For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a cynic, a worrywart. Ask me to look at the bright side and I could give you 10 reasons not to. Call it training in the art of learning all the wrong lessons in life- and I have a certificate that could get plastered across the length and breadth of a wall of a room!
Talk about having it easy, right? It is easier to give up, give in, think of all the things that can go wrong and crib, crib, crib. Its always the slippery road that is smooth and easy and beguiling- that is why it is headed where it is-to a fall. It is also a hallmark of a lack of self-awareness, inner contemplation, and to an extent our determination.
It is surprising how we intuitively know how to improve our external frame: lose weight, eat healthy- all the rules and guidances are out there. Should you have someone next to you at this moment- I bet that person would also have an opinion on what to do, too! And should you be keen enough, you will muster up enough resolve to get to your ideal look.
But, why is it so tough to do the very same thing to our frame of mind? Why is it harder to shed the weight of our preconceived notions, unhealthy attitudes, lack of gratitude, and our refusal to believe in the general goodness that abounds in the world? All that is needed is usually a change in our perception, take off those blinders, and see things clearly. Simple? Yes, but not easy.
Which is why nature has built-in adversity. ‘Huh?’, I hear you ask. Well, firstly, it is one of those lines in fine print, which we tend to overlook. But also, often, we just don’t get it because we have lost the art of reading signs. Life, after all, does not speak English, nor your native tongue; it speaks one language for every living thing. For a long time, I simply couldn’t see the bright side of life, because, not only did I not know how to ‘ read’ the signs or understand, the truth was, I still had my blinders on. But we all know that Life is a great teacher, it never gives up on its student.
Last year, my adoption came through, amid a lot of difficulty in going through the judicial system and tedious processes that included an almost three-year wait end to end, me and my husband became parents in our early forties. Swamiji’s grace prevailed. But, as was my nature – I am not prone to accepting happiness so easily.
To be flung into motherhood- suddenly overnight, I fussed and cribbed about not knowing what to do. I panicked every moment – because in the real sense I was in an unusual circumstance of not really having anyone around. I had to stay away from my better half till all the judicial processes were completed- which was almost seven months, of which a good patch of the initial days were spent without having anyone older than me to guide me.
My mother, had to travel to be with my younger sister who was also due for delivery and my mother-in-law was taking care of my father-in-law who has been on dialysis. So all I did was cry, get scared, crib, and mope about my situation, while all my baby did was smile— my child was unaffected by my state of mind and was just happy to be held by me. My baby seemed to already know how to see the bright side of life!
My first conscious test in adversity was being played out- I say conscious, because for the very first time- I realized, my moping and cribbing was only going to cost the care of my child. I had to think beyond me. If it meant reading up all those books, well now was the time. If it meant calling both my mothers incessantly for advice- so be it. It was a hard-won learning curve- I didn’t have time to give importance to my “princess” attitude. I just dug my heels into the care of my baby, ensuring he was brought back to good health with nutrition and love.
As I diligently worked towards nurturing him- this incredible sense of happiness and joy overflowed me- because a switch had flipped inside of me. And suddenly, all the help that I needed started flooding in! Be it through the kindness of strangers or my youngest sister and her husband and her mother-in-law who rushed to my rescue immediately. Even the doctors whom I met during my child’s immunization appointments spent extra time explaining things. I was overflowing with so much gratitude by this point for all the support. This was nothing less than magic for me.
Somewhere I knew that, If I had continued to remain bleak, crib about lack of help from those nearest to me – I would have continued to struggle. Now, there were days when even strangers walked up to me and gave me advice on what I could do – and most of it, incidentally, was of the useful kind. What are the chances of that happening? I understood instantly, then and there, that the minute you change your attitude towards adversity- Life’s floodgates open. They may not be so explicitly evident all the time; but now, I was able to begin to recognize these blessings.
Once, the judicial procedures were over- and I and our baby moved back with my husband. Another set of challenges overtook us- Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown.
If anyone thought that the lockdown offered time to take it easy, well- it was anything but in my case. As you can notice, I still had not completely learned my lesson in looking at the bright side of things. Which is always an issue. Getting into a situation with a negative frame, burdens and weighs you down. It drains you of your ability to notice the wide-open window in a room of locked doors. But then, Life never gives up on its student!
With the better half, working from home, and having much less time on hand to spare than usual, I was left to my devices, again. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of my growing child in every way, and ensuring everyone’s well being, plus attending to some freelance work that I had taken on – all of this was enough to drive me batty! And I resorted to doing what I was prone to do – crib, crib, crib. Only, no one was really listening. Who would? We were all in the same boat.
