It seems there is a solution jar for every known problem.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could buy a pot of whatever and it would solve our problem of the moment? I wrote a blog post called “Life is an Invitation.” The problem arises, as one commenter pointed out in that post, when we find ourselves at a party we don’t like and don’t remember agreeing to. Not even in the small print. Or any print.
And we don’t always get what we want—or planned to get—from it.
Life is littered with disappointed expectations. Even the people who appear to have it all don’t actually have it “all.” As long someone else has some “all,” then someone else doesn’t have it “all.” The most anyone can get is “some.”
The happiest people are the ones who are happy with their “some.” They accept that life has limits and they choose to control the only thing we really control.
Or rather, what “ourselves” think about what is happening. Because sometimes we don’t even control “ourselves.” It doesn’t take a glacier to rip apart our I-Am-the-King-of-the-World moment. The common cold does it for me. Suddenly all I want to rule is my side of the bed and a full box of tissues. You want to talk to me? Make an appointment for a week to ten days from now. Balancing aspirations with limitations is always a bit of a high wire act. No matter how perfectly the actions, no matter how tenacious the effort and worthy the goal, life happens. We fall. We fail. If, after falling or failing, we go looking for the snake oil salesman with jars of “cures,” dive into the blame game or start the pity party, we’ll miss out on that next invitation. Sometimes we can get over it because the cold gets over or because life happens some more and we move on. Sometimes life doesn’t change. But as Victor E. Frankl reminds us in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
There is no doubt that the big bad challenges take extra effort in choosing that attitude. For those, I have to spend a lot of time listing what’s going right in my life. Sometimes what’s going wrong tries to eat the list and spit it in my face. I was once accused of being an optimist. That’s right. It was an accusation. Apparently, in a world filled with troubles and tribulations, being cheerful was not an option. I don’t see how me going around with a long face helps solve any trouble or tribulation—though it can spread the woe around. (And I have had my days where I spread the woe on thick.)
Of course, Frankl had a better answer than mine: “The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old?
'Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.' "
From "Logotherapy in a Nutshell", an essay” Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
That man can rock an essay and unless you can honestly say you’ve had it worse than him, you should listen. But bet you can't say that. We don’t always get what we want.
And thank goodness for it.
Have you read any of Frankl’s works? What gives meaning to your life? Please share! We could all use a little inspiration this Monday morning.
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