How would you describe life? It’s a tough question. How I’d describe it is affected by what’s going on around me and the emotion I feel at the time, but maybe I’m fickle. I don’t like my food mixing, so I certainly have a fickleness about me: “My corn is touching my potatoes! My meal is ruined!” Okay, I’m not that bad, but people who mix their corn with their potatoes (aka most old people) really freak me out. I can watch movies with heads being blown off, but potatoes and corn mixed? Nope; can’t do it. Maybe that’s less fickle and more a quality of a nut job; my wife would go with the latter. Either description, it’s me. It’s not hurting anyone, so it’s okay. The same thing happens with emotions: We’re allowed our emotions, but we should never hurt anyone in our emotion. Not only is hurting others mean; it’s counterproductive. Emotions like anger, sadness, and guilt are meant to protect us and hurting others means those people are more likely to hurt us back.
My last couple posts have been on how I faced a very discouraging time last November and December. On the plus side, this experience led to some valuable lessons for me like today’s – there’s good in all things. For instance, sometimes we should feel like garbage because life is treating us like garbage. In these times, we should be considering if there’s anything that we can do to help the situation or if we just need to ride it out – sometimes riding it out is all we can do. There can also be times we feel like garbage when life is being fine to us. In most of these cases, we simply need to change our mindset – we need to see things from a more positive standpoint.
My favourite Bible verse says, “Be thankful in all circumstances for this is the will of God.” (1 Thes 5:18) What is God’s will for me? To be thankful. What’s God’s will for you? To be thankful. That’s it. It’s not complicated. Being thankful is something I’ve worked on for 16 years. During my two months of discouraging times, I continued doing my best to be thankful no matter how discouraged I was. For instance, I was thankful the only visit to the hospital for my family was my youngest daughter having a deep cut on her foot they glued shut. This injury didn’t even stop my daughter from running around the next day… the flu did, which she caught from the hospital visit, but I’m sure the rest the flu forced on her was also good for her foot. Considering the hospitals were overflowing with sick kids, we were very blessed not to be one of those very worried parents. It also wasn’t as bad as when she broke her arm earlier in the year – yes, she’s that kid.
I was also grateful that although I had a really bad back I could still walk and there was hope for recovery; the pain wasn’t going to be permanent. Plus, whenever something is wrong with my body like how I’m prone to back pain, I can feel better knowing I have a body that’s also made it easier for me not to have a single cavity and I still don’t need glasses. I definitely do my best to take care of them like I brush my teeth four times a day and I regularly wear sunglasses outside, but I’ve been very blessed because I know some people who brush as much as I do and floss a lot more who struggle with getting cavities. I also eat honey and cookies every day and no cavities… or diabetes. Considering we all have our issues, if given the choice, this is definitely the dynamic I’d choose. I’d rather the bad back and no diabetes, cavities, or glasses. This kind of thinking can make our body’s faults more acceptable.
When times are tough we need to find the line between letting ourselves feel the emotion like anger or sadness and not wallowing in it. We need to be careful not to just feel sorry for ourselves. We also need to be careful to have healthy habits in place and to fight the temptation to do things that will make it worse like eating that extra piece of cake. A lot of people make tough times worse by making bad choices. A common bad choice is chasing a high because for every high there is a low. Talk to anyone who does cocaine – there is a low after. I’ve heard users say cocaine hangovers can last four days or more. Another very bad choice is being too available to help people. I was talking to a couple therapists who worked on Boxing Day and when they asked me about my Christmas, I said I was very careful to take time off because I know February and March are the busiest months of the year. Both of them had that “Oh, shoot,” face and admitted they never thought about how they should’ve been refueling themselves for this season. Even therapists who teach self care can be bad at caring for themselves because they get so caught up in helping others.
One of the hardest parts of my November and December was family sickness keeping us pretty isolated for most of that time. Even if we wanted to see people, there were a number of weekends where we even had to skip church because we were so sick. Not only is church the biggest highlight of my week (belonging to a great church is incredible), as someone who works from home, getting out is incredibly important for me, so this loss was pretty tough. One of the best things that happened for me was an old high school friend I haven’t talked to in a few years invited my family over for a visit after Christmas. It was amazing how helpful this was for me, especially when I was struggling with the isolation. Making life better for others doesn’t always take a lot of work or sacrifice. Sometimes it’s being willing to spend time with someone or even just sending an invitation to hang out.
The other benefit of my discouraging months is it led to me realizing there are seven basic times in life listed below. I should note that music can help encourage us to go up or down this list depending what we listen to. Sometimes a good angry song can help us feel better (e.g. We Came as Romans, “Black Hole”) while too much angry music can leave us on edge. The same thing can happen with somber music. Music is powerful; we need to be careful how we use it.
Amazing Moments: These are rare and short lived moments we strive for like winning a championship, scoring a special goal, overcoming a great challenge, or meeting a celebrity. This is also a moment like last year when I opened my birthday gift from my brother and it was the Home Alone house Lego set, which I wanted, but had never mentioned because it was way more money than anyone should be spending. I was like a small child at Christmas in that moment. Amazing moments can also be when we hit that perfect performing moment like I had in my best man speech last year – amazing.
Great Times: These are more common and tend to last longer than Amazing Moments. These can include overcoming fair sized challenges, having a great performance, having a deep conversation with someone, laughing a lot in a conversation or at a show (I loved Ryan Hamilton and Nick Kroll’s new routines on Netflix), or being in awe of something great like an inspiring performer or sunset. This can also be making your child laugh or be excited although some people might call these Amazing Moments.
Good Times: This is normal life for a positive person. There are little struggles here and there, but we have the confidence to get through them pretty easily.
Blah Times: Maybe we’re not a very positive person and lack appreciation for all the good we have in our lives or maybe life is just taking its toll and making it hard for a positive person to be their normal positive self.
Bad Times: Either we’re a negative person and only see the bad or life is simply in a bad spot with a lack of positive things to balance out the bad. This is when temptation to do things that can make it worse become increasingly tempting as they make us feel better for a moment but then make it worse in the long run.
Terrible Times: This is the very negative person or a normal person going through some type of trauma whether the death of a loved one or getting betrayed by someone we trusted. If it’s the latter, we need to give time for grieving.
Amazingly Terrible Moments: This is the kind of time life is at its absolute worst and everything has fallen apart. This is soul crushing and makes you second guess the purpose of life.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to let ourselves feel what we need to feel, but feeling sorry for ourselves always makes things worse and can potentially drop us lower in this scale. It’s also important to do our best to make good choices to prevent missing out on how good things can be.
This week may you find ways to have more good moments than bad.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people (like me)