Ever since I wrote I am Grateful for… there has been a voice in the back of my head, holding me accountable to that philosophy. It’s amazing what can happen when you publicly declare parts of your worldview. Living in a positive light is by no means easy. Particularly when perceived negative things compound on one another. It leaves me feeling a bit like this:
Yes, it’s true. I’ve always associated with Superman. Not because he’s indestructible. He has amazing abilities. More often than not, he’s referred to as a Boy Scout in a cape. It’s because of his demeanor, his ethics, and his outlook. Underneath it all, though, Superman struggles.
His greatest weakness is that no matter how fast he flies, how high he jumps, or how much he can bench press, he can’t save everyone. He struggles, every day, with the reality that even though he is one of the most powerful beings in the universe, he is still limited. Despite those limitations, he gets up every day to put on his cape, goes out and does what he can to make the world a better place. What I’ve learned from my favorite fictional character is that no one is immune to self-doubt. No one.
Overcoming negative thoughts, forcing myself to see the silver lining in events has always been a struggle for me. It can be attributed to early life experiences, but not completely. My natural tendency is to over-think, then, to over-think my over-thinking. I know of many people who experience it differently. It’s a product of one of the most fundamental rules of life: shit happens.
The problem is it’s easier to expect shit to happen, and to be cynical than it is to be optimistic. If we’re always expecting the worst, we’re satisfied when it doesn’t happen. Conversely, expecting the best gives rise to staunch disappointment. Superman could very simply wake up and say, “Brainiac is eventually going to come back for revenge and more people are going to die. I should probably just let him take over the world. It will be easier than fighting him, calling on the Justice League for help, nearly dying and then having to do it all over again in a year.”
Incredibly, Superman chooses to get up every day, expecting to be a simple reporter for a daily newspaper. He expects to go to work, write a story, eat lunch, go home, maybe buy Lois some roses, and live his life. It is the most human thing about him. By far, it should be one of the greatest messages his character can share. When the unexpected happens, he leaps into action, doing what needs to be done. As I stated above it is not for lack of fear, or failure. He knows if he doesn’t do something, the result will be much worse for doing nothing.
The benefit of being human is the ability to choose. Every day we have an option. We can choose to expect the worst, or we can choose to expect the best. If we choose to expect the best, but fall short of that expectation, it means the next day we get to try again. We have the capacity to learn from events, measure our temperament, and look forward to the next time we’re challenged.
This past weekend my wife and I experienced a series of events that were not pleasant. We were both scared. We were both frustrated. It. Was. Not. Easy. Instead of wringing our hands and asking “What are we going to do?” we should have been celebrating. I wanted to honor the recent end of a chapter in my life and the beginning of a new one. The universe wanted to make me work for it.
I reflected on times in my life when I would have gotten Incredible Hulk-angry, or maybe climbed into a bottle. This time was not without shortcomings, on either my part or my wife’s, but we eventually circled back around. Shit happens.
It’s a fortunate thing, to be with a partner that is willing to weather it with me, versus leaving me standing in the open. She wasn’t hurt in this series of life lessons, which has gotten far too close for comfort as of late. Our friend wasn’t hurt. We lost some material things, which annoyed the living daylights out of me. But at the end of the day, we figured it out. We chose to move forward. Optioning the light over the darkness.
True to synchronistic fashion, I saw a story passing around social media this morning. It went something like this:
One Sunday morning a pastor asked one of his Deacons to lead prayer. The Deacon stood up and began, “Lord, I hate buttermilk.” He continued, “Lord, I hate lard.” The pastor looked up, a bit confused, but the Deacon moved on. “Lord, I really ain’t too crazy about plain flour. But when you mix ’em all together, and bake ’em in a warm oven, you get biscuits. And Lord, I LOVE biscuits.”
The point of the prayer of course is to illustrate that even when things are happening that we don’t like, we have to remind ourselves that often times a series of bad things add up to be one big good thing.
Life is a balance. Shit happens. But that means rainbows do too. I’ll keep hoping that one day, Superman will have the most boring day of his life.