Things we perceive to be bad happen all the time. Unfortunate undesirable outcomes that ruin days, weeks, months, and sometimes years of our lives.
Now full disclosure, I’m not talking about obvious catastrophes like death. What I’m referring to here is the smaller stuff that often feels like major stuff when it happens. (And sometimes it is.)
Whenever I’m faced with these experiences I resort to asking “What’s the lesson here?” instead of the easier, “Why me?”
While both may be valid questions, I have personally found that approaching my disappointments with curiosity about the potential lesson usually leaves me in a better place mentally than where I started.
Not getting a job I applied for, was qualified for, and really wanted sucks—especially as the bills are piling up. Losing my job days before signing a sales agreement to purchase a new house more than sucks. Finding out my Dad has cancer is a giant dose of fuckery. And no, these aren’t hypotheticals. They’re all real life scenarios I’ve had to battle within the last year and a half.
In every instance, I’ve paused to ask, “What’s the lesson here?”— not as a way to minimize/downplay my disappointment, anger, or frustration; but as a way of processing my feelings and figuring out the next step.
For me, that question is a way for me to remain a student of life, and to remain open to the possibility that life/source/God/the universe/the divine/whatever you believe in has a plan, even if I don’t understand it.
It doesn’t make the pain, anger, or frustration any less real. What it does instead, is turn my attention to the thing I can control—my reaction.
Sometimes the lesson is clear—I didn’t really want the job; I just wanted to pay my bills, and maybe there’s another way to do that that doesn’t feel soul-sucking.
At other times it’s not so clear—because what the fuck can we possibly learn from cancer? Except, I’ve become closer to my parents and siblings since Daddy’s diagnosis and he’s now cancer-free.
And other times, honestly, it can feel like there is no lesson and this unfortunate situation is just a cruel twist of fate. And for those moments, I have no words. Because I’d never dream of trivializing the validity of another’s experience.
What I do know for myself though, is that for every tragedy, great or small, whenever I ask “What’s the lesson?” I always end up learning something.