Accepting the Inevitable

"'Uncle Joe,' said Albert Edward Wiggam upon meeting an elderly friend, 'You've had more than your share of life's troubles. How have you managed to remain so cheerful and calm?'
'Well, I'll tell yo,' replied Uncle Joe. 'I'se jus' learned to cooperate wid de inevitable.'"
I'm in class sitting at my desk with pencil in hand looking pensively at an assignment. Suddenly I'm startled as a paper airplane goes whizzing by. A bit later a rubber band hurtling through the air causes me to look up. Not long after that the class comedian plays a trick on an unsuspecting student and the class roars with laughter. After that's all over the kids settle down, but not for long. Soon they're all chattering away with each other with an assignment sitting idly on their desk.

That was somewhat typical of how children behaved in class when I went to school. For most, doing an assignment was the last thing on their mind. But the children who accepted school as a part of life and made an effort to study later found themselves in a better position for success.

I see adversity in the same way. I can't change the fact that it's a part of "the school" of life; so it's only to my advantage to accept it and recognize it's potential as a stepping stone. Because only then do I put myself in a position to learn and grow from it.

In accepting adversity as inevitable, I'm not talking about surrendering to it. I'm talking about moving away from complaining about it or trying to wish it away, acknowledging its role in my life, and figuring out what I can do to make it work for me instead of against me.

When I became chronically ill, I started to read about people who overcame tremendous setbacks. I discovered that in many cases their hardships were actually what propelled them forward to experience life in a way that they never would have without them. With that, and the fact that there were so many of these stories, I  became more keenly aware that I could not escape from adversity—and not only that, but that I might never reach my full potential without it.

Of course, it's one thing to write about something, but a whole nother story to do it. There's a funny story I'm reminded of, about a little boy named Johnny who wouldn't sit down for his mother. When after her last warning she saw Johnny still wasn't going to sit down, she pulled his feet out from under him, plopping his little bottom into the seat, and then strapped him into his high chair. Still defiant, Johnny looked up and exclaimed, "I'm sitting down on the outside, but on the inside I'm still standing up!"

That's how it is for me at times. In defiance, rather than "cooperate wid de inevitable", I look for a way to get out of it. But the reality is if I'm securely strapped into a chair there's no use trying to get out. Fighting what I can't change will only make things worse. (I should add a little footnote here that there have been times when I got stirred up and let myself be stretched beyond my limit and found that, for the most part, my "limit" was only in the imagination of my mind.)

At times like this one thing that helps me is to hold on to the belief that in spite of my circumstances there is always something I can change that will make a difference. I also find it helpful to think about examples of the benefits others have gained from going through adversity. This helps me to shift my focus to things I can change that will help to bring something good out of my predicament as well.

Life will always bring challenges, so I might as well figure out how to get the greatest possible benefit from them. For me the starting point is to recognize what's inevitable, and not only to recognize it, but to strive to embrace it, knowing that only by doing so can I truly recognize and turn my focus to what I can change. Because it's only by focusing on what I can change that I am able to become all that I can be.


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