Pebbles and White Flags

It’s been about four years now since The Situation started in my life. It might’ve been lingering around in the background for a while before that, but I didn’t really notice until the summer of 2015. That’s when things started to feel “off.” They made me pause a bit, ask some questions, veer into unfamiliar territory.

It doesn’t matter what The Situation was and what it continues to be to this day. It isn’t any of the following, but it could well be, for me or for anyone: a cancer diagnosis, the inability to have children, adoptions that keep falling through, a narcissistic partner, a child with schizophrenia, macular degeneration.

The Situation for me is that thing that takes up tons of thinking time. It’s like a pebble in my shoe, even on my best days. I’ve approached it from this angle and that angle. I’ve tried to change my perspective. I’ve tried to ignore it, put it on a shelf, postpone thinking about it. I’ve had varying degrees of success over the years.

On three or four occasions, sometimes for long stretches of time, I thought all problems were resolved. Things got better! The pebble was out for good! I felt hopeful for the first time in ages.

A few months ago, in about May, I realized that, again, my hope wasn’t based on anything real. I felt, again, crumbled, shattered, disheartened. Part of me wanted to scream and stomp my feet and wail about the unfairness of it all… but for the most part, I was just too exhausted to do any of that. An image that came to mind over and over was that of a soldier on the battlefield, crawling on the ground, just barely managing to hold up the white flag. Surrender. Give in, give up. Back down.  I’m done. I no longer see things quite so dramatically and I’m not feeling quite as powerless anymore, but still, there are days when that white flag is such an fitting image.

I sometimes kick myself for not coping better with this.  Other people deal with similar circumstances, and they seem to be doing all right. Some seem tougher, or more resilient, or more easily distracted, or just plain smarter for simply not allowing the unchangeable to take up so much room in their lives. But they are not me, and I am not them, and I am learning to not compare myself too much with other people.

Of course, it is still up to me to do what I can to make things a bit easier for myself (and less annoying and tiresome for the people who frequently spend more than ten minutes at a time with me!). If nothing else, I am relentless in my endeavors!  A few years ago, I went to a seminar about dealing with other types of situations, and one of the courses was entitled “Resources and Allies.” And in dealing with The Situation, I have often searched for resources that might help me deal more effectively with all the factors involved. I’ve read many books and watched Youtube videos. I’ve consulted my mom, and  Handyman R, and a close co-worker or two. I’ve taken courses on (which, by the way, this atheist loves, even with its frequent mentions of the Divine, Universe, Spirit, orange or green or yellow chakras, and the cord that one is to wrap around the core of the Earth three times — if that’ll help me get to the light at the end of the tunnel, I’ll take it). I’ve stuck trinkets in my pockets and notes on my bathroom mirror to remind myself of the deeper lessons that I can learn from it all. Slowly, I’m becoming a bit wiser, a bit more resilient, a bit more detached. I don’t spiral so quickly and easily into fears about the future (how this thing foreshadows that I’ll eventually be alone, abandoned, without joy, forever) or the pains of the past.

In tough situations like this, I sometimes ask myself, “Who do I want to be in this? And what kind of person do I want to be ten years from now? How do I deal with this in a way that I won’t regret when I’m on my deathbed?” I think of a woman I met about six years ago. Her sibling had died in a tragic homicide about eight years prior to that. And that woman’s anger, her sadness, her need for justice, her disdain for every counselor and every support group that wasn’t perfect in their response to her, was so powerful that it seemed like the death had just occurred a few months ago. I know I don’t want to be like that. I want to be that woman who says, “Yeah, The Situation in my life really sucked! It hurt me a lot!  I’ll probably never be 100% okay with it, but I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes. What to do? But anyway, yesterday I saw the most interesting movie/item on a menu/chipmunk on the patio! It was just so fascinating….” I want to be that person who emanates not an airy-fairy aura of positivity, but such things as acceptance (yes, life hands out very crappy situations sometimes, and that’s just part of the deal) and effort (and with that, also knowing when I need to stop trying so hard to fix things) and
curiosity (I really don’t know how things will look next year or even next week).

And, of course, there have been the quotations. They are ones from my dad’s notebooks and from my notebooks. They are ones that I’ve hunted down on Google images. They are from library books I borrowed specifically to decipher what’s going on in my little world. Many of them were, at some point,  taped onto my bathroom mirror or shared on Facebook or emailed to a friend.

As you deal with whatever challenges show up in your life, maybe these words will rouse a different perspective, distract (even if just briefly) from ruminations, and encourage us to keep trying to move things into a brighter light.


Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.  Deepak Chopra This Situation has gently nudged me — or sometimes seemingly pushed me — to completely change some tactics in my life. I’ve been challenged to revise my behaviours in the outer world and also in the inner workings of my brain!

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell I struggle with this, as I’m sure all of us do at some point in life. I’m pretty easygoing about many things in life, but I do have some non-negotiates. I’m learning to lower my expectations in these areas and also attempt doing what this next quote suggests….

Make the most of the best and the least of the worst.

Robert Louis Stevenson

I try to remind myself that there are good things that have come out of The Situation.  Some of my relationships have had new layers added to them because of the conversations we now have, and I know that my understanding of and empathy towards others has expanded, too. As well, I’m learning not to take ANYTHING for granted. I’m seeing just how fragile life is, and I’m experiencing gratitude in more aspects of my life.

Never confuse a single defeat with final defeat.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’m a pro at catastrophizing, and when yet another event is a disappointment, I have to remind myself that that’s just a battle that’s been lost – it’s not the entire war.  Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day’s work absorb all your interests, energy, and enthusiasm.The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superby well.

Sir William Osler.

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. Goethe I like the usage of “humour” here: “go along with,” accomodate,” “adapt to.” I’m reminded that that type of humouring is important,
and so is the other type!

No man ever steps in the same river twice. Heraclitus

I love this one. I have to remind myself that I don’t know what The Situation will be like in the future, and I don’t know what I’ll be like in the future. Most likely, many of the surrounding things in my life will be different, and The Situation may not even exist by that time.  Or perhaps it will, but I won’t be the same person I am today and I’ll have yet another new view of it.