Every once in awhile I catch myself saying, “Boy oh boy, life is just one thing after another!” Then I laugh at myself because that’s what life is … one thing after another. The question is how do I respond to those things that happen, one after another? What’s my attitude? How do I perceive the challenges I’m facing? These are important questions for all of us, because the experience of life is all in the way we look at it. Life is filled with obstacles, hurdles and challenges, but it isn’t all about avoiding them. It’s about evolving emotionally and spiritually so that we grow through our challenges, rather than just go through them.
You might have heard the short autobiography written by Portia Nelson entitled There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk. In chapter one, she walks down the street, encounters a deep hole, falls in having no idea where she is, feeling lost and helpless and saying, “It isn’t my fault.” It takes her forever to get out. In chapter two she walks down the street, encounters the same deep hole, pretends not to see it, falls in again and says, “But it isn’t my fault.” Again, it takes her forever to get out. Guess what happens in chapter three? You got it, she repeats the same thing. Now it’s becoming a habit. But at this point her eyes are open, she realizes it’s her fault and she gets out immediately. By the time chapter four rolls around she has learned to walk around the hole, and finally in chapter five she walks down another street. Duh.
Falling into the holes of life is another way of saying, “This is the way I’m reacting to the challenges that lie before me. I fall into them mindlessly. I’m the victim and have been taken advantage of. I had no choice. I’m helpless.” We spend so much time and energy going through the same unwanted experience almost as if it’s an addiction. How wasteful we are.
Speaking of wasteful, there was a woman who fell out of a second-floor window and landed in a slow-moving garbage truck. Half buried in the garbage, she tried without success to get the truck driver’s attention. A foreign diplomat was standing on the sidewalk and saw the whole thing. He said to his friend, “There’s another example of how wasteful Americans are. That woman looks like she’s good for at least another ten years.”
Okay, so how do we stop falling into the same hole or garbage truck? How do we grow through our challenges and move on? The answer is, of course, we need to do things differently. Learn from our mistakes, forgive ourselves for being so unaware or even stupid, un-glue ourselves from the past and walk down another street. We need to take responsibility for how we respond to the challenges of life rather than project blame onto someone else. Life happens. We react. Our reaction is under our control and we are subject to the choices we make.
The best way to handle the whacky world in which you live is to realize that you do have control over your responses to what happens. May you stay awake and aware, respond rather than react, make wise deliberate choices, detach from the past, and allow yourself to grow through the challenges of life rather than just go through them.