How do you pick yourself up when you have been felled by Life?

The only way forward from a crisis is to get up, gather yourself and move on. 
Many a time, Life deals with you in the most brutal ways. And before you know it you have been socked and have been left devastated with the turn of events. How do you pick yourself up when you have been felled by Life? Well, there are no easy ways in such a situation. You have to take Life as it comes, one day at a time, one step at a time.
When a tragedy or a crisis strikes you – death of a loved one, loss of business or money, a serious health challenge, a heart-wrenching break-up – you feel numbed by the event. All you are asking repeatedly is “why” and “why me”? But there are no answers to any questions in Life. So, you can spend time mourning and grieving – and feeling miserable – or you can move on. Now, there is no problem really with grief. It is after all a normal emotion that follows a loss. In fact, when you encounter grief, don’t try to suppress it. Allow it to rise within you. Feel the grief, hold it, let it hang around and watch it as it first rises and then recedes. When you suppress it, when you resist it, it will persist. But if you let it be, it will fade away. In the aftermath of a crisis, when the grief begins to subside, be aware and pick yourself up again. It will appear to be difficult initially. But when you choose to move on, it will happen more seamlessly than you can imagine.
For instance, just to cheer you up, when someone asks you out for a coffee or suggests a book or watching a movie, don’t say no. In the beginning it may appear that you are “indulging in being happy” while you need to be “clinging on to grief”. But allow yourself that indulgence. Don’t feel guilty. The truth is that your feeling sad is not going to undo your Life. In fact, nothing in Life can be undone. So, to move on, after you have been dealt a Life-changing blow, you must first be ready and willing, and then you must actually, physically, move. Moving on is not a feel-good philosophy, it involves a lot of practical, doable, must-do, actions.

But it all begins with believing that there is a lot of Life after a crisis. What you think is the end of the road, almost always, is the beginning of a new journey.  When you move on, when the scenery changes, as Life goes on, you will find that there is much more to Life than just clinging on to the dead past. 

No point in asking ‘Why Me?’

Life simply happens to you. There is no conspiracy. There isn’t any logic. So, relax and deal with the Life that comes your way.

Yesterday we met with a friend. He comes from a very affluent family. But over the years his business has dwindled, his partner has cheated him and he is having to sell his assets, one by one, to support his kids’ education and to keep “the show going”. He’s worried, he feels insecure and has lost his self-esteem. “I suffered panic attacks last month, I fainted at the wheel while driving. I don’t feel like meeting anyone. I wonder why I am going through all this. I just hate it,” he lamented.
Hating what is and asking “why me” is the surest way to suffer. There are no explanations in Life on why you have to go through a phase or an experience. Asking “why me”, therefore, is futile. Just as hating a current situation is. Understand that Life is pretty darn simple – you are created without your asking for it; similarly you are put through a set of experiences in this lifetime and Life offers no explanations for either your creation or for your experiences. When facing Life you are actually dealing with something with which you can’t dialogue, you can’t reason and you can’t negotiate. This may seem hard to do when faced with an irrational situation – but acceptance is the only way to retain your sanity and inner peace. Well, you can choose not to accept the Life that you have been given, but that will only lead to, and accentuate, your suffering.

So, if you don’t want to suffer, simply take Life as it comes, deal with it to the best of your ability, don’t ask “why me” and keep moving on!

Focus on your efforts and leave the outcomes to Life

Asking why something is happening to you is of no use. The best way to deal with a situation that you dislike is to face it and deal with it.
Life has a mind of its own. It delivers situations to you whether you like it or not. Your preferences are not what Life seeks to know before something happens to you. Who wants a cancer? Or who wants to be out of job? Or who would want a break-up – especially years after a heady romance and an equally memorable marriage? Who would want to lose a parent, child, spouse or sibling? Yet, whether you like it or not, several of these contexts, and more, have applied to you the past or currently apply to you or may apply in the future. Such is Life. Asking why must you be in the situation you are in is futile. Life doesn’t answer anyone’s questions – definitely not in a linear fashion. You can, at best, make sense of your Life by looking back, and reflecting on why some events happened in the way they did. As Steve Jobs has famously said: “You can only connect the dots backwards”. And when you do connect them, you will realize that everything happens for a reason, and all change always is for yourgood!
I read the story of Achal Bakeri and his highly-successful Symphony brand of air-coolers in a recent issue of The Economist.  Bakeri returned to India in 1988, after acquiring an MBA from the US and encouraged his Sanand (Gujarat)-based family business to look beyond real estate. He launched elegant-looking, efficient, air-coolers for domestic and commercial use. Soon Symphony was the market leader in its space and a public listing followed in 1994. But Bakeri made a mistake – he capitulated under pressure from investors to make washing machines and water heaters under the Symphony brand name. The move, though logical on paper and in theory, backfired. Symphony’s new products failed badly in the market and pushed the company to the brink of bankruptcy. After several years of struggle, Bakeri decided to focus on doing only what he – and his company – knew best. Which was to make only air-coolers. But he backed up that decision with a significant change in strategy – he took the Symphony brand global. In 2011, he bought a Mexico-based firm which gave Symphony additional leverage in manufacturing, technology and distribution. That move – and Bakeri’s resolve to focus on his core – paid off. Today Symphony’s stock is rated as among the best performing stocks in India in the past decade. The Economist story concludes with this perspective: “Had Symphony not had such a close brush with failure, it would have stuck to the Indian market and never explored the global potential for air-coolers. “It was the best thing that happened to us,” Bakeri says.”

