Life to me has, for a long time, felt like it was purposefully giving me struggles and hardships. As if it was placing things directly in the way of the goals I had. I remember that when I wanted to write there would always be a family member coming up to me asking me for help, or when I had to be on time for school I would miss the train. All these small things seemed purposefully placed there. To bully me, to make my life feel like a struggle.
Not only that but larger struggles as well. Like having to redo half a year off school because of a fault made by the school itself. Or three times in a row when I felt like life was going the right way someone close to me would pass away and I had to reset again. This frustrated me. Was life bullying me? Withholding me from all the things I wanted to do? Did it indeed try to make me feel bad and push me backward? As if I had to take three steps back for every step forward, never going where I wanted to go. Or did life have something to say to me that I was, by getting frustrated and annoyed, consciously ignoring?
We all might feel at times like life is against us. As if there is some master high up in the sky that thinks “Hmm how could I make his or her life a little bit rougher?” Finding the right thing and then placing it into our life. We might even feel like it is only happening to us. Comparing our lives to that of people we know. Friends, family, or famous people. Their lives can be seemingly easy and free-flowing. As if they don’t need to do anything for it. I noticed that I felt sorry for myself just because it felt good. I noticed that long after these struggles happened I still allowed them to make my life rough. I wanted to figure out why we feel this way. Why we feel like life is against us, but most of all how we can change it.
Playing the victim role
If I now look back at my own life, and the lives of other people around me that feel like they have been fighting and struggling I notice a pattern. A similarity between us. That is, we all feel sorry for ourselves. We think we deserve better. More actually, we know we deserve better and thus blame an entity that we call ‘life’ for dealing us bad cards. For placing struggles and hardships on our road through life. This is called victimhood, or the victim role. In which we feel like we are a victim to the things that happen. We feel like when we hit our toe against the curb it was the curb’s fault. Or we blame the person waiting in line in front of us for taking too long with their order and thus we have to hurry our way back to the office to make it to our next meeting. There are many examples to give here, many of which I have personally experienced. I’ve blamed a lot of people for the misery I felt, for the struggles, faults, and suffering I had to go through. But why? Why blame everyone? Why did I feel sorry for myself and not change a thing?
It is only now that I see that it is absurd to allow all these small things to take control of our lives. It’s absurd to allow the person in front of us to control our happiness and joyful experience of life. But I did see why we do this.
It feels good. It’s that simple. It feels good to be better than someone, but it also feels good to feel worse than someone. It makes us special and makes us stand out. It gives us a reason to justify the way we feel, instead of changing something about it. A second reason is, it feels less uncomfortable. If that person waiting in line takes a long time to order we have two options. To make the most of our time, which means confronting that we are annoyed and finding something to do with that energy. We could choose to scan the menu and see everything they serve, we could talk to our colleague who is right there with us, or simply look around and observe the people in the restaurant. All-knowing that we first have to confront the uncomfortable feeling of knowing our judgment over the situation is plain old nonsense. We need to realize that we are creating the problem and that we don’t need to do it.
But this is uncomfortable, thus we choose the opposite. The other option, which is to stick with our initial feeling and be annoyed by the entire situation. We blame the person for taking such a long time, we don’t talk to our colleague and are stressing out about making it back to the office as quickly as possible right before the meeting. We don’t enjoy the food we order, nor the healthy exercise of walking. All because we didn’t want to face the uncomfortable feelings within us. The feelings of anxiety that we might be too late for our next meeting and the feeling of annoyance towards the person in front of you knowing that this annoyance is completely made up, nonsense, irrelevant. But don’t we have a good reason for being annoyed? For the feeling that life is doing these things on purpose? After all, you are going to miss your meeting if she doesn’t hurry up.
Let’s give another example. What if you fail your second year of grad school by just a few points. You have a good reason to blame everything and anyone for this. You could blame life for this, or your teacher for not giving you a few extra points on one of your tests, or you could blame your parents for not helping you enough. Many options to blame others, which justifies that you do not have to face yourself and see that you are the real problem here. Isn’t this a valid reason to be mad and feel like life is making everything intentionally hard for you?
To be straight we you. No. Now that’s a tough thing to take in. It took me years to realize that I was the only one who could do something about it. That there was no one to blame, not even life. I was the one who could change something. Why? Because if I didn’t I was degrading the potential of my life. I would stay stuck in that rut place never experiencing the true beauty of life.
