On Living With Problems You Cannot Escape

by on Thursday, 18 October 2007 7676 hits Comments
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One of the best things that ever happened to me was getting polio. Not because polio was a pleasant experience, but because due to polio my life took a new direction which has brought me many blessings I might otherwise have never had.

We all have disabilities we have to live with. Since they won’t go away, then we just have to do the best we can to live with them in such a way they don’t prevent us from having a good time.

One of the worst things that prevents us from having a good time is wishing things were better or easier than they are now or feeling sorry we aren’t doing something else. Some people go through life so regretful of what they can no longer do, they have no energy left to enjoy the things they still can do.

Everyone wants to spend happy meaningful lives. The trouble is we try to imitate the lives of others we envy rather than develop our own. We pine for the grass on the other side of the fence instead of watering the grass under our own feet. We feel so sorry we don’t have the whole pie, we fail to enjoy the piece we have. We sit patiently waiting in vain for our ship to come in, instead of going out to find it.

Not all of us have the good fortune of being born with silver spoons in our mouths, a symbol of health and prosperity and success. But there is not a one of us whose iron spoon cannot be silver-plated.

Have you ever seen a diamond in the rough? Once many years ago, a man went into the desert to collect rocks he could sell to tourists. One day he found a big dirty rock. It was ugly, but looked so unusual he picked it up anyway. He was very pleased when a man who came into his shop purchased it right away for ten dollars. That ugly stone turned out to be a big raw diamond, which when cleaned and polished was worth about half a million dollars.

Look at yourself in the mirror. What do you see? Only a broken down person with disabilities and limitations? If that is all you see, then you are blind or misled by appearances. If you see someone sad, it is because you look sad and that makes you sadder. You better look away. If you see someone relatively happy and content, it is because you look that way and that makes you feel even better. We need to train ourselves to see the diamonds that are in us.

When you look at yourself in a mirror, don’t see only your flaws or your limitations or disabilities. You are a person who has flaws, but you are not the flaws. Think of yourself as a diamond in disguise.

A diamond covered with dirt does not shine. A diamond in the dark does not sparkle. An uncut diamond is a worthless rock to the untrained eye, but it is still a diamond. The measure of the value of a package is its contents not the wrappings. Train yourself to see the diamond in you. If others don’t see it, it’s their misfortune.

Always listen to what others have to say and take advantage of their advice when it helps, but don’t let yourself get upset when they say something that doesn’t ring true. It is their mistake not yours.

Don’t look so hard at what you admire in others that you fail to see what there is to admire in your self.

I have some friends who don’t like themselves. They wish they were someone else. They wish they were somewhere else. They wish they were stronger or had more brains or more money or more success. They are so anxious about what they wish they had, they have no energy left to do anything worthwhile with what they still have.

One of the happiest persons I know is mentally retarded. There is very little that he can do, but he knows how to enjoy each moment without envy or regret. Since he grew up in a family that loves and respects him, he respects himself. He is at peace with himself.

The unhappiest person I know is also mentally retarded. She despises herself because she grew up in a family that was ashamed of her and rejected her for being defective. To be unhappy with her self is all she ever learned. She is not at peace with herself.

So, what kind of a person are you?

Some people are always thinking of what might go wrong. “I don’t know what the future holds for me. I’m afraid. I’m hurting and it might get worse. I’m declining and don’t know when it is going to stop. I have to depend on others to do for me things others can do for themselves. Oh woe is me!!”

Some people concentrate on what is still right. “Look, I’m still here. I hurt, but it could be worse. There are still things I can do. I have someone to help me do what I can’t do by myself. How lucky I am!!”

Sometimes our lives get blown off course. We discover a bridge blown down or a barrier across the road, or we run up against a stone wall. We can either knock it down, crash into it, tunnel through it, detour around it, stop and wait for it to disappear, or turn around and go somewhere else.

When a sailor is knocked off course, he either has to adjust the rudder to get back on course or set another course.

I only have one life. The experiences I will have today are the only ones I will have. So I must do my best to make these experiences worth while and to enjoy as best I can whatever happens. It may not be the experience I wanted, but it’s my experience. I either find some way to live with it, get some good out of it or my life is hell.

There is peace in knowing my hand is still on the rudder. I may be passively being tossed about, but I still have a hand in determining how I react. I refuse to surrender to the winds or the waves of life like a dead piece of driftwood or drifting cloud.

Once when I was small I looked up at the sky and noticed the first whiffs of a new cloud appearing on the horizon. “Look, Mommy,” I said, “there’s a cloud being born.” How exciting it was to watch it change size and shape right there before my very eyes.

I thought it was a miracle, but in reality, of course, it was just a giant glob of vapor adrift at the mercy of wind currents, air pressure, and temperature. It may have looked peaceful, but it didn’t feel any peace, because it didn’t know or feel anything.

Sometimes we feel tempted to just sit back and surrender like clouds when our lives are blown about by events that throw us off course. But that would be a mistake because we aren’t clouds. We are much more like ships at sea tossed about by winds, waves, and currents, because like ships, we have rudders and motor power. We can react to the winds and the waves. We can resist the pressures or adjust to them. We can accept or reject the opportunities and changes we encounter in life.

Unfortunately, being the captains of our ships doesn’t make us captains of the waves. Standing at the helm doesn’t prevent storms, but every time we turn the wheel, shift sails, or change speed, we alter our ship’s course. These tiny changes may be insignificant by themselves, but they will always manage by the storm’s end to have positioned and oriented our ships differently from where they would have been had we done nothing.

We are not just passive playthings in the hands of fate. When we finally enter harbor at the end of a storm, we have had a hand in reaching it. For better or for worse, our decisions and efforts determine the course of our lives more than the fortuitous or calamitous events.

Eventually some time in the future I will go down with my ship when the winds and waves of life finally overwhelm it. But I will go down peacefully and proudly knowing that I kept my hand on the helm as long as I could. The best way to die is to keep on living as well as you can.


Last modified on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 17:34
Robert Ronald

Bob was among the most prolific writers of eRenlai. He passed away peacefully on January 2 2009 in Taipei. A tribute to his life and his work can be found here on eRenlai: http://www.erenlai.com/index.php/en/focus/2011-focus/bob-ronald-challenged-but-not-disabled

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