I was in treatment one day reading this book called Attitudes of Gratitude by M.J. Ryan. The chapter I was reading was about how we as people view the universe. It starts out with a quote by Joan Barysenko quoting Albert Einstein.
“Einstein was asked what he thought the most important question was that a human being needed to answer. His reply was, ‘Is the universe friendly, or not?'”
The chapter then goes into what happens when we view the universe as friendly vs how we view it as unfriendly. Viewing it as friendly means that “we believe that life is on our side, that good things will come our way, and that even when bad things happen, they are bumps in the road designed to teach us to become more wise, more whole, more loving.” Viewing it as unfriendly means that, “we see our life as an endless struggle against difficult odds, we believe bad things are either random or sent purposefully to torture us, that there is nothing we can count on and therefore we must brace ourselves for the next crisis, hoarding what we have in. In this view, gratitude is very situation specific. We’re grateful – maybe – when things go well, but we are always read to fall for it all to disappear.”
Now I have had enough bad shit happen to me where I subscribed very heartily to viewing the universe as unfriendly according to Ryan’s definition. I wanted to appreciate life, but I was terrified of the next bad thing to smack me in the face just as things were going well. So I asked my treatment therapist what she thought it all meant. She said (completely quoted by her. No bullshit),
“Shit happens.” ~ Treatment therapist
(To soothe your minds before you call the treatment center, she was blunt with me a lot because I prefer it when therapists are like that. She one time told me, after I explained what happened to me in middle school, “That sucks hardcore.” and I never felt more supported by a therapist in my life.)
I was a little flabbergasted though.
“What do you mean?” I asked. (Following conversation is paraphrased)
“Look, I get you like this book, but its not empowering to think one way or the other like its black and white. Go with the flow. Instead of saying, ‘oh well the universe is just a little unfriendly today oh gee whiz’, ask yourself, ‘What can I learn from this situation? How do you adapt?’ You don’t have to be this little positive person all the time to live a good, healthy, meaningful life. Sometimes life sucks, and it may seem like life sucks a lot right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to focus on them.”
She was right. She’s not telling me to push feelings down just to make it seem like everything is fine. Instead feel it, but learn. There is no shame in having a bad day, but don’t brood on it so that it becomes a bad week and then a bad month. The way my attitude is makes a huge impact, but that doesn’t mean I have to adopt only one frame of mind. Life can’t be viewed in one frame; its simply not built that way.
I then asked her about hope. Lately I had been hopeful about a lot of things that probably weren’t going to happen and I was wondering if there was any point in doing that as well.
“If you didn’t have hope, I would be really concerned about you. You can always hope, but it matters how you handle the disappointment.”
It all ties together. It matters about not what you feel, but how you handle it, what you learn from it, and how I adapt to it. Darwin is right when he says that adaption is the key to survival and I’m ready not to just survive, but live.
Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?