I’ve been voting since 1972. There have been years when the candidates I wanted won elections. Then there have been long stretches when every name I marked was resoundingly defeated.
Sure, I was disappointed when I lost. But it’s really no different than other facets of life. We all go through times when we’re successful. Our careers are secure. We’re involved with terrific, stable partners. Family members are healthy.
Then things change. A grown child announces she’s leaving her husband. We spend weeks in a hospital comforting a loved one in decline. The economy goes south, taking part of our retirement along with it.
We tend to bemoan our fate during these ebbs of fortune. We may ask ourselves, “Why me?” or feel powerless, angry and depressed.
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From a distance, it’s easy to understand the cyclical nature of our existence. We bandy about casual phrases such as “what goes up must come down” and “you can’t win ’em all.”
In the late 1950s, Pete Seeger quoted from the Book of Ecclesiastes when he wrote “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and sang about “A time to be born and a time to die … A time to weep, and a time to laugh … A time to get, and a time to lose … ”
Yet when that pain gets personal, all perspective goes AWOL. A tired maxim just doesn’t cut it. A song you once grooved to provides little comfort if the world is collapsing around you.
It suddenly feels as if your situation is unique. That your suffering is somehow more devastating than that of anyone else.
Rather than wallowing in your grief, recognize that ups and downs are a universal phenomenon. Things may sometimes look bleak. But the tide will eventually come back in. Be strong. Don’t give up. And do what you can to facilitate its return.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com.
How to handle life’s ups and downs:
- Don’t get attached to the extremes. Success and failure are both inherently transient. You, on the other hand, have enduring value.
- Create stability. Make decisions that facilitate a grounded lifestyle. Stay within your financial boundaries. Choose friends and partners who are honest, emotionally stable and law-abiding.
- Appreciate good times. Take stock of what’s working around you. It won’t last forever.
- Prepare for tough times. Save money for a financial setback. Carry adequate health insurance. Avoid taking unnecessary risks.
- Be optimistic. Optimism is a healthy strategy for both your body and your mind. It also protects you during stressful times.
- Develop a support system. Good friends are fun and nurturing. They share your values. And they’ll be with you when times get tough.
- Find a spiritual purpose. A strong belief system offers a moral compass during good times and solace during bad.
- Manage stress. Don’t overreact to minor events. Learn to disengage from quarrelsome people. Meditate on a regular basis.
- Seek inspiration. Find motivational friends. Read uplifting books. Listen to thought-provoking speakers and podcasts. The words and thoughts you invite into your brain will guide you through all stages of life.
- Learn from the downturns. Regroup as soon as possible. Analyze what went awry. Plot a different course for your future.