I strongly suspect that I am writing this post more for my own benefit than for any reader, but I’m hoping there will be something useful in here for you too. So here goes!
We can’t always know how life will turn out
Fact. As humans, we seem to take comfort in being able to predict outcomes. A lot of the time, uncertainty or the unknown causes us to feel fear. Yet, the fact remains that there is no saying what tomorrow will bring. Life seems very adept at throwing surprises our way (not all of them pleasant). The sooner we learn to accept uncertainty, the better because we can then move on to learning how to deal with this and look for ways to help ourselves.
We always have the ability to respond appropriately to whatever life sends our way
We may not be able to predict the future or control it, but we know that if we’re still around, we will find a way to bat on regardless. Shocks and surprises might lie in wait, but we are not without the ability to act in response to them. In that knowledge lies great strength. People have made it through wars, survived natural disasters and I even heard of a granny who lifted (yes, you read that right, lifted) a car to free her grandchild who was trapped underneath it. People are amazing. People are powerful. Far from crushing us, it seems that disasters often bring out the best in our strength and ability.
Sometimes our greatest blessings come disguised as challenges or painful experiences
This is probably the part of the post that some might find hard to agree with, but I sincerely believe that it is true. Looking back, I can see that it is from my biggest ‘disasters’ that have arisen my life-defining choices, my closest friendships, my faith in humanity, my trust in the process of life, and my confidence in my own ability to endure and deal with whatever comes my way. Let me illustrate:
I was never really a ‘good’ student. Yet it took until I was 21 years-old for me to ever ‘fail’ at an exam. Then, in my first year at the Law College, I crashed. Spectacularly. It sucked. A lot!
Amidst the rubble of that spectacular failure was an opportunity – to re-take the exams within a few months. Passing the re-takes at the first opportunity would mean that I got to stay with the same batch of people that I entered with and hopefully, graduate with them. It would also mean that I would have only a few months after the re-takes before I faced my second-year exams. It was daunting, but I lived in hope.
Then, out of nowhere appeared my ‘cavalry’. It took the form of a mild-mannered dude named Nilanka. I first met the guy at the bank while we were both paying our college fees. Since then, we’d exchanged pleasantries on and off, but for the most part we existed in very different dimensions altogether (he played ‘student’ while I played ‘truant’). When disaster struck, the guy just appeared from out of the blue and pulled out all the stops to help me.
- He gave me all his study materials (I barely had any notes, let alone text-books, question-papers or model answers).
- He would drive to my place every morning on weekdays, before driving off to attend lectures, to go through different topics with me.
- He’d drive to my place most evenings (often around 10 or 11pm) to ask me questions on the topic for the day and answer any questions I had.
Thanks to his help, I breezed through both the re-take and the second year exams (By the time the final year exams came, I had gone back to my wild, boozing ways, but I still managed to pass!).
Thanks to that failed exam, I had made a friend for life (Dude was the ‘best-man’ at my wedding)! Though we live on different continents now, he remains one of my closest friends and one of the people I love the most. I would gladly fail a thousand exams to have a friend like him, so just one exam is a complete steal as far as I’m concerned! Thanks to him, I have now gained another good friend (and sister) in the form of his wife Thanu who is a wonderful human being (and whose cooking, I might add, is utterly divine!).
We are never really alone
When my brother died, my entire grade at school was at my side (along with family, neighbours and so many others). Same thing when my dad passed away. We had their respective coffins in the living room (it’s a Sri Lankan thing guys), but my bedroom, the large balcony and the garden were all full of teenage boys… laughing and joking, (while trying to act ‘funeral-like’). They couldn’t help themselves – that’s what teenage dudes do. And I couldn’t help but join in. Sure the pain and sadness caught up with me later on, but at least for that time, the burden felt lighter. And those memories still bring a smile to my face : )
When I crashed my exams at the Law College, Nilanka was on hand. ‘Nuff said.
When I went through my relationship break-ups, I had my faithful friends and family to see me through it all. So many friends helped out during these times, but I’ll tell you about just one of them. It’s my friend Aflah. The guy had just joined the army at the time I was going through my first break-up (I was a total wreck back then). As part of his training, he had to undergo advanced training in signals and telecom (or something like that). So he was based in Colombo and stayed with his parents. Just like Nilanka had done before, Aflah made the journey to see me, more or less every day. If not, he’d invite me to go over to his place. Either way, he spent all his waking hours and free-time hanging out with me (you have to know a bit about the military to appreciate how precious time ‘off-duty’ is). It’s a big deal and I remain deeply grateful to this day. Again, it was this episode that galvanised our friendship – something we both cherish to this day.
What I’ve shared so far is based on just my my experience. It is therefore confined to a ‘people’ perspective. But people with psychic abilities say they have had the help of departed loved-ones and benevolent spirits at times. Those who are religious, tell of receiving help and guidance from angels or from God. So there seem to be other levels to this. Their stories suggest that we are not completely alone, even when we are physically by ourselves.
In the end, it’s true to say that there are times when we are physically alone. It is also true that we can’t escape our pain and that we can even feel it when we are surrounded by loving people. But it seems to me, that at least for most, if not all of us (and for most of the time), we are not really alone.
Putting it all together
So where am I going with this and where does this leave us? I think that I am beginning to see disaster in a whole new light. The labels we give things are often so inadequate at conveying their full essence and sometimes they are downright misrepresentative. Could this be the case with ‘disaster’. It seems to me that personal disasters and setbacks are the proverbial ‘gift that keep on giving’. Based on my experience, I am convinced that all (not ‘some’) of our perceived disasters are, in fact, blessings in disguise.
OK I’m not waiting for the next ‘big one’, but the minute it hits, I will be on the look out for the blessing(s) it is sure to bring.