Tires hit hard on the tarmac as Flight 460 lands at LAX, gradually slowing as it turns toward its assigned gate. Debarking, I become part of the melee of jostling people who are hurrying to grab their luggage off the carousal. Re-positioning my shoulder bag, I hurry to join the fray at the curb jostling to hail a cab.
Welcome to Los Angeles – the city of angels – and life in the fast track.
But there is another fast track few are aware of and no one wants to encounter. It isn’t the race track or the board room of high stakes businesses, but the ambulance entrance to the ER. This Fast Track gets fast attention from the medical staff. This is the fast track I am headed towards.
My unexpected and unplanned flight brought me into the world of hospitals, CT Scans and an unwanted diagnosis. Within 24 hours my days had shifted from a usual work day to sitting beside the bed of my son well into the night after he was admitted to the hospital. His flu-like symptoms had turned into something more sinister – an aggressive Stage IV pancreatic cancer. I had moved from the Fast Track to the slow, methodical world of testing and waiting.
We are governed by laws and rules. Speed and you can get a ticket. Steal and you can go to jail. As children we were given rules to obey or be punished. As adults we put in place personal rules to manage our lives but then insist everyone else must follow those rules as well.
Unenforceable rules are often at the center of most of our relationship problems. Within these rules we find the words, should, must, or ought to. “You should send your mother a birthday card. You ought to give your wife flowers on her birthday. We have to spend all holidays with family.” We expect others to treat people as we do. We assume our neighbors will take care of their yards and pets as we would.
Marriages often suffer the most from unenforceable rules. Each partner brings their bag full of expectations that are never discussed and we assume the other should automatically know. They involve how we parent, how we deal with in-laws, finances, how we express love and concern for one another, etc. “If you really loved me, you would….”
This can’t be happening. There was no warning; no time to prepare. When we look around at the carnage that remains, we are numb, our mind is reeling and we ask, Why? Why has this happened?
And we are left to struggle in the darkness of the night with the tremendous loss that has smashed into our existence. We were not prepared.
But is there ever a way to prepare for the tragedies that occur – that snatches away a loved one before their time or turns our world upside down and inside out leaving us feel as though we have fallen into the surreal world of Alice in Wonderland.
Throughout our lifetime there will be moments of despair when we look at the remains of a life we have worked hard to construct that has been destroyed by a senseless act, an unexpected accident on the freeway, or an act of violence that took the life of a loved one. Perhaps we have been told our child has an untreatable condition, or that our spouse has an aggressive cancer, or a troubled family member has taken their life. Perhaps we hear the words, I want a divorce, or our finances have been wiped out. The list goes on and on. The world as we knew it has come to an end.
And in the darkness of the night we struggle to believe and understand. Why? Why Lord? It doesn’t make sense.
In London’s underground stations you hear a mechanized voice say, “Mind the Gap”, as you board a tube train. That “gap” between platform and train is usually quite small and as a tourist, after the novelty wears off, you take for granted the need to watch your step and the recording simply becomes one of those endearing facets of the London experience.
Neil Gaiman, in his book, “Neverwhere,” artfully creates a more sinister reason for “minding the gap” in his fantasy story about London above ground and the London below.
The “gap” no longer is a small precautionary hazard but one of lethal danger as an invisible cloud-like “black smoke” rises out of the crack, wrapping around the ankles of its targeted, unwary traveler, ready to drag him into oblivion.
Gaps in our Lives
It is easy to overlook the “gaps” that occur in our lives because most of them are simply little daily obstacles we step over. But sometimes, those gaps take on the proportions of huge chasms, larger than life and so threatening that we remain rooted in place and stranded on the station platform while the train moves out.
We live in a world of high power marketing. Technical advances have been rapid and we struggle to keep up with the changes. We are told, covertly or otherwise, that we cannot live without the latest gadget – in fact if we aren’t using all these modern “conveniences”, we are living in the dark ages.
Many technology advances have made life easier with instant access to information and connections. But is it prudent to keep purchasing the latest and most advanced gadget that does everything except bake a cake when you are struggling to make ends meet?
Separate wants from needs.