Life isn’t your bully
Although it may feel like life is unfair to you, it wants to teach you something with these experiences. It wants to give you a better life, but for that, you do need to change. The only way for life to do this is to deliberately place bad things in our life. To shake it up and hopefully make us realize we need to change, not life itself or the people around us.
Life isn’t bullying you, it isn’t like the kid at playtime who smacks your sandwich out of your hand on purpose. Life doesn’t just smack things you love out of your hands just to laugh at you, or make fun of you. Life or any higher power you believe in doesn’t’ want to mock you. (in this case, I will keep using life because I want this to be universal, exchange life for any God or higher power you believe in, to please your liking) It wants to help you, but help is often uncomfortable at first. Uncomfortable because we don’t know the purpose behind the bad things that happen. We don’t know why we get fired or fail in school, what purpose there is behind these things. It may take some time to figure it out. If you want to figure it out at least.
You don’t want to get out
I want to share a story with you about Rick. Rick is one of the people that seemed to have everything just right. He had a lovely wife, a good job, and enough money to get by. He had a home and still, he wasn’t satisfied. Why? Because he still felt like life was treating him unfairly. Although he had everything you’d ever need to live a joyful life he wasn’t satisfied. One day he was called by his boss, he wanted to speak with him. Of course, Rick didn’t suspect a thing, because he was perfectly fine with his job. He was sure he did his job just fine, and if there was a problem he was never to blame for it. Or at least that is what he thought about it himself. If there was a mistake he would blame someone else, he found it unfair if he was blamed for it alone. Even though in truth he was the only one to be blamed.
“Rick” his boss started off the conversation. “I don’t have good news for you, I don’t want to postpone this any longer but you’re fired.” His boss said, only minutes into the meeting. Rick was both shocked that he was fired, not knowing what he did wrong, as well as furious at his boss. “How could he! He knew that if he was fired he didn’t have enough money to pay the house, his wife didn’t work and thus their only income would be gone.” He blamed his boss for firing him. He blamed life as well because life was always giving him that which he didn’t want to have.
He told his wife about the meeting. She cried and felt sorry for Rick. Reinforcing his feeling of victimhood, but she knew Rick’s qualities. Although Rick was blaming everyone but himself she knew that he was an amazing designer. He could easily find a new job. So she encouraged him to find a new one. She helped him find studios to work for and create a resume. But every studio she suggested, every tweak she wanted to make to his resume to make it better was rejected and ignored by Rick. He was still blaming his boss for firing him. He thought that he wasn’t to blame. He was still trying to prove his right and even wanted to start a lawsuit against his boss for firing him. His wife knew this was absurd and tried to change his mind. Rick didn’t allow it, he started to feel like even his wife was against him. Like she was turning towards him, trying to push him down as well.
He started to be mean to her, he started to get angry with her. Blaming her. He lost all respect for her and himself. Although he of course didn’t notice that he had lost his self-respect as well. His wife didn’t take it any longer. For almost half a year every day, she was confronted with her husband’s anger. She tried to help him but he didn’t accept the help. He didn’t want to be helped. He didn’t want to get out of the rut. Thus she decided to leave him. Yet another reason for Rick to feel sorry for himself. Yet another reason for him to justify his self-sabotaging way of living. He blamed her for leaving him when he was in such a rough spot. How could she? He did everything for her. At least he thought he did in his mind, to everyone on the outside it was quite the opposite. Rick didn’t change. He kept this belief that the world was against him, and it seems perfectly justified, right?
He has all the reasons to blame the world, his girlfriend, his boss, and life for making his life a struggle. Making it a mess and that he was the one that needed to fix it now. The only thing is, Rick believed he was fixing it, but in truth, he wasn’t. He was only resisting it more and more. He, in his mind, was constantly creating new enemies that made his life a struggle. Rick didn’t want to get out of this place. Although he makes it feel like he wants to get out by suing his boss, he never really wanted to get out. He didn’t want to move forward, because moving forward would mean that he confronted himself. Changed himself instead of every possible external factor. It would have meant that he followed his wife’s advice, to find a new studio and focus on the possibilities that this setback gave him.
Rick didn’t want to take that chance. Or better said, Rick, didn’t see that there was an opportunity here. He didn’t see he could learn from life and see life as a teacher. Instead of the consistent and everlasting bully, he was making his life out to be.
