Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls…

This is the beginning of a quote by Kahlil Gibran, philosopher.  The whole quote goes like this, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls.  The most massive characters are seared with scars.”  It’s my favorite quote these days.  Actually, I think it’ll be in my top five forever.

I think it’s a safe bet that all of us have had our challenges with this economy.  Even millionaires have a lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed and which they must also fund.  So having money doesn’t mean, necessarily, that you’re immune to economic downturns.  And we won’t even talk about the ones of us whose budget is so tight it squeals!  But even aside from the economic issues, we still also face the usual suspects in our lives: Relationship issues, job issues, trying to FIND a job and having no success, sick loved ones, sick pets, getting fat, losing too much weight (yeah right),being lonely, losing loved ones, unethical people setting out to do us deliberate harm (yeah, that happens)…the list goes on and on, doesn’t it?  We have enough in day-to-day life to keep us challenged, without putting economic woes on top of it.  So what can we do about any of this?

Well we probably want to fix the stuff we can fix, right, or at least try? There are some things we can do to stay centered, not the least of which is surrounding ourselves with people who are just plain good.  Bring people into your life who have depth of character, immutable integrity, joy and laughter in their lives, and a strong faith.  Throw the rest out on their ear!  🙂  That’s the place to start, job one.  Build a good foundation from which to venture out every day and have some friends who have your back when you feel attacked…and you will sometimes.  If you pick your friends well, they WILL have your back.  You need them there! 

Second, believe that there is a plan for you, and look for evidence that the plan is playing out.  For example….I’ve been through two years of tragedy in my life, of the kind I didn’t think I’d survive.  Sometimes I didn’t want to, really. After all, who would want to live the life I’ve lived lately?  I can smile when I say that now, but for a while, there were no smiles in me.  Today I can look back at the trail behind me and see the faces of people whose paths I crossed on this terrible journey, and I see so clearly why they were there and why I needed to encounter them.  Without this tragedy, I’d have never met them.  They are such blessings to me now and so important to my present and my future!  I don’t want to imagine my life without them in it.  Don’t get me wrong; given a choice, I’d do without the tragedy every time.  But there is a plan for me and I guess this tumultuous time was part of it.  

Third, look inward and see what you can learn from the hard times, because trust me, you will be able to pass along what you learn to someone else in need.   What goes around, really comes around.  I had a conversation with a dear friend last weekend about this:  He asked me how in the world can you ever change your deepest behaviors, even when you know they are not good ones.  Well that’s very possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever do…AND the most rewarding.  Nothing feels quite as good as throwing out the garbage.  It is hard and you will feel like giving up and… the bad stuff just gets to feeling comfortable.  Listen up: clinging to the bad stuff makes you choose bad partners!  That should motivate you if nothing else does 🙂  Oh and by the way, the job is never done.  Why?  Because your value system changes with roughly every decade of your life.  Just to keep things interesting!

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living.  I whole heartedly agree with that sentiment!  But you can’t stop at examination.  Once you open the attic of your psyche, the next step is to clean it out, throw away the bad stuff and organize what you keep.  It’s a test of your diligence, your discipline and your will to improve yourself, once you step into the world of your own psyche.   If you couple this kind of self work with faith, if you succeed in the examination and purging, then bad times really can’t touch you.  Oh, they’ll still be bad, but your reaction to them will be vastly different. Can you wobble off the path and start collecting garbage again? Ohhhh yes.  Here’s a secret: Don’t do that.

We get comfortable with our tendencies and our feelings, even if they’re not necessarily good for us.  So…if you meet someone and instantly feel ‘comfortable’ with them?  Maybe that means you need to run like all get-out!  🙂  Depends on what is in that attic we talked about!  Sometimes, comfortable is merely a sign of one of those big old boxes of garbage we threw out years ago…trying to creeeeep back in!  Be careful!

The important thing is this: Life is hard enough without bringing in briars and thorns and weights to drown us in the flood of life.  The Bible says we should be equally yoked.   Well whether or not you believe the Bible…and I do…equal yoke means half the burden.  That’s irrefutable, straight scoop, can’t be denied. 

Summary: Don’t BE a knucklehead; don’t COLLECT knuckleheads; be the best you can be (examine yourself); and don’t miss the joy, even in the midst of a poop storm! 🙂  And yes there can be joy in a poop storm. Ya gotta look for it, though.

Have a wonderful, safe and happy holiday!

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