“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.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
They all say all over again that it’s not what’s happening… it’s how we react. It is about how we respond to life, not how life treats us.
When we are in pain, we think less clear and don’t see any solution for our insupportable pain. It takes a great effort and self-power to overcome the dark thoughts and encouragement to fight with that pain. But we have the power to control our thoughts and the way the brain responds in tough times.
I had 11 years back then when I moved for a short while with my widowed aunt. Her husband died in February after a brain tumor discovered 3 months before. After 2 brain surgeries, the 49 yo man died in my aunt's arms in their home — where they loved each other for over 25 years.
Her daughters had their own family and children. So I stayed with her in my inter semestrial holiday. They were afraid to lose her too.
Some evening I heard her telling a good friend:
I want to die to stop this horrible pain in my bones. I want so badly to die to be with him. But this would mean a double pain for our daughters. He would never forgive me if I let them alone. So I must endure the pain and watch over my girls like he would have if cancer didn't kill him.
And it was a clever choice. Some years later, both her girls needed the love and care that only a mother can provide in tough times. The big girl had skin cancer. The small girl lost a baby boy 2 months after she gave him birth.
She was there for her girls because she saw the glass half full when her heart was broken by her husband's death.
The years passed, the sufferings diminished, leaving the small joys to rise. Today she is a cute granny with 2 healthy daughters and 2 healthy grandchildren. Living her last years loving and caring about her family.
Takeaway — Find your meaning in life and see the glass half full to overcome difficult periods of your life.
I remembered this story and reflected on it while I was having a cup of coffee with my mom and complaining to her I am not happy with my flow of life. She asked me brightly with an ironic smile on her face:
But do you want to be happy? And why aren't you content enough, my child? You are alive and capable to make yourself happy!
… and speaking for 15 minutes straight about life and happiness.
I listened to her carefully, somehow scared, and impressed that my mom could say so clever things I heard only on fancy podcasts of couches, psychologists, etc.
Staying optimistic in hard times is easier said than done, sure. But once again studies show that a positive mindset helps a lot to increase the chance of happiness and harmony.
How to stay optimistic when all you can see is negativism?
- Acknowledge that you can't control everything. Understand and accept the course of life.
- Practice gratefulness. Think about all the good things you have in your life.
- Spend some time with a close relative or friend. Talk about your feelings.
- Stop comprising critical moments with the old good times. They will be back, in a way or another. Just have patience.
- Shift your mindset. Work on your thoughts and manage them, don't let them lead you.
When the glass is visibly empty or even broken, be aware you still have the glass! Handle it with wisdom to get it back full of whatever you’re lacking in your life.