I am sure Bakeri had his own ‘why-me’ moments of self-doubt, self-pity and anger as he revisited his decisions. I am sure he wondered at some time whether he would be able to haul his company – and his career as an entrepreneur – out of the mess it was in. I am sure he too did not get sleep on many nights thinking of how dark and fearful the future looked. And, yet, I am sure, along the way, one thing led to another and things did work out fine for Symphony and for Bakeri. This is how Life will work for each of us too. None of our stories is going to have a sad ending. Even if you were to die today, leaving unfinished business and incomplete dreams, someone will pick up from where you left off and give your story the end it truly deserves. So, stop questioning the Life that is happening to you. If you love what’s happening to you, enjoy every moment. If you dislike what’s happening to you, learn to endure it. Don’t resist Life – that’s when you suffer. Don’t ask why and don’t ask why me? Learn to face Life and deal with it doing whatever you can daily, in the best way you can! Just focus on your efforts. And leave the results and outcomes to Life. Remember: in the end, no matter what you are going through now, it will all work out fine! 

On making this ‘absurd’ Life worthwhile!

Despite the absolute meaninglessness of Life itself, its absurdity, you have to make it worth living.  
Abbott cradles Hughes after the bouncer felled him
Picture Courtesy: Agencies/Internet
In today’s Hindu, noted sports writer and columnist, Nirmal Shekar, writes an open letter to New South Wales’ fast-medium bowler Sean Abbott, whose freak bouncer critically injured Phil Hughes last Tuesday  – an accident that claimed Hughes’ Life a few days later. Shekar’s letter is poignant and is an essay on Life itself. Urging Abbott to treat the incident only as an accident, Shekar talks about the absurd nature of Life. He writes: “…If the ball had climbed an inch higher or moved a shade wider, the world would be a different place for you (Abbott) today — as it would be for all of us, as cricket lovers. It was the rarest of rare accidents that cost Hughes his Life and you just happened to be at the wrong end of one of Life’s devilish deals…How can a person make sense of something that lies beyond all conventional powers of explanation, you might ask. After all, you chose to play a sport — and one of the most culturally sophisticated ones at that. And you might not have killed a fly in your Life…Why me, you might ask…But that’s Life Sean. There are no answers for certain questions, except that much of Life is down to sheer chance. And viewed from this standpoint, Life does indeed seem absurd…”
Shekar’s writing is simple and the wisdom he offers Abbott is profound. There is indeed no point in asking ‘Why me?’ in Life. People, events, situations, moods, attitudes, opportunities and challenges – most of them beyond your comprehension or control when they happen – conspire to take your Life forward. Your Life’s path is never your own doing alone. Some believe it is preordained. Others try to disagree, intellectualizing their argument with rational thinking and evidence. But whatever happens in Life, simply happens. Abbott’s and Hughes’ case is just another one in point. Two young cricketers, both of them in their prime, readying to play a big role for their national team in the upcoming World Cup – and suddenly one of them dies and the other is buried in grief and guilt; all this while playing a game that was their raison d’etre!. What did they do wrong? Nothing! They were simply playing a game! Therein lies the answer to the various contexts and situations, where we find ourselves entangled, in Life. We must recognize that we are just playing this game called Life. The only right we have is to keep playing this game well, being true to ourselves and the spirit of the game, no matter what happens to us.
And everything that happens to us will be – and is – meaningless. We came with nothing. And we will go with nothing. So, why then go through the travails of an academic education, why earn, why raise families, why create assets and why work? If none of what we acquire – degrees, wealth, name, fame and experience – is ever going to matter, why go through the grind of ‘earning-a-living’? So, evidently, everything’s meaningless.
But the purpose of Life is not to make meaning out it. It is never about you alone. And which is why you must often pause to reflect on what you are doing. Your upbringing teaches you that you must be self-obsessed with your grades, your money, your family and your career. But Life’s beauty lies in going through the unknown – called this lifetime – while being useful to others, to humanity. Life’s essence lies in being able to serve before you say you deserve! Only this attitude can make Life meaningful for you. Without this understanding, you will remain self-centered forever. And the more self-centered you are, the more you will resist the Life that is happening – and will happen – to you. That how you end up suffering and agonizing so much.
Life is just a series of events and experiences. The only way to live it well is to go through each of them with a child-like innocence and a student-like curiosity, serving humanity selflessly at every opportunity. Along the way you will learn to live your Life better and better. Every bouncer from Life will then not torment you and every fall will then not finish you. Because you will have learnt to get up, dust yourself and move on … playing on, and making a difference, until the last ball is bowled!

