I wrote last week about resilience, describing how, in the midst of disaster and disappointment, the key move is to remain open to the serendipitous opportunities which could inevitably turn the tide, rather than wallow single-mindedly in whatever just happened.
I can imagine some readers nodding in agreement with this sensible advice, while others frown at the needlessly big deal being made over such an obvious bit of logic. Both reactions would miss the full brunt of what is a radical proposal.
While the suggestion might seem reasonable (or even mundane) in the face of minor foibles and letdowns, it becomes much more counterintuitive (and much more useful) in higher-stakes situations, where one feels much more compelled to cling to the drama rather than embrace tide-turning serendipity. I noted recently that "character" is measured by the rate at which one discards ones values as stakes rise. This is an example of that. It's a "stakes" thing. It applies come what may, and no matter how many times your life has been smashed. It applies even after a cancer diagnosis. Even after the death of a loved one. Even after an amputation. Are you still calmly nodding (or shrugging)? :)
The more convinced you are that life as you know it has forever come to an end, the more necessary it is to steer into the skid by acknowledging that unfamiliar life is full of opportunity.
I used to view the ending of Million Dollar Baby [warning: spoiler ahead]...
...(where a talented woman boxer becomes paralyzed, and begs to be killed) exactly as the filmmakers intended me to view it: as a tragedy due to the loss of her reason to continue to live. But I've come to view it as an entirely different sort of tragedy.
A friend recently went through a year of dialysis (the debilitating and extremely time-consuming process of compensating for malfunctioning kidneys). That was bad enough, but then his worst fear came to pass: he was told he'd need a transplant, via risky and highly invasive surgery followed by many weeks of recuperation. He went through all this horrific hardship, after months wrecked with worry, and when he emerged from it all, he blinked his eyes and looked around, and realized it had all just been...stuff!
Very soon, though, he began worrying about kidney rejection. Now that would be truly horrific! And so the cycle recurs (he's still fine, by the way).
One can make disaster the first step toward turnaround, or one can make turnaround the first step toward disaster (noting that unexpected turnarounds are far more common than confirmation of one's worries). The irony is that it's completely a matter of free choice - like choosing to steer (effectively) into a skid or to steer (fruitlessly) out of one.
Here's another way of expressing it all, thanks to an Alec Baldwin one-liner which boils all my rambling down to three magical words.
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