The more I cribbed, the more physically weak I became. You know when you can’t hold weights up straight, they drag the entire body down; that was me – totally exhausted at the end of every day, crying myself to sleep every night – and with not a soul, but adversity itself, to sympathize.
But then, I realized that an endless ride on the bus called ‘poor me’ was getting me nowhere. So, I decided to get off and start walking on my own two feet. I moved faster this way, and to put it more metaphorically, my mental frame was improving with this exercise.
As I walked the path, I noticed how beautiful this journey was. The “bus ride” had dark shades on the windows, so I could never see the bounty around me…and here I was, on my two feet, breathing in the fresh air and taking in all the “greenery”.
‘How’ you ask? Let me explain the two significant changes in the mindsets that I have had. There are many others, but these stand out for me.
My first realization was how lucky I was to have us as a family together. Most of us take this for granted. The pandemic has offered us an incredible opportunity to really live with each other. Is it not wonderful to have the whole family there for each other every day? Eating meals together, talking and comforting each other, being ‘in the moment’, laughing and smiling through it all, strengthening our connections, have been all happy outcomes.
Plus, this was so much better than my baby having to engage with an impersonal daycare system. At least he will not have an absentee parent during his developmental months. Unusual circumstances for many of us who have usually had just one parent being a constant anchor in our lives, while the other headed out to provide for the family.
My second realization was noting how much I had overlooked the effort put in by others, just because I didn’t recognize it as an actual effort. This was again putting me at the center of everything, which was only causing more pain. The minute I paused to really reflect upon this, it registered how much my husband did. He’d clean up the table after we had eaten, he’d make the bed after we’d all woken up. Some mornings, he’d play with our child as much as possible, so I could sleep in a bit longer. And all I did was take it for granted and say, “So what? I do so much more.” – What a negative attitude!
One morning, I woke up and thanked him for all of his support, despite being weighed down by his own commitments- and then, the most beautiful smile got plastered on his face as he goofily mumbled- “please, don’t say that. I will try and do more! ”
I also began thanking all the delivery boys and girls who came to my door with parcels of food and groceries. It’s a thankless job, but receiving this little recognition made them all smile. Happiness happens – quietly and gently.
There is something about adversity, in which resilience forms a solid building block; it totally changes your brain chemistry. I know my ability to handle tough situations has only improved, bettering my game, so to speak. I know I can do it all and thrive. I have also learned to find humor in many situations.
There is no need to go to any classes to learn and ‘improv’. Life has taught me that with live situational examples! I don’t fuss over my many, many failures- they have all been incredible learning experiences. You will be shocked at the number of courses we can list on the resume of our life! Crisis Management = check, cooking anything that’s in the fridge = check, how to dance for your child, and make him smile at the drop of a hat = check! how to mop up like a pro after a ‘food disaster’ = check!
…the list is endless!
Learning to recognize these disguised blessings and actually see the bright side of life is indeed the name of the game! And who better than adversity to help you be a pro at it!
So, what’s your story?
A monk’s insight into finding happiness and contentment in Adversity:
“A king once wondered if peace could be depicted, and if so, what would it look like? He announced a grand prize to the artist who could paint the most apt picture of peace. Several artists from his empire came up with beautiful paintings. Some had drawn birds and the vast sky.
Others had painted the calm ocean while many the dense forests. An artist drew a mother feeding her child and another an old man sitting under a tree.
Scores of other maestros brought Life to Life with beautiful colors on their canvases. After much deliberation, the king shortlisted two paintings he felt were the closest representation of peace.
One painting was of a calm lake. Perfectly still, it was surrounded by colossal green mountains. There was a blue expanse overhead with fluffy white clouds. An old tree with its boughs extending several feet over the lake stood quietly. A dry leaf was floating on the surface of the water. The king’s courtiers and his subjects voted that it was the perfect picture of peace.”
Which artist won the grand prize? And why? Read the complete story here.
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Want to dive deeper into the subject matter of adversity to happiness?
Here are some insightful stories that will help you contemplate, reflect upon and inspire your life.
Some more reads on adversity:
“There are uses to adversity, and they don’t reveal themselves until tested. Whether it’s serious illness, financial hardship, or the simple constraint of parents who speak limited English, difficulty can tap unexpected strengths.” – Sonia Sotomayor
“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.” – Michelle Obama
“All the adversity I’ve had in my Life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
– Walt Disney