So what do we need to do to get out of these situations? However small, or however large they may be. We can face a moment like Rick where everything seems to crumble away underneath our feet, or it could be small moments like missing the train or bus. In both situations, we can react the same. We can blame life and think that everything is working against us, making our own life a struggle or we can do the opposite. Which is to take responsibility.
If you take responsibility for your life it means that you see that life is your teacher. It has never been a bully. It never wanted to push you down. It never wanted to make your life a struggle. All it wanted was to help you, but that help is often resisted because things don’t go the way we want them to. If we take responsibility for every situation we see the beauty in these situations. If we miss our train we can take responsibility by calling or texting the ones we had a meeting with, explaining to them why we are late, and then using that time to get ready for the meeting. Maybe reading through some emails, or reading through the topics list that was created beforehand. This way you take responsibility. You make the most of it. It’s your decision. Your life. Although we can’t control life, and there will be moments that are working against us instead of for us we can choose to make the most of them.
So why don’t we all take responsibility for our problems and struggles?
It’s uncomfortable. It’s the very reason why I resisted changing myself for such a long time. Why it was easier for me to blame everything going wrong and to stay with this feeling of constant stress and anxiety. I didn’t have to face the real problem this way. I could remain focused on superficial things, like the person in front of me waiting in line. (Yes that story is based on my personal experience) Responsibility is rough because you, and only you, are the one who needs to grow and learn to form a better way of living. You can no longer blame anyone for not changing.
Rick didn’t want to take this responsibility because it felt uncomfortable. That’s fine. I don’t want to push anyone to take responsibility. All I want to say is that if you do take it there is a much happier, loving, meaningful, energetic, enthusiastic, and joyous life waiting for you. Actually, see it like this. If you take responsibility for your life right now. If you decide to change yourself right now, in whatever situation that comes up, you are releasing your shackles. Breaking free, feeling freedom for the very first time. You aren’t the situations you are put in, nor are these situations put there to make your life a mess, a struggle, a bumpy ride, or filled with suffering. They are just situations that happen and I’ll explain to you why. But first I want you to decide whether you want to take off these shackles having to deal with the discomfort of squeezing out your hands? Or keeping the shackles on.
If your answer is yes, read on. If no, then I want to thank you for reading this. But I highly doubt you will stop here. There is a beautiful life waiting for you. Don’t deny yourself this chance.
The unknown teachings of life starts here
Now the unknown future begins. You can start to release these shackles and open up. Which means you will probably feel like you are out in the dark. You’ll have to find out why these struggles and setbacks happen. You’ll have to face the problem. Why are you fired? Why did you fail your test? Why are you feeling sad when someone passes away? Why are you stressed out? These are all just examples of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself. See how all these starts with ‘why’ this is the core of seeing life as your teacher. Life doesn’t teach you what or how to do things, it only teaches you why you should do things.
Why? Because life wants you to start at the core of the problem, never on the outer side. It wants you to find the true problem which always lies within yourself. Here are three examples of why the problem and solution always lie within you.
- Example one: you hit your toe on the side curb
Now no matter how amazing it might feel to start cursing or blaming the curb for hitting your toe, you are actually the one responsible for this one. But what is the meaning behind hitting your toe against the curb? It’s insignificant right. It is, but it is a reminder for you to be more present. You were probably wandering away in thoughts and therefore missed the curb. Which made you bump into it. So now you hit your toe, it hurt, but you are present again. You are here right now again.
- Example two: the death of a loved one
This one is rough, especially when you are confronted with death for the first time. I chose this example because all of us will face it one day sooner or later. It’s a rule set in stone, just like the rule is set in stone that one day you were born. Our lives have a beginning and an end. No escaping that. Being pushed with your nose on this fact is like being pushed with your head into a cushion when you are fighting with your sibling. You want to get out, you want to fight back, you don’t want to be there. It’s uncomfortable and it takes away your breath. Yet where you will probably hit your sibling and get out, you can’t hit life back and get your loved ones back. You have to face the inevitable, and the only way to do that is to see its meaning. The meaning of us losing loved ones is to remind us that we are alive. Now there are about a dozen other reasons for death. Like appreciating your loved ones more, or reminding all the lessons you learned from the person who passed away, but the main one is to remind us that we have one life to live. We better make the most of it. Taking responsibility means that we have to take responsibility for this and that we are the only ones responsible for living a good life.
