We recently started exploring the difference between lemons and turds. Lemons can be turned into lemonade, but turds are what they are. There’s no way to sugar coat them, but they’re part of life. So, what do we do?
I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, let’s be really open about those things we can’t change. And let’s stop calling those life events turds. You get the metaphor by now, and I don’t want that label being applied to people who present challenges to you and me. They’re not turds, even when they act like one. It’s the situation that is the problem.
What kind of stuff am I talking about? Illness, injury, addiction, relationship issues, abuse, neglect, death, the loss of a job/income, natural disasters, accidents, etc., are part of the list.
Many of you read through the above paragraph without much emotion. But others read the word “illness” and felt the pain of having a loved one change so much that you barely recognize them, and they don’t recognize you. You’ve felt the absolute exhaustion from caring for someone who will never get well but needs constant monitoring—the child or parent who is no longer safe without 24-hour supervision, but who you feel like you are abandoning if you place them where they really need to be. Perhaps you watched someone go through cancer treatment…win or lose that battle, either way, it’s a tough road during the treatment. Or maybe you’ve been so sick that the only thing that kept you going was the thought of leaving your kids without a mommy or daddy.
Others have watched children, parents, siblings or even themselves turn to alcohol and drugs. You read about it and watch stuff on TV, but it’s a whole different world when it’s your chest the barrel of a gun sits against. You want to believe the person on the other end wouldn’t hurt you because they look like your family member, but you don’t really know the drug-raged person they are now.
I could keep going…the violation, anger, and shame of being molested; the sudden and permanent absence of someone you thought would be there forever; the marriage your spouse no longer wants; your home, pictures, and clothes that were turned to ashes or splinters and rags; the child who died at birth; the approval your parent never gave…things seem a lot more personal when there’s a little more detail or the situations aren’t just words on a screen, don’t they?
This is a pretty intense post, but the reality is that all of us will face pain along with life events we can’t control. And for most of us, we didn’t see at least one of those situations coming. We feel totally lost that we can’t make it better or can’t get someone else to make the choices that would make things better. And it might even come to a point where it feels like every single choice (when it comes to the situation you are dealing with) is wrong and will hurt.
What’s the right answer? I really wish I could give you a neat little list of solutions. I wish it for me as much as for you. Remember when I said that you could tell a lemon from a turd because the lemon could directly be impacted by your actions while the turd couldn’t? Those things in life you can’t impact are things you can’t impact. There is no right answer and there is no action you can take to change those things. That’s kind of crappy all by itself, isn’t it?
Fortunately, your and my lives are layered and filled with all sorts of experiences. So while we can’t change some things, we can learn to cope and to find the resources and skills to get through the tough times. And even better than that, we can stack the odds in our favor so we can have a happy and rewarding life that allows us to thrive despite the challenges and troubles we face.
Next week I’ll share something very powerful and positive with you as we wrap up this mini-series of articles. It’ll be a suggestion you can put to work immediately, and I think you might be surprised by how helpful it is.
Until then, here’s wishing you much health and happiness.