In a blurry, dreamy state this morning before my alarm went off, a profound statement came to me. One that, while in this in-between asleep and wakefulness state, I thought to be sheer genius but now, awake, it's less genius and just more truth.
Bad things always happen after good things.
I know, this sounds fatalistic, but hear me out. This came to me because of a realization that isn't easy to acknowledge: we don't have control over our lives.
When I was married, my husband at the time was always on edge waiting for "the other shoe to drop." He had a difficult letting go of control because that meant something terrible might happen. How many of you have kept your eyes on a person in a dangerous position simply for the fact that you felt if you looked away that person might be harmed? As if your eyes could magically hold that person in a safe place? Or micromanaged a project at work because you were afraid if you took your hands off it, the whole plan would disintegrate into ruin? This can be crippling. Happiness cannot be obtained through constant stress and anxiety. We only have a certain amount of control in our world. And that changes faster than a teenager trying to figure out what she'll wear on her first date.
So, we need to accept that bad things always happen after good things. We can influence people, animals, situations, statuses...but we can not control them.
So why did I come up with this genius, profound statement while half-asleep?
Lately, I've been dreaming of death. Loved ones dying. Deceased people alive again. Years ago, this might have alarmed me. ("What might this mean? Is someone going to die? Am I going to die?") But now I realize that, just like in reading Tarot cards, death is not meant to be viewed as necessarily a negative predicament. It could mean a rebirth. Like Phoenix from the ashes. (It took a while to find a site that doesn't have a million annoying pop-ups, but check this out if you want more information on Phoenix mythology: http://igentry.blogspot.com/2008/06/interesting-facts-about-phoenix.html)
This aligns with what's happening in my life right now. I've been redecorating my house: painting, purchasing "extras" that make me happy, moving furniture around. I've also been thinking of how I want to redo the exterior of my house to look better. I want to be surrounded by beauty. And even though my budget is severely limited, I am willing to use up gift cards, gift money, and dip into my savings a little to accomplish this.
I have a lot of changes happening this year. I have an upcoming surgery (more on that in another post). My boyfriend and I are trying to find ways to secure a future together. My children are constantly going through new phases, and my littlest guy is needing his mommy more than ever before. But right now, things have been on an upswing. I've been working on a screenplay I'm so excited about. I have ideas on how to make money through my art as well as my writing. Ideas are only as lush as the garden you prepare. So I am preparing my "garden" and it's becoming my muse.
But I must also accept that although things are going well right now, something unpleasant waits around the bend. It could be as simple as my car not starting. Or catching the flu. (I'm nursing a cold right now.) Or I could fall into a depressive state again and not want to leave my bed. My point is that my statement is correct: Bad things always happen after good things. But, fretting about what I can't control isn't going to make the bad things not happen. Trying to control every aspect of my life isn't going to wake me up every morning with a smile on my face.
A familiar saying is the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
I do not believe in the mythical God, but I do believe there are worldly truths and our brains have power to rule our proverbial souls. Although we can't always control what happens to us, we can control our attitude towards it. I was thinking about my friend Errin this week. She has been dealing with a debilitating form of MS, losing function and feeling in the lower half of her body. The hospital sent her home before she felt ready to care for herself (her family is an incredible help to her, but the nursing staff was a blessing), and she ended up breaking an ankle. So many terrible things have occurred, and she has no control over a disease with no cure, but she considers herself a warrior. Despite the tragedies that may have drowned most people, she is still bobbing in the water, head above water, holding out hope that eventually she'll make it to shore. This is what the Serenity Prayer is all about.
And yet some days, I still feel sorry for myself because I'm exhausted and don't have the energy to wash my dishes, much less cook a meal for my boys. But I don't feel guilty for holding a pity-party because I'm not asking anyone to bring me gifts, and in fact, no one else has been invited. So in this respect I have given myself control by accepting my short-lived "bummed-out" emotions. No one has to be happy all the time. There is no rulebook. There are times to be a warrior, and there are times to be a little child in need of nurture. When you are ready to be one or the other, it will happen. Accepting change means being ready...not necessarily being prepared...but being ready to handle what's happening or what's about to happen.
Changes are inevitable. The older I get, the more difficult this is to accept. But accept, I must. The key to happiness is to balance the changes you can control with the changes you can't. Which is why I'm redecorating before I need to go under the knife for a delicate procedure.
By the way, another statement that comes after the one I made in my lucid dream state has just as much truth to it. And it feels more like hope and positivity, although it still includes change as its main component: "Good things always happen after bad things."
The truth doesn't always hurt.