A squirrel nearly committed suicide under the wheels of my car the other day. Lucky for it, I wasn’t driving. My daughter was. The one just learning to drive. She took us on a slight detour on the shoulder of the road, but she kept us alive, and Mr. Squirrel lived to scramble up another tree.
I often wonder how my kids will react when something unexpectedly horrible happens in their lives. Being mom, I would like to control the universe well enough so that nothing — in the bad sense — ever does happen to shake up their worlds or derail their plans.
In my lifetime, I’ve heard a lot of different stories involving difficult life challenges. In each case, the people involved lived to tell the tale. They each faced different realities, but in the end, they all had to stare evil in the face. No one avoided being wounded in the process.
Yet, the view from each person’s perspective is so different, I have to wonder, why?
Why do some people suffer and later heal, and others relive their pain endlessly, repeating ugly cycles as if they can’t get enough of them?
In a conversation with a friend this week, we discussed the influence of music on our psyche. Some music depresses the mind and soul with repetitious complaint, unfulfilled longing, hellish remembrances, or wonton grief. Artwork can do much the same. In reviewing a pop-cultural art gallery recently, I was struck by how many of the drawings, paintings, and sketches depicted grievous death or demonic hauntings. And then, of course, there are modern movies and television offerings, which we imbibe like shipwrecked sailors tossing back strong drink, bingeing on multiple episodes and drinking in images faster than our brains can process what is happening.
The difference I found between hope and despair?
Take a guess. It’s pretty obvious.
Family and community. Either you have a strong one, or you make one strong.
I have yet to hear anyone share a life story that involved nothing but bliss and happiness. If it isn’t a disease, drug addiction, economic hardships, socio-political inequalities, cultural bias, religious differences, or a hundred other possible ways of hurting and being hurt, we humans seem to find some way to dismiss our bliss or ruin joy for others.
Yet not everyone is miserable. Not everyone gives into despair. Not everyone hates or hurts back. Not everyone hides out in the shadowed corners of fantasy or drug-induced hallucinations.
I know men and women who have lost beloved children, siblings, and spouses; suffered through cancer; experienced poverty; or been misunderstood, lonely, and ignored. But at some point, they decided to get back on their proverbial feet and smile again. Even when there wasn’t a whole lot to smile about. They looked for something to be grateful for. They found it. Then they gave it away. They offered their hard-won joy, peace, and goodwill to those around them.
Funny thing, those people don’t spend much time listening to lamentable music, watching characters slip into repeated despair, shoot chemicals into their veins, consume enough sugar to send an elephant into insulin shock, rant and rave about life and politics, or paint pictures all in black.
Everyone makes mistakes. Mr. Squirrel nearly ended up as roadkill. Some squirrels do, and vultures don’t mind. There are always vultures around happily feasting on someone else’s tragedy.
But, we can learn. Hopefully better than our four-footed friends. We may have to ride on the shoulder of the road to save someone or save ourselves. But we can get back on the road, thinking about where we are going and how we want to get there.
We may not pick our horrors, but we can decide to relive or release them.
Family and community: Either you have a strong one, or you make one strong.
Copyright 2019 Ann K. Frailey