Compromise

Life is about compromise. I’m not talking about compromise as in giving up your dreams; or settling for less; or lowering your standards. Life is a compromise in the sense that in order to get what you want, some other things must be let go. Maybe you didn’t get into your first choice college, or get your perfect job on the first try, or find the man of your dreams. Often what we think is second best may be the best thing that ever happened to us.

We learn from experience, and some experiences are terrible as we live through them. But we emerge stronger on the other side. I liken it to crawling through a cold, dark tunnel with no light shining through. As I’m crawling through the mind-numbing darkness, a pinpoint of light appears. It encourages me to keep going. Gradually the pinpoint grows bigger, and bigger, until I emerge into the sunlight. After being in the dark for so long, I am blinded at first. But soon I am reveling in the light and warmth.

This is how I see bad times in my life. I have made compromises; I have had to give up some things to get where I wanted to go. I gave up a marriage to finish my education; I gave up a lucrative job to save my soul; I gave up toxic people in my life to save my sanity. This is what I mean by compromise. In none of these cases did I give up my dream, settle for less, or lower my standards.

The art of compromise involves walking a fine line. Sometimes we have to think about the decision; other times it’s a matter of doing what we think is right. What’s the worst that can happen if I give up x to pursue y? What if I forego y and stay with x? Sometimes, I have to follow my intuition, my instinct, and it hasn’t failed me. The biggest problem I have is with what ifs – what if I had stayed where I was? Would I be better off? If I had stayed in a dead marriage instead of leaving and following my dream, would I be where I am now? But what ifs are counter-productive; they serve no purpose. Where I am is a good place. I won’t stay here forever, but for now, this is where I am, and I can only go forward from here; I refuse to go backwards.

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Attitude again

How did you get to where you are today? Would you be who you are today if all your experiences had been positive? It has been said that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger (Friedrich Nietzsche) but is that really true?

I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for the experiences I have encountered in my life, good and bad.  I truly believe that, as Dolly Parton said, if you want to have the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain. Life is a journey through good times and bad. If we don’t have the darkness, we don’t appreciate the light. And just because we have light, doesn’t mean that darkness doesn’t exist; just because we have food doesn’t mean there isn’t hunger in the world.

We can’t expect to only have good times or only have bad times. We have to believe that the bad times will end; that the good times may be fleeting but we must enjoy them. All of us experience events differently; what may be good for one may be bad for someone else. We cannot judge what someone else feels by how we feel about the same thing. Our experiences are different; our emotional makeup is different; we are unique. So how do some people survive horrendous events and others don’t? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that our attitude has a huge influence on how we view events. I have seen people devastated by divorce who spend the rest of their lives angry and resentful. I have seen others who use the experience as a stepping stone to a better life.

I try to put a positive spin on everything (like Pollyanna??) but I believe that in the long run, it serves me well.