Gifts Come in Strange Packages
by Sunny Schlenger
A good friend of mine has been experiencing a confusing mix of what would appear to be setbacks and problems, and was wondering what she’s been doing wrong.
“Maybe it’s my karma,” she sighed over the phone.
“I don’t think so,” I reassured her. “Sounds more like lessons to me.”
She was not thrilled with this response.
“Maybe you’re right,” she said, “but it’s just not fair. I’ve been trying so hard, and then I get socked with all this.”
Does this sound familiar? “It’s just not fair” is a universal lament, and we all know the correct comeback line:
“Life isn’t fair.” So what can we do with that information? The answer is, “More than you think.”
Life’s challenges give us the opportunity to see what we’re made of and what we need to work on. There are, of course, some challenges that come in the form of horrible illnesses and terrible tragedies that boggle the mind. But for most of us, most of the time, our challenges are really gifts in disguise that teach us what we need to know to become stronger, kinder and better people.
And our most common challenges are rarely total surprises. They’re the same issues, coming up again and again in different forms, until we’re ready to deal with them. For instance, have you ever left one job, or two or three, only to find yourself dealing with the same kinds of irritating people wherever you go? How many times have you thought you’ve successfully sidestepped an uncomfortable situation, only to discover that it somehow keeps reappearing?
Life’s challenges are really gifts – the universe’s way of nudging us in the right direction.
Another friend literally needed to be hit in the head before she could “get it.” She had been procrastinating about following up on a good volunteer opportunity involving her dog. As we were talking about it on the phone she suddenly yelled, “OW!” Apparently her son had tossed a toy to the dog, missed, and accidentally bopped his mom on the head with it.
It’s been said that you can run but you can’t hide, and as with most maxims, there’s a lot of truth to that. Sometimes we’re not aware of when we’re avoiding something, but often we do know, deep down, when we’re not being honest with ourselves. Confronting difficult situations can be tough, but the cost of denial can be equally tough.
Here’s where the concept of “gifts” come in. If you can reframe your difficult experiences and instead of saying, “All I ever get is grief” (even if it truly feels that way) and instead ask, “OK, what, exactly, is going on here?” you then have the opportunity to discover whether, in fact, there is a lesson involved that you can master and move beyond. We get these gifts/opportunities every day but seldom take the time to step back and see if there’s a pattern that we can discern and act upon.
Much of what happens to us has to do with our belief systems and how much responsibility we’re prepared to take for our actions or inactions. No, we can’t control or prevent everything unpleasant, but we can ask ourselves whether we may be contributing to our own problems.
I had a client who was one of those individuals things kept happening to. He was always shaking his head in disbelief at the “total incompetence” of the people he was forced to deal with. He complained that he always wound up in the wrong lines at the bank and supermarket check-out, was always getting the seat on the plane next to the crying baby or the person who couldn’t stop coughing. He was constantly running behind schedule because no one knew how to do his or her job efficiently. Wherever he went, automatic teller machines malfunctioned and faxes got jammed. And so forth and so on.
Now, was he experiencing an unbelievable run of bad luck or the power of expectation? I believe it was the latter – that he did (and we all do) exert a strong influence on what was happening to him, simply through the nature of his beliefs. We end up seeing a lot of what we expect to see in life.
It’s also been said that by changing your thoughts you can change your world. I do know that when I change my interpretation of events, I experience more peace. When I don’t automatically assume that appliances are out to get me when they break down or that family members are targeting me with their bad behavior, I process my frustration in a healthier way.
Life is not a crisis and not everything unplanned is an emergency. Life’s gifts are what you make of them. Examine the packages and see what you can find.