- Example three: a breakup
Just like death, most of us will experience heartbreaks of some sort. Heartbreaks are just as uncomfortable as death or hitting your toe. It hurts physically and mentally and the only thing you want to do is be mad at your ex for dumping you. This is what happened when I broke up a few months ago with my girlfriend. I was the one who was mad at her for dumping me. I became like Rick. Blaming her. Not seeing that I was the one who had to take responsibility here and see the meaning behind this. So what is the meaning behind a breakup? It shows us that this person wasn’t the right one and that we have our flaws as well. If we recognize this we can start the incredible process of becoming a better person ourselves.
Now, these are just three examples, but we don’t always see the meaning behind things right away. There is no need to find it out right away. I’ll share with you why, and how to deal with this feeling of not knowing why things happen.
You’ll figure it out
Some things just seem out of context. In these cases, life indeed does feel like it is bullying you. You can’t find any reason why these things happen. Let me see if I can give you an example. Think about when you are kind to someone. You are helping a person get their life on the rail again. They have had a rough time financially and you try to help them save up and build some financial stability and all of a sudden the person changes. Instead of thanking you for the work you do they start to be rude to you. They start to blame you for not helping them enough, and they take for granted all the help and support you have already given them.
This is one of those examples where there is no real good reason for this to happen. You’re kind, you are open-hearted, and help someone. You are making the world a better place. And at these moments there is nothing else to do than to stop helping, to know that this time it indeed isn’t your fault. Still, you take responsibility for the situation by taking a step back. Knowing you have done everything you can to help the person. Keeping an open and loving heart for them so that when they do came back saying sorry you can help them again. At these points, life serves you something you seemingly don’t deserve. The reason or meaning behind this will become clear to you one day. It might have meant that there was something better waiting for you, or that there was someone else that needed your help more.
The only thing that matters at these moments is to keep going. To keep pushing on without knowing why things happened or how to fix them. The solution will show itself one day. Just do your best and keep going. Now doesn’t that mean you will push away your feeling of guilt or pain if you simply keep going? No, because the reason we keep going is to keep improving and having fun with that. We keep going because we enjoy it. That doesn’t mean we have to push and shove forward, no we go forward when we have given what has happened to us a respected place within our heart. We don’t push that feeling of pain away. We just know that right now there is nothing we can change about it if we don’t know why it happened or how to change it.
We could keep thinking about it, making ourselves feel more miserable for not knowing the solution or we just keep doing what seems to be right. Knowing that the solution to your problem will show itself through the practice and through the work we do.
Finding the way forward and out
Now how do we go forward? How do we make the most out of life when shit hits the fan? How do we move forward when everything feels like it is pushing us back. Like the wind blowing a hundred miles an hour when we have to cycle through it back home.
We slow down. We take our time. We instead of pushing against the wind with all our force we slow down. We keep going forward but we accept that right now the wind is blowing hard. Too hard to move quickly. We will keep moving, knowing that one moment the wind will die down and cycling will be much easier. We will have saved our precious energy when we don’t always fight against the wind. Remember life is our teacher, it doesn’t want to wear us down. It wants to reinforce and empower us.
The power of slowing down is found in clearing the mind. If we slow down we can see things more clearly. We can start to see the entire picture. Now the one thing that is hard about slowing down is that we want to do so much with our lives. We have so many dreams and aspirations. Projects we want to start and goals we have to accomplish. We want to finish a book, a painting, make a business successful, keep up with our morning routine, and the list goes on and on. But when the road of life gets hard often life just wants us to slow down and trust its process. It wants us to know that it will take care of all the stress and anxiety we are struggling with. All we need to do is move forward slowly. Step by step.
See it like watching birds from one of these little houses build in the wood for bird watchers. The practice is to be patient. We can’t go after the birds, they will fly away. We will never get to the birds and see their beauty if we chase them. But when we sit quietly and start observing in our little cottage the birds will come to us. Almost effortlessly. They just fly in and we can witness their magnificence.
Now this observer role isn’t the same as being a victim. A victim is never at ease with where he is. He always wants to show how pitiful he or she is. When you become an observer you are doing the work to make things better, knowing that the birds will come straight to you. This means you aren’t passively sitting still blaming the world, you are actively being still making the most of the silent moments.
One of the big changes for me was simply accepting that it has happened. When I realized that I could simply accept that people left, and things broke down I felt so free. I felt enthused by life again. Now I say ‘simply accept’ not because I mean to say that it is the easiest thing in the world. I mean to say that simply, means that we stop judging. Simply accepting means that we let go of judgment. We let go of thinking we know everything. Simply sitting down means that all we do is sit down. We don’t think about sitting down or judge sitting down, we don’t resist sitting down, we just simply sit down.
