4 January 2016

Amazing and awful

Last month, I attended a funeral at which the following text was read out: 

'Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful.' 

The service was for a friend's wife, who had died very suddenly, and very prematurely, a few weeks earlier, and the couple's 17-year-old son had asked his father to deliver this quote on his behalf.

These words - from L R Knost, a parenting and children's book author - encapsulate a lesson that's hard for one so young to have to learn. In fact, it's a lesson that's hard for any of us to learn. 

I'm three times that boy's age and have only come to realise this truth in the last few years. Even now, I haven't fully accepted it. I still grumble about the routines of existence and rail against the fates when misfortune comes my way, whether great or small.

You don't need to be of an anxious nature to feel this way. We all have times when we feel angry or upset or worried about the hand we've been dealt. It doesn't help that most of us have an in-built expectation that life should be plain sailing, which makes us resentful when things go wrong.

Of course, nobody can expect to pick themselves up straightaway, and carry on as if nothing has happened, when a genuinely life-changing event occurs, such as a bereavement or a serious illness. These things take time to process and to recover from.

Those of us who do suffer from anxiety, however, are likely to respond even more negatively to challenging situations. 

We spend our lives catastrophising and imagining the worst, fearing that we won't be able to cope with whatever emotional, mental or physical pain we may have face. And when such pain is actually upon us, that conviction only grows. 'I'll never get through this,' we tell ourselves. Yet, somehow, most of us do.

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Realising the amazing and awful nature of existence is both a blessing and a curse. 

As a curse, it can make us anxious and apprehensive, anticipating disaster around every corner.

As a blessing, though, it allows us to appreciate the joy of the ordinary, savour the amazing, and survive the awful, knowing that the ordinary and the amazing are still within our reach.

Wishing you all a year full of ordinary and amazing moments.


Anonymous said...

Love this post, Helen, and what a great quote that is. Great job :)!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, ocdtalk! I think it's amazing that this young man chose this quote - he and his father have been so brave through a truly terrible time for both of them.