downward. The article says that comparing upward makes us feel deprived, but comparing downward has a way of heightening enjoyment. Thinking about how things could have been worse, or how things could be worse, gives us a sense of gratitude.
And it can be about comparing the simple things. I’ve always been grateful that whenever I get a flat tire, it’s always been either at home, before I leave, or at the point when I had reached my destination. Rather than dwell on the fact that my tire got busted, I look at how the circumstances worked in my favor.
Third, say thanks more often. Give thanks for every little thing. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Each day, list down the things that you are grateful for no matter how small or insignificant. Express it, acknowledge it.
These three “secrets” were demonstrated to me so vividly in December when I spent time with our adopted community in Albuera, Leyte. In spite of everything they had been through, people were happy and grateful with whatever they had left.
“It could have been worse…” kept echoing among the adults and children. It was so inspiring to be among all of them, to find a quiet contentment and to be able to express gratefulness after a major crisis.
This was their gift to me. One that I have been able to put to good use at the opening of a challenging but also blessed first week of the new year.