How to stay positive when the winds keep beating you down.
Yesterday was one of those days where, in every direction (home, health, work, family, kids, school) things were just not going well at all. I’m sure you guys have been there, right? I’m taking big, deep breaths even now as I write this in hopes of slowing my heart rate down and feeling more calm.
Control what you can, and stop worrying about what you can’t. This statement has truly helped me through my most excruciating trials.
Some things are within our control, like, how we feel. On the other hand, there are things that happen to us that are not in our control. It took a while for me to recognize the difference. First, make a mental note and recognize that we always have control over our attitudes no matter what. No one can take that from us.
I’d like to share an incredible story I heard in school as a kid that has never left me.
“Fear of the Children” – Painting by Judith Dazzio from the Holocaust Series
Before I graduated, an amazing speaker came into my classroom. An elderly man entered the room and sat down at the front of our class. Unfortunately, I don’t remember his name or which student was related to him. He rolled up his sleeves and we all saw numbers tattooed on his forearm. He told us the story of when he was about our age. He talked about how he was in hiding, then found, then taken by train to a camp and separated from his family. He talked about how he was afraid. Afraid to starve, afraid to get hurt, afraid to get sick, afraid that he wouldn’t see his family again. He talked about his constant prayers. He shared with us his days of hopelessness, bitterness and sadness. Then he mentioned how he found hope.
What? How could a young teenage boy all alone find something to be positive about in a concentration camp?
His answer was simply this, he stopped focusing on his pain. He stopped worrying about what he couldn’t control. From that point on he accepted each day for what it was and allowed gratitude, grit, optimism, hope and patience to gradually take over. In other words, he just gave it his best each and every day and that was simply good enough.
After a while he started to look for ways to escape. He watched and observed the people around him. This wasn’t something that happened quickly. It took a long time, along with extreme discomfort and pain. He already knew in his heart by this time that he would most likely never see his family on the earth again. Despite those thoughts, he found strength to keep looking.
A painting from the cycle We Are Not the Last (Nous ne sommes pas les derniers, 1970-1976) by Slovenian painter Zoran Music, based on his experiences at Dachau, where he had been deported in 1944
Eventually, he found a way out. It was painful and gruesome. From what I can remember he ended up faking his death and burying his body inside a large pile of corpses that was carried to another location outside the camp. Even when he hid himself, he still had to wait and lay still for several hours before he could free himself.
Fortunately, he escaped and in the few years following the war, he found one remaining uncle still alive.
I share this story with you because the key ingredient to his story was this. No matter what hell we experience we can stay positive by not focusing on our pain. Control what you can, stop worrying about what you can’t and allow gratitude, grit, optimism, hope and patience to gradually take over.
Refuse to worry and let go of circumstances you cannot control. Don’t allow yourself to become so emotionally trapped that it cripples your progress. Things may not always work out perfectly as planned, but the sooner you get over it, the quicker you move on to your next victory. We can only control our own actions and reactions.
If someone can adjust their mindset in that boy’s setting, I can adjust my mindset in my own setting.