by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

When I think of the tragedies in life – the car accidents, the wars, the cancers, the brain tumours, the kidney failures, the suicides, the untimely deaths, the alcoholism, the business failures, the unemployment, the marital breakdowns – it’s a wonder I get out of bed. The miracle is that, once I’m on my feet, the oppressive weight of the contemplation of this life is somehow lifted. I’m not saying it’s always easy to throw oneself back into the flow, but there’s an almost immediate sense of reward for having done so. Knowing that the fortunes of life can turn on a dime doesn’t help, either. Such philosophical reflection does little more in my opinion than paralyze the process of living, being akin to a confession of the futility of life. One has to get into the act to experience any relief.

So many of the great stories in life are about people who have overcome obstacles. At times I think there is no one of us who has not had obstacles to overcome, though clearly some obstacles are greater than others. Yet it is not always the magnitude of the obstacle that is overcome that makes for good reading. For some, it is no more than the plight of the poor little rich girl, with whom most have little compassion. What I think distinguishes the true warriors in life is the perseverance to carry on, which after all is the real challenge under any circumstances, whatever they may be.

Barring perpetual obsession with misery, there must be something in our DNA which virtually invites us to look at the bright side of things. Likely whatever standard we may have to measure our current level of satisfaction with life is subject to modification. Where we may have once enjoyed certain perquisites of good health, financial success or whatever, it is nonetheless possible to accommodate change, deterioration and decline. In its extreme, it has been said that nature teaches us how to die. However, between that inevitable end and the less egregious disappointments in life there is a great swath of living to be had. If one were to persist in living only upon the terms which once existed, it is a mathematical certainty that we would each throw in the towel. It’s a game we can never win. Yet when misfortune hits suddenly, the transition to new circumstances is far less fluid than if the loss occurs over time, giving us at least the opportunity to adjust begrudgingly if not indeed willingly.

Surely the real failure in life is in not making an effort to manage what one has been given. Such an object also nicely removes the occupation from the realm of imaginary literary heros and heroines who have sacrificed all that was important to them for the benefit of another. This business of living isn’t, after all, a persecution contest. In defeat there is naturally the possibility of self-pity, itself an extremely wearing and added encumbrance. Granted a period of grieving, or whatever emotion is suitable to the circumstances, is tolerable, but eventually one must get back to it. It’s really the only alternative.

Fortunately for those in greatest need at times of personal trauma, there are resources available to assist them to recover ground. But it has to be admitted that adaptations and time are necessary. It’s not simply a matter of throwing a switch, to turn night into day. Garnering the physical strength to undertake such adaptation often results in delays which are misinterpreted as unsuccessful, rather than merely protracted. It may mean, too, that one must re-engineer one’s living and employment arrangements, sometimes to the point of great exaggeration. If, for example, the problem is addiction to debt, it may mean some serious down-sizing, as unpleasant and discordant as it may seem.

On the periphery of life there are regrettably those who fashion they can never see their way to accommodation, whether because the problem is too belittling or because apparently insurmountable. In truth, neither should matter. Pride and difficulty must take a back seat to the greater hope of carrying on as best one can. If indeed there are those who think less of one because of one’s problems, then I ask, “Who has the problem?” And if one thinks one’s own problems are insurmountable, then I ask, “Who’s to know until you try?” Brave words, I know, but again I can think of no other possibility. It may also be that, in certain instances, setting oneself free of the shackles that bind us is the answer. Often the road that led to the dilemmas was paved by ourselves, tirelessly perfecting the route to misery. So why not cast oneself adrift!

Our ultimate end is to be disowned by the very life we profess to love, and as though with contempt. Not exactly an encouraging prospect for those seeking some consolation for one’s troubles. And yet there are always those tales of those who have succeeded in overcoming their trials, and it makes one think that maybe it’s worth it, even if just to say we tried.