My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened. ~Michel de Montaigne
I must be getting old. Several people in the last year have asked me to offer some wisdom or insight gained over decades of living. It has proven more challenging than I might have anticipated. Indeed, the more I have reflected on life’s lessons, the less I know about how one should live.
One thing I have noticed, however, is that over time, my glass-half-full-or-half-empty perspective on life has shifted. There was a time when the quote above might have described me very well. The narrative I told myself years ago often comprised a litany of disappointments, hardships, grievances, judgments. I lived in vigilant readiness, anticipating additional misfortunes that I could only avoid by exerting control over, well, everything.
Eventually, and thankfully, I wore myself out and sank in defeat, waiting for the doom certain to befall … and waiting. Until I dared to raise my head and look around. Lo and behold, everything was moving along just fine, even better than before. Were things really better, or was it just my assessment that had changed? Hmm.
And what about all those things on my list of past misfortunes? Were they misfortunes? I began to release the judgments, to consider that perhaps those judgments were not objectively true. And as I let them go, in their place welled up a spontaneously overflowing spring of gratitude. Curses became blessings. As the quote says, the misfortunes never happened.
Sometimes, I admit, the blessings are hard to see. But I’ve come to trust that they are there. Sometimes I need to practice what a friend calls ruthless gratitude (I love that concept). It never disappoints, and always carries me through tough times of fierce grace (another concept I love).
The events of my life have not changed, but my experience of my life is completely different. So perhaps the wisdom of age comes from simply being too tired to fight anymore with life. It’s so much easier to befriend life, to trust that life has things well in hand, to relax and enjoy the scenery, to recognize and be grateful for the blessings of each moment.
Perhaps we mistake surrender for wisdom. Or maybe they are the same thing after all.
This chorus from Nimo Patel’s song “Grateful” says it all:
All that I am
All that I see
All that I’ve been and all that I’ll ever be
Is a blessing
It’s so amazing
And I’m grateful for it all, for it all
12 thoughts on “Blessed or Cursed”
Love this. It’s true as you age your perspective changes, hopefully for the better!
Thanks Ann! And yes, hopefully our perspective changes for the better. The good news is that we can learn that our perspective is our choice. Thanks for commenting.
James Taylor’s Song “The Secret Of Life” comes to mind…
I’m going to go listen to it right now! Thanks Betty.
“The events of my life have not changed, but my experience of my life is completely different.”
This is going on my wall!
Thanks, Galen. Made my day!
Thanks Wes! You made my day too so we’re even — ha!
I love this, Galen. I especially love that opening quote. How true!
Yep, that is one of my favorites. Thanks DJan.
Hi Galen! And because this day happens to be “Thanksgiving Day” I’m inclined to wish you a Happy Day of Thanks! (I’ve started calling it that after becoming aware of just how much mis-information surrounds the history of the day!). But beyond that, I resonate so well with this post because it reminds me that EVERYTHING that happens holds a gift (or grace, or education or call it what you will) that definitely looks better when I see it from that perspective. I never really had it that bad when I was younger but I know I wasn’t as conscious about those gifts as I am today…and I’m guessing as I age even more that they will become more and more clear. And yeah, like others said, I LOVE that quote and Thom and I use it on each other every now and then when things appear to be looking bad in any way. Oh, and may I say I’m thankful for you and your writing. I ALWAYS get something from reading your posts! ~Kathy
Thanks so much, Kathy, for your kind words. As you know, I enjoy your blog as well and always find something entertaining and inspirational — a great combination!
I too am aware of the incongruity of a holiday of thanksgiving superimposed over the historical origins of conquest and genocide. I spent a little time this morning on one of those websites that tell you which indigenous people’s land you are standing on. A moment to reflect.
Even so, like you, I appreciate a day set aside to give thanks apart from any historical context.
I was going through a period of angst. A wise friend encouraged me to sit with it and see where it takes me. I’m learning to sit with comments, events and see where they take me. There’s new meaning to the saying It is what it is vs me coloring it with my perceptions. I practice the quiet on the outside but inside??!! If you want the ride of your life, step into my brain for a bit! Like a line in James Blunt’s song, Same Mistake – said he’d seen the enemy, said he looked a lot like me.
That is a great practice, Mona — being in the center of what is, rather than trying to make it something else. A friend of mine if fond of saying “Let’s see what happens,” which is similar to your friend’s advice to see where things take you.
I laughed about your ride of your life brain comment. Someone told me years ago that my brain was a scary place. That was certainly true at that time! I hope my brain is a bit friendlier these days. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.