Choosing joy over depression
"Mom, I saw Sarah at school today. I don't see how she does it," Bella said. Bella attended the same high school as her friend Sarah. Sarah had been involved in a traumatic automobile accident and she was seriously injured. Sarah had stayed in the hospital for many months and consequently missed a lot of school. This year, though, Sarah returned with unmatched exuberance and excitement -- glad to be temporarily finished with her numerous surgeries. Her friends at school welcomed her back showing evident warmth and love.
Recently though, Bella's mom had heard little about Sarah's return. Sarah had gotten re-established again at school and seeing her there became commonplace. Rather than complain and vie for sympathy, Sarah chose a more constructive route. She held her head high, smiled and did the best she could with her severe injury. Sarah's attitude had made quite an impression on Bella.
"Sarah is going to have more surgery next week," Bella said, "but she acts happy and just goes on. Mom, the kids even have to help her carry her books and sometimes open the door for her. I don't think I could do that."
Bella's mom pondered what she had said and recognized that this was one of her daughter's first samplings of what real life was all about. It includes suffering as well as pleasure. She tried to help her understand that when something bad happens, you have to truly make the best of it. You can't always change what has happened.
Sarah's mom said, "You have to learn to live with whatever life hands you. You don't always have a choice in what happens, but you can still exercise a degree of control. You can always make choices and decide how you will allow painful happenings to affect you. Sarah can either choose to be miserable and feel sorry for herself or she can take an alternative route. If she indulges in self-pity she will merely add to her already challenging situation, or she can decide to continue doing her best and keep a positive outlook. The attitude is what will make the difference in whether she's happy or despondent."
Living in the moment is essential. Writer Leo Buscaglia says, "The only reality is now, yesterday is gone and there's nothing you can do about it. It is good because it brought you to where you are right now, and regardless of what people have told you it's a good place to be. There's nothing you can do about yesterday because it isn't real anymore. It's marvelous to dream about tomorrow but it isn't real." Buscaglia continues, "If you spend your time dreaming about yesterday and tomorrow, you're going to miss what's happening to you and me right now, and that's the real reality, to be in touch. Tomorrow is too nebulous."
People who experience the most suffering and learn to deal with those unfortunate circumstances reach greater goals of success and happiness, often, than those who seem to never face any trials. It's erroneous thinking to believe that some never encounter any hardships or sorrows. But you must learn steps to counteract depressing thoughts when you feel hopeless.
Becoming your own cheering squad is one. Never allow a negative thought to remain in your mind. Remember that you are a child of God and he is always with you. Keep in mind that you can accomplish anything that is realistic. You stand as good of a chance as the next person.
Stay away from people who drag you down and cause you to lose confidence in your abilities. If you own a physical disability, remember that you can still contribute and be successful. Complaining and self-pity will only set you back. Read Scripture and listen to the Holy Spirit and genuinely believe that "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy." (Psalms 126:5)
Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.