The same goes for acceptance. We simply accept. We don’t think about it, judge it, resist it, or anything. We just simply accept what has happened. This creates space. This creates freedom within you. If we are okay with whatever we feel, with whatever happens, with whatever life throws at us there is space that can be filled with beauty. If we keep resisting and holding on, like we do when we become a victim, there is no space that can be filled. You can see it like filling a bot with large rocks and sand. If we have sand in the pot and then get offered stones to put in the pot it won’t fit. But if we, first pour out the sand and create space for the rocks to go in and then pour the sand back in we will see that now the pot is filled.
Holding on denies space for the good to come in.
One thing I have realized is that acceptance doesn’t mean we accept the unacceptable. It doesn’t mean when someone hurt us like Rick was hurting his wife, that we accept that behavior. We accept that this is the situation we are in and then move away or make a change if we can. Now in the example of Rick, there was no way to fix it. Rick was stuck, so the only wise decision for his wife was to move away. In the hope that Rick one day would realize how much he sabotaged his own life.
We don’t know
Finally, we don’t know. After everything we have done, everything we have gone through we don’t know anything. Shit will keep hitting the fan. Life will keep unfolding. We don’t know how or when. We don’t know why and that’s beautiful. You know why?
Because we cease to judge events as either good or bad. If we keep deciding ourselves if something is good if life did this for the better or for the worse will keep creating problems for ourselves. Life is our teacher and deciding something is good or bad would be like sitting in a classroom as a young kid when the teacher would say 1+1 = 2 and you would object saying that this isn’t right. Knowing nothing about math yet. You don’t even know how to spell your name yet. Still, you would object that it isn’t right. See yourself as that kid in the classroom. Throughout our lives, we will never, never, never know exactly if something is good or bad. It just happened. We don’t need to judge it as good or bad. Again be like the bird watchers. Watch the birds silently and allow life to teach you what it wants you to know.
This way you can prevent feeling like life is happening against you over and over again. If we at the core cease to judge life we will cease to see things as bad, and as good. They just are the way they are. Beautiful in their essence. In this way, life is no longer a bully. No longer the one who tries to get you down. It becomes a teacher. To which you are open-minded, kind, and accepting. You allow the teacher to teach you what it wants to teach. You simply sit and listen. You’ll start to see opportunities instead of problems from the teacher’s lessons. You might even find ways to improve the teacher’s lessons so you can share that with others. That is the beauty of starting to see life as a teacher instead of a bully. To see that when shit hits the fan it wasn’t shit that hit the fan. You created the image of shit in your mind, it might as well have been a hand full of flowers or snowy white powder. It’s all a perspective. All a way we can see the world.
Life can hit us hard but we are versatile beings. We have an amazing range of ways and tools to deal with life and make the most of it. We have a powerful brain that can grow quickly. Change its perspective easily. We can make new friends, build new business, find new jobs. Life is abundant considering that there is enough to feed billions of people on this planet. There must be one job for you out there. There must be some money for you out there. There must be something that can make this life a little better. Always keep that in mind.
Remember this. You aren’t a victim of what happens to you. These are all lessons that happen for you. You are only believing that these are things that happen against you. Second, slow down. Take your time and take a step back. See the bigger picture. Don’t force yourself into the wind blowing a hundred miles an hour. Take little steps, preserving energy for when the wind dies down. Third, simply accept that things happen. Don’t judge the acceptance, or resist it. Remember, ‘simply’ means that we don’t judge, resist, think, or change it. We just do it. Fourth, non-judgment over life events prevents our lives from being miserable over and over again. If we cease to judge things as good or bad life becomes a pleasant ride to be on.
Life could be your companion on that ride. Your co-driver. If you allow it to be your teacher instead of your bully. Either way, life will be there with you in the front seat. So you can choose. Would you want someone next to you who is constantly poking and annoying you on the ride, or would you want someone to talk to and enjoy the ride with? That’s your decision. See life as a bully or as a teacher. The only thing to do is take what comes your way and make the most of it.
If you do that you can start openly listening to others and help them with their own experiences of life because if we open up to life’s lessons we all become masters. Whatever age we are we can teach and be taught. We can share the experience of living and we can do that by saying, Today I Lived!
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