I won’t mince words: 2013 was pretty shitty.*
I came home from holiday in January to find my home destroyed. The months that followed brought indescribable stress as Esteban and I struggled to understand the insurance process, salvage our possessions, and rebuild our house.
But only recently, with the clarity of hindsight, did I discover something profound: While the disaster was unavoidable, perhaps the stress was not. How much needless misery did I cause myself by catastrophizing? And how many relationships did I damage by assuming the worst intent?
It’s an inevitability of life that we can’t always control what happens. But we can always control how we respond to what happens. Victor Frankl said it best:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Frankl wrote these words after having his property seized, being deported with his family to a ghetto, eventually losing most of them to the ovens at Auschwitz, and finally barely surviving five months of slave labor.
He had every right to be bitter after the war. No one would have blamed him, had he given in to hate or despair. And make no mistake, he did wrestle with these feelings: He did ask, “Why is this happening?” and maybe even, “Why me?”
But the important thing is that he found a way to re-frame those questions, and to emerge from his experiences not as a victim or a broken man, but as a fervent evangelist for the human capacity to grow — to learn, to love, and to heal — that lives inside us all.
Over the past year, I’ve learned in both big ways and small that the stories we tell ourselves shape our lives.
[Watch “This is Water,” by David Foster Wallace.]
I have a tradition on HBlog of illustrating a little story about two wolves each New Year’s Day. But this year, I’m seeing the little story with new eyes: as a reminder that I can’t always choose what happens, but I can always choose how I respond.
I wish you and yours a very happy new year.
What a wonderful post! Happy New Year!
And a very happy new year to you, too! I look forward to more of your beautiful posts in 2014. Hope it’s your best year yet.
Thanks for sharing wisdom. Here’s to a blessed 2014. 🙂
I wish you a very blessed 2014, too, full of happiness and health. Cheers!
Nothing wrong with a bit of robust Anglo-Saxon where appropriate! I hope that 2014 proves a much, much happier year for the two of you, and that the good wolf gets seriously overweight. 🙂
Hahaaa! I *adore* the image of a “seriously overweight” good wolf! Thank you for your very kind wishes, DB — and the same to you and yours at Castle Beastie. May 2014 bring you all good health, plenty of wealth, and boundless happiness.
Sometimes I really wish that we could click like on comments in WP. Beautifully described “Dancing Beastie”.
Happy New Year to you too, H. Even though your year was, well, shitty, I have really appreciated your honesty and insight in sharing it.
Thanks for your very kind note, Fiona. Here’s to a less shitty year ahead! But seriously, I do wish you a very wonderful 2014. Cheers to you and yours!
Sometimes you just have to say, “Oh $%&#!” 2014 will be great–with your courage and humor and insight, how can it not?! Happy New Year!
You’re far too kind, Patti — but thank you. And a very happy New Year to you, too! May it be your best yet.
Happy New Year to you too! Your post is so true and how many times I regret the things I say and the way I act as a result of stress. Really food for thought. Love the wolves tale, I’ll be sharing it with my 8 year old boy. I wish you all things beautiful and bright for this year. May it be filled to the brim with laughter and joy, much of which I am sure, you will bestow on to others. xo
Thank you for gracing my day with such beautiful words, dear Rochelle! Isn’t that story about the wolves wonderful? It’s so simple, but so wise and so true. I wish you and yours a wonderful year ahead, too, with all the best life has to offer — especially love and laughter. xx