Put on hold tantalizing wants and shop carefully for what you need. Become a wise consumer. Let the fun stuff go until you have a firm budget in place.
It is critical to take into consideration our future and preparing for unexpected changes. Do I have a savings account established? Do I have an easily accessible reserve account should I need funds quickly? With an uncertain market place, have I updated my resume? Have I adjusted my budget to include rising costs? We not only need prudent spending habits for today, but also how today’s spending habits can affect our future.
Years ago I worked for a company contracted to help injured workers in chronic pain recover and re-enter the workplace. Some had been injured on the job even with all the safety precautions.
As part of their rehabilitation and recovery program, they attended a two week all day class. Most were not happy to be there; in fact some were downright hostile.
Yet after one week, we began to see a transformation of attitudes, mind-set and way of thinking.
It was always amazing to watch this metamorphous from hopelessness, despondency and despair to one of possibility, hope and motivation.
Once again, as so often in history, the world seems to be rising up in violence and protest. The struggle between freedom and domination has always been evident in the lives of men, so while it is not new, it seems to have become more consuming and prominent.
Maybe it’s because technology puts world events on center stage with the flick of a button. So we witness violence and revolts as they happen from the comfort of our homes as though it were a movie.
Central to this world chaos seems to be religion. So wouldn’t we want to stay away from religions and instead rely on our own intellect and reason?
Beliefs and Character
Central to character development is examining our beliefs. But answers for developing character are not found in religious practices, but in the principles and truths that religions focus on.
If you believe that destruction and chaos will serve who you follow, your life will demonstrate that. If you follow reason and intellect, which philosopher, humanist or current enlightened culture will give you the answers that endure over time?
“What alone remains is the ‘last of human freedoms’ – the ability to ‘choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.’” Victor Frankl
It is easy to talk about hope and offer suggestions as to what we can do to offset difficult times. But when we can’t put food on the table or pay the rent, maintaining a positive attitude is difficult to do. Unfortunately, the alternative is usually anxiety, fear, resentment or anger that soon leads to depression and a sense of hopelessness.
This may be the most challenging moment in your life. You may be faced with downsizing or giving up everything you have worked so hard to gain. Yet, as difficult and nonsensical as it sounds, with any situation we find ourselves, we still have the ability to choose how we will respond. We can meet the new day with plodding resignation or with a mindset of possibility.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote,
“To live is to suffer; to survive is to find meaning in the suffering.”
As a psychiatrist and Jew, Victor Frankl survived the tortuous years of confinement in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. In those unbelievable years of torture, death and humiliation, where all the members of his family died, Victor Frankl was witness to how people responded to this inhumanity:
For those who follow me on a regular basis, I offer strategies to empower your life. As a therapist, I have written on the themes of communication, relationships, marriage, turning stress into productive energy, taking charge of your life and ways to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Two other themes I have addressed is time management and financial responsibility. On this last, I have invited Maya Sullivan to share a blog with my viewers on ways to prevent identity theft.
This is her expertise and I think you will enjoy the information she has to share, information pertinent to the age and time we live in. At the bottom of the blog you will find links to Maya’s website where you will be able to read her blogs and find a list of her upcoming seminars.
10 Tips To Prevent Identity Theft
By Maya Sullivan
Identity theft is a serious crime that affects millions of Americans each year.
As a therapist, life coach and author/speaker, I help individuals confront their past, challenge irrational thinking patterns and replace negative beliefs with possibilities. In the process, they are able to let go of the pain, heal and take personal charge of their life.
Therapy is a tiny microcosm of freedom. When we feel there are no options, we strike out, hang on to resentments and anger and blame others for our problems. Remaining in that mindset, however, takes away our personal power.
It is so easy to buy into the idea that we are entitled to a happy life and that somehow others are responsible for that. But when we buy into that belief system, we relinquish our freedom. We are no longer In charge of our lives – someone else is.
In December 2012 I wrote a review of a new book written by Michael Duncan entitled, Shadow Remnant, available on Amazon.com. (See below for links). It is a captivating and riveting novel that takes us a hundred years into the future. This is a copy of that review.