By sharing an upside even in his experience with cancer, David Packman reminds us that, while unpredictable, there is an innate balance in the universe — and in every life experience.
Remember that scene in Forrest Gump when he said, “It happens!” after stepping in a pile of dog shit?
“What? Shit?” says an observer — who just happened to be a bumper sticker designer. “Sometimes,” says Forrest, in his unwittingly prophetic manner.
In reality, Forrest has inadvertently stepped right into the unpredictability of life. “Shit happens” all the time, right? It serves to remind us that — as much as we hate to accept it — our control over what happens in our lives is far less than we’d care to admit.
However that phrase came to be — and it’s origins are largely uncertain — there’s no denying that bad things can and very often do happen in life. However, human nature does have an uncanny knack of shining a light on the negative.
I think we have evolved to believe that if good stuff happens, it’s usually by design. I was smart, I made the right choice, I somehow influenced that outcome — but if it’s a negative result, it was either just bad luck or, more usually, someone else’s fault.
It seems to me that’s the ego in control.
It also assumes we have the ability to do things differently at any given moment — that we have a choice. I’m not so sure about that. Our decisions are based on our values and the experiences we have gained to that very point in time. Sure, with hindsight – you’ve now had that experience and you get the opportunity to try again – you might act differently, but at that precise moment, you will always do exactly what you did.
It’s a complicated topic and the English language reflects that, accommodating us with many similar words with varying definitions. Words such as luck, chance, risk, randomness — even the more metaphysical destiny and fate — all spring to mind.
Every day we have an infinite number of experiences, and all of them have good and bad elements connected to them. A quicker than usual ride to work may only be slightly acknowledged but if you can’t find a car park or get stuck with a ticket; the whole thing suddenly becomes a very negative experience, inducing anger and frustration. We forget very quickly that we even got there in one piece. Which is a pretty big deal when you stop to think about it.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. It will be with me for life, however long that now happens to be. It took me a long time to see any upside in that scenario. But now it’s crystal clear. Not only am I a different person than I was back then, I met my wife, improved my relationships with family and friends, became much more self-aware — and I now have a beautiful baby boy.
Sure, my quality of life has declined somewhat, I have frustrations, I can’t work or play like I used to, and I have some physical discomfort. I guess there’s a natural balance of sorts in the situation — like any — but I know for certain that I needed the experience to help me grow and move forward. I know that none of the incredible, miraculous, life-affirming stuff I mentioned above would have happened — not in the way it did anyway — had I not got cancer.
So it brings me to this. Every cloud has a silver lining. Then again, every silver lining has a dirty great cloud behind it. The essence to that is simple. It’s about perspective. There’s always good in the bad, just as there is always bad in the good. That’s life. Everything is interconnected and counterbalanced.
Every action, every decision, every thought comes with an element of both good and bad — in some sense every life experience is paired.
Even if we strip things back to one of the most basic building blocks of life and the universe — the simple electron — we find that they also tend to form pairs, as it is energetically favourable to do so. In fact, a lone electron is relatively uncommon and often unstable. One could say it is not the particle’s preferred state.
Within the human body, electrons play a role that is — no surprise’s here — good and bad. They are sometimes referred to as the spark of life, creating the electrical signals that drive our thoughts, our movements, and even the beating of our hearts — but they are also the harbinger of decay.
In very general terms, the ageing process is simply free radicals — unpaired electrons – looking for their pair. They do this aggressively, stealing an electron from a molecule and often killing or mutating it in the process. That’s oxidation. Think about rust. Or a slice of apple browning when exposed to air.
It’s all about balance. Yin yang. There’s really no need to berate yourself for what you perceive to be a fouled up decision, or an unfortunate experience or event. No need to tell yourself that bad things always happen to you. Indeed, shit does happen.