There’s no conspiracy by Life to fix you!

Sometimes the way Life deals with you, can make you conclude that there is a conspiracy to fix you. Therefore, when you ask why something is happening to you, you have triggered off your suffering!
I was talking to a friend the other day. He reported that his business had slowed down, money due to him from various clients was not coming in and he had also lost a couple of contracts. Over and above all of this, his partner had turned cold and was refusing to take his calls and was not paying him his legitimate share of the business profits. “My monthly income has come down to a few thousands, from a few lakh of rupees, in just under a quarter. I don’t know why these things are happening to me. I am consumed by fear and insecurity. I don’t get sleep at nights. I am unable to bear all this suffering,” he lamented.
If you peel away the emotions from what my friend’s faced with, it is all pretty simple: his business is faring poorly and he is not getting enough money to run his Life. Asking why this is happening is irrelevant in the context of what is happening to him. The truth is that whatever is happening is his current reality. And he has to act on it. He must make efforts to both get new business and collect overdue amounts. Now, what happens if he makes those efforts and still does not succeed? Well, even then there’s no point in asking why. He has to try better ways and methods of doing the same thing – promoting his business and collecting his monies.
When you ask why, why me, why me now, in any context, you have invited suffering into your Life. This does not mean you must not examine and analyze any situation. By all means you must. Only an honest appraisal of any situation can lead to specific, pointed action to remedy it. But don’t make the analysis an emotional one. Don’t bring in self-pity, grief, remorse, anger and guilt into the analysis. Don’t bring in God and religion either. Don’t imagine conspiracy theories when there are none! No amount of pining, agonizing and wishing can change what is. If anything can change a situation, it is only sincere, concerted, timely and relevant action. In any situation, therefore, just do your best, and keep trying harder if you don’t succeed the first time. There is no other way.

Suffering arises when you expect things, people, events and circumstances to be different from what they are. Asking why some things happen the way they do or why some people behave the way they do is futile. Things happen so, people behave so, because that is the way it is. When you decide not to suffer and instead accept Life the way it is happening to you, you will appreciate that there is really no conspiracy to fix you. You will then realize that Life, from birth till death, is just series of events and experiences. Your task, in this lifetime, is to flow with Life while learning along the way. It’s really as simple – and choice-less – as that! 

Drop the “Why?” and “Why Me?” questions

When you can’t solve a Life situation, allow Life to sort it out on its own! Don’t persist with asking “Why?” or “Why Me?”. They don’t help with solving any situation or problem!

There are only two kinds of problems. Problems which you can solve. And those that you can’t. When you can’t solve a problem or a Life situation, your frustration – your cluelessness, your helplessness – leads you to ask why something is happening or has happened only to you? Such frustration is natural and understandable. But is of no use. Recognize that it is perfectly fine to be clueless about a given situation in Life. That is really how Life works – you or I have no say in it. It has been always this way. Just because you have been living under the impression that you have been controlling it, it does not mean that you (can) control Life!

My daughter’s junior met with an accident. I believe it was a hit-and-run case. The accident plunged the boy into coma for a few weeks and even as he is coming out of it, the doctors have reported that he is paralyzed neck downward and has lost his power of speech. I am sure the boy’s parents and siblings must be distraught, angry, devastated, clueless and helpless. Such a fine lad – full of dreams and enthusiastic about Life until recently, now consigned to a bed for the rest of his Life!

This boy’s story is of a paralyzing accident. Yours may be different. And mine is different. Even so, all of us, at some time or the other, have been placed by Life in situations that we didn’t ask for and that we disliked intensely.

There are only two ways to deal with Life. Either go with it, flowing with what comes your way. Or fight it. But fighting Life is pointless because Life will still happen the way it wants to. Your fighting will drain you of your energy, will make you cynical and unhappy. Eventually you will realize that fighting Life was a waste of time. When you do wake up to accept your Life for what it is, it will be too late – very little of your own Life may be left! The other way is to flow with Life. Life will continue to happen in its own way – your cooperating with Life will not make any difference to Life’s Master Plan for you. What flowing with Life, however, does is, it helps you anchor in peace. There is no conflict in you. The “Why?” or “Why Me?” questions do not arise. Or even if they do, your choosing to accept the Life you have been given, renders those questions powerless. All your inner conflict comes from these two questions. When you don’t give them any attention, when you accept Life for what it is, you will be at peace in any situation that you are placed in.

So, the best way to deal with Life, when you can’t solve a situation you are placed in, is to drop the “Why?” and “Why Me?” questions, accept your Life the way it is and just flow with whatever is happening to you! You will then be at great peace with yourself and your Life. And your inner peace alone matters above all else!