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Adversity

With the fires that scorched San Diego recently, my youngest daughter Amber, a teacher, wasn’t working so we ended up texting a lot. We were talking about all the different wildfires, and the following is an excerpt of how our texts went:

Amber: I can’t believe RB is untouched. Knock on wood.  RB is the area where I live in San Diego.Adversity Quote by C.S. Lewis

Me: Don’t forget we had the Bernardo fire on Tuesday.

Amber: I know haha. It was the very first one!

Me: We’re #1 We’re #1

Amber: Hahahahaha. No time for jokes Dad.

With that last tweet I had to stop and think for a moment. A few moments later I texted back:

I disagree. When faced with adversity, it is the perfect time to make a joke.

“Now why did you say that?” Willow strolled in and dropped into her overstuffed leather chair. A leg over one arm and her head resting on the other. Her long blonde hair draped over the side of the chair, her professionally cut off Jean shorts, and a tank top indicative of the hundred degree weather that went along with the fires.

“Because it is the truth.” I leaned into the back of the chair and intertwined my fingers behind my head.

“How so?” I wished she would look at me. It is like a game we play. She sort of ignores me until she determines if what I am saying is interesting enough to require her full attention.

“Conflict is part of life.” My answer to Amber had been something that just came to me, and I now was winging my explanation. “And from an author’s point of view, it is the nectar of our writing life. Without conflict there is no story, and the same applies to our own lives. Without conflict we would never know what we were capable of and when that final day comes, what would we have to say about what we did and who we were?”

She turned her head toward me with lips twisted, before she said, “But why is it the perfect time to make a joke?” Ah, she was interested.

“What is the alternative?”

She thought for several moments. “There are a lot of things you could do. Get angry. Worry. Cry. Though the best thing would be to deal with the adversity.”

“Does getting angry, or worrying, crying, or any of a dozen other reactions help you deal with it?” Even as I was winging my answer, it was becoming clearer to me in my own mind.

‘Maybe.” I could tell she was trying to work through the different actions to see how they might help.

The Problem is Not a Problem“I think that if you can make a joke, or bring any sort of levity into the situation, it makes you better able to deal with the issue.” The quick comment, I made to my daughter, had settled firmly into my mind. “For me, it helps me to step away from what I am facing and to take a breath. It helps me to put the situation into perspective. And most importantly, if I am making a joke or approaching the situation, that created the conflict, with a light heart, I am able to push aside the panic, the worry, and all the other things that would distract me from dealing with the conflict. Or if the adversity is out of my control, like the current firestorms covering San Diego, it keeps me centered and ready to react appropriately if a the time comes when I can exercise any control.”

She nods and considers my perspective, though she is not quite willing ready to agree yet.

I guess this comes from my belief in what is commonly called the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

So how do you deal with adversity? Do you approach it in a lighthearted manner, do you worry, what is your initial reaction (and maybe well beyond)?

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