“One thing they never tell you in those ambitious graduation speeches is that the unexpected happens. Failure happens. People betray us. Circumstances change in ways we can’t foresee. Our life plans fail by middle age because we don’t calculate for failure or uncontrollable circumstances – the most painful lesson any of us learn is that some things can’t be fixed, and you have to learn to live with it.”
I know, it’s not a nice or perhaps even appropriate thing to say to somebody celebrating a milestone. And maybe that’s exactly the problem. I don’t see this issue addressed much. Obviously, we think it’s never appropriate to approach the subject. Worse yet, it seems to be the best kept secret in adult life.
I learned that some things can’t be fixed when I lost three of my four grandparents between December 1987 - August 1990. My grandfathers actually died nine months apart, so that lesson came early in my life. It’s a good thing too, because it keeps coming back. The thing is, life expectancies are longer, so I’m finding people are approaching middle age with no construct or concept of how to deal with the more painful parts of reality until it hits them full force. It is a hard lesson that never gets easier. You finally learn not to be surprised by it. Well, some of us, anyway. Others deny until the day we die. And while that vengeful, spiteful attitude might seem like strength, it’s actually a tremendous liability because it limits your growth.
Maybe it seems I’m being harsh, but I think the past year is a perfect example of why we need to address the issue of living with things that can’t be fixed. COVID threw us all for a loop, and we saw the chaos that erupted from that, from death tolls, to riots, to widespread trauma, emotional, and psychological issues from the isolation and protective measures (and losing loved ones to the virus). Nobody expected COVID, and it affected us all. We’re on the other side now and hopefully we’ve grown from the experience. The thing is, it’s just a large scale example of what happens on an individual basis every day. A worldwide pandemic is rare, but traumas that turn lives upside down happen everyday on an individual basis. None of us knows when our season will come. Maybe now is a good time to ponder on the perspective we learned from this worldwide issue and decide how to apply it to our own, individual circumstances.
It's not rude or embarrassing, and ignoring it won’t make it go away. Why don’t we learn a lesson of compassion from COVID and open up about how we can handle our own personal struggles, and support others who are going their own? Believe me, if you thought the pandemic was bad, then it’s worse to go through something big like that while the rest of the world is humming along, happy and free, completely unaware of the fact that your own world is in upheaval. It will happen. That’s a certainty.
Another certainty is that these seasons pass, and you can grow around the grief and pain they caused. Forget “getting over it,” that’s not how it happens. You change, and that’s ok. It’s how life is supposed to happen. The best life plans aren’t made, they’re experienced.
Not that I’m saying making future plans is a waste. It’s not, and in some ways I wish I had done that better in my own life. In fact, I’m already planning for my retirement, far away as it is. You just have to be aware that stuff happens to derail your perfect plan, and turns life from a journey down the road to building a mosaic from the pieces. You can always get back on track. Things work out for the best in the end. We don’t always know what that best is, and it’s the unexpected that puts us on that ultimate “right” path.
That’s all today. Take care. I hope you have a happy Friday tomorrow and a wonderful weekend.