Life on a whole has been quite good to me so far. I was fortunate enough to have been born into a family of considerable material wealth, and more importantly, a lot of love. I am loved by a mother of incomparable strength, and respected (the majority of the time!) by a loyal and loving brother. Life, however, holds no favourites in its random bestowals of pain and hardship. My family, being no exception, has experienced its fair share of turmoil, chief among which was the passing of my late father.
To attempt to pay him respect in words would never surpass an injustice; suffice it to say that he was my hero to the end. His untimely death left a scar across my own heart and the very fibre of family unit – in the wake of his death we each would wonder, alone and together – why us? Why now? Who decreed it a fair move to rip this loving, gentle giant from our lives? The truth eventually dawned upon each one of us in turn – no one. No one decides what is fair and unfair in this life. No one is given immunity from the trials and tribulations of this world, and eventually, everyone is separated from that which they hold most dear.
The harshness of this thought was not lost upon me – yet for a long time I refused to acknowledge mentally what my heart already knew. A destructive bitterness had seeped over my heart, and infiltrated my thoughts, corrupting my perception of the world so that I could see only what I couldn’t have. Friends tactlessly grumbling about embarrassing dads, little girls clasped in the embrace of doting fathers – they all chipped away at my vengeful, embittered soul. Yet in the end I hurt no one in my silent vexation, only myself. Something had to give.
I cannot pinpoint the turning moment on the bell curve of my grief when my cracked perception healed – what I can say with certainty is that it is healing, and will continue to do so. Loss irrevocably changes a person, but that person ultimately controls the nature of the change. My grieving process has enabled me to possess a much more objective outlook on life, and has afforded me the foresight to recognise what is truly of value in this world – our rich connections with people and places, be they brief or lifelong.
In focusing on the benefits to be gained from such an unpleasant and tumultuous situation, I have successfully moved beyond the pain of my loss. My father won’t see me in my Debs dress (it was a small miracle that he saw me in my Communion dress), he won’t meet my children, or watch on with paternal pride when I graduate from college. His departure from my life has not defined me – rather, it has allowed me to develop into a more empathetic, mindful and altruistic human being.
And so it is with every event in life. Perception is everything – the difference between what is achievable and what is out of reach; whether something is an obstacle or a challenge. My own obstacle was so life-altering that I will never again need grapple with such hardship. For some, however, the most paining deliberation they face may be whether to step outside their front door and interact with the world. To those people I say – examine yourself, and particularly your perception. Have you let yourself be battered and bruised by the hurly-burly of life’s trajectory, and more importantly, will you continue to do so? In order to be positive, one’s desire for greatness, happiness or success must outweigh all past failures or insecurities – in my own case, my hunger for inner serenity exceeded my resentment at how easy I thought life was for others.
To accept the undeniable fact that life isn’t fair is initially daunting, and yet, when given the chance to germinate in the mind, it gradually develops into an unparalleled feeling of liberation. Instead of viewing things as solely one way or another, one can recognise their own power in deciding how to navigate issues and “failures”.
From losing an important football match, to missing out on those five points needed for your college course, to losing your savings in an ill-fated business venture, or being gravely injured in a motor accident: “for everything there is a season”, and similarly, for every downside there exists an upside, no matter how hidden. The pragmatic, positive person will search out this upside and thrive upon it, while the negative, self-absorbed person will learn nothing until another misfortune visits them.
However, a change in attitude doesn’t occur overnight, nor will it occur unless you willingly allow it. Like anything worth attaining, positivity takes conscious practice – yet for all of its innumerable benefits it can be summed up in one simple philosophy. Accept the unfairness in life, and focus instead on the small miracles which occur in our world every day. You will be the victor in the end, I promise.