Adversity and Obstacles in our Lives
“We become wiser by adversity; prosperity destroys our appreciation of the right.”–Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you survived. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is over. But one thing is certain. “When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”–Haruki Murakami.
Dealing with the virus obstacle.
My inspiration dims as the unrelenting stormy darkness of the pandemic continues with no end in sight. I isolate myself to stay safely away from exposure and only go out for groceries. My human contact comprises zoom webinars for courses and meetings. I now do meetings that used to be an uplifting social occasion in person in zoom. Zoom meetings are less uplifting and more chaotic.
This pandemic storm is adversity in action. It affects our physical and mental well-being. It is a major obstacle on the path of our life’s journey. We all experience adversity in life-some major and some minor.
Here are a few of the big examples of adversity in my life
The death of my wife after 54 years of marriage this year.
Not being as athletic as I wanted to be as a basketball referee.
The cancellation of a project I managed for 17 years.
Waking up one morning and not being able to read with both eyes.
Having a compromised immune system.
Going to Europe and finding out my wife had a brain tumor.
How do we cope and overcome Obstacles?
The hardest obstacle to overcome is the one between your ears. We all have worries and doubts. We all react or respond differently to each obstacle. Our attitude is everything. How we respond and cope speaks volumes about us as a person. In her book The Gift, Edith Eger describes how she survived Auschwitz. Why do some of us survive horrendous obstacles and others succumb to them?
Many of us first react to obstacles by ranting and raving or panicking. This somewhat depends on the obstacle. If you can’t get your haircut when you want to, you probably just reschedule. But I will be the first to tell you that when I found out my wife had a brain tumor, I panicked. In fact, I panicked again when we returned home after enormous difficulties trying to find flights when I couldn’t get her in to see a neurologist for weeks.
In the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, he states that your internal balance, strength, and adaptability can enable you to cope with most of life’s struggles. We have to get our balance back, give up denial, and quit numbing ourselves with drugs or alcohol to try to cope.
These are all facets of an enlightened you. They have to become a part of you before the obstacle occurs to allow you to minimize its effect on you. David Coggin’s states this succinctly in his book Can’t hurt Me, when he states, “everything in life is a mind game.”
You now should recognize that you have a choice to become more despondent as the virus hangs on or you can take yourself by the nap of your neck and shake this despondency out of your head – look for the bright lights in your life and move back from the darkness.
There are many times each day we need to do this- take a mental shake. We may lose focus on what we are doing. We wonder if it will ever end. Will the next time I have to go to the store be the one where I catch the virus? These are the normal negative thoughts we have to learn how to get out of our heads. We must move from negativity and adversity to positivity.
Moving from Panic to Self-control
When we become mired in negativity and adversity, we must remind ourselves that we are in control. Remember, everything in life is a mind game. Adversity are the stones in our path on our journey through life. We can only control how we react to them.
For me, I woke up one morning and could not focus my eyes so that I could read with both eyes. I could read with either eye, but not with both. It took three months to get a diagnosis of ocular myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease. Then we could change my glasses by adding a prism in one lens to fake the eye muscles into alignment and provide medication to control this. But life continued to happen during those three months. Life goes on and you have to cope. It is how you respond to it that matters. I read with one eye for the three months it took to figure things out. It frustrated me at times, but I never panicked.
We all face obstacles throughout our life’s journey. You can train your mind to ensure that you handle each obstacle rather than let it destroy you. Each obstacle we handle strengthens us.
Finding inspiration and energy for creative projects right now can feel difficult. But it’s these creative projects that bring meaning and delight.
Golda Meir said, “You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity.”