The School of Hard Knocks


I realized some time ago that I was harshly judging my moods and feelings, which only intensified them. I certainly don't think that being pissy or sad are pleasurable states of being- they're called 'bad moods' after all- but relegating happiness as 'good' while denigrating all other feelings and labeling them as 'bad' definitely made for a terrible human existence. However it was in that space of misery that I discovered a new truth.

The truth, or at least the new truth I've created for myself, is that moods or feelings are there to guide me.  What are my feelings really telling me?  Usually, for me, when I'm in a negative state then I really need to take a look at my thoughts because they are the driving force behind my feelings. There are situations happening in my life everyday that I have no control over, but I do have control over how I think about and view those situations and that is powerful.

Life actually turned around for me when I chose to change my viewpoint.  I now try to think of life like a school where each progressing grade or level offers a new challenge.  If I don't pass each challenge then I'm bound to repeat my mistakes over and over until I either progress to the next level or die, whichever comes first.  When something 'bad' happens I seek out the lesson amidst the chaos because there is always gold in the hard knocks if you know where to look.

My latest lessons in the school of life have been quite expansive.  Over the past few years I've experienced great loss, sadness, grief, physical injury and heartbreak with just enough joy sprinkled in to give me the will to carry on.  It was through this tumultuous time that I underwent a reevaluation of what was important to me.  I discovered that both personal health and the closeness to people in my life took precedence over everything else.

But people, situations, jobs, love and even health are all temporary.  Everything can go away in an instant, and I realized that life can be pretty miserable if I focused solely on the things I've lost or if I worried about all the things I could lose.  Now, instead of focusing too much on the past or the future, I work to remain as much in the present moment as possible.  Like that quote from a Sheryl Crow song,  "It's not having what you want, It's wanting what you have," I work to enjoy what I have at this moment, and that gives me access to peace and fleeting moments of sheer joy.

Sure, negative moods and emotions don't feel good, but they do propel me towards something greater. The goal of life, at least for me, is to triumph over life's challenges. Happiness is merely a result of each of those victories. It comes with each new triumph over life's next level challenges and it dissipates when a new challenge is presented.  Like everything else, happiness is temporary.  But so are sadness and anger.  Through this viewpoint the more contentious emotions are transformed into fertile grounds where growth occurs and happiness temporarily blossoms.

So yes, I still do occasionally judge mine and everyone else's feelings and moods, but I now have the tools to move past that judgement.  Choosing a new viewpoint and using my feelings as barometers have allowed me to understand and navigate the world in a much healthier and peaceful way, and I can truly say that  life is much better when I embrace all of my feelings and moods as gifts rather than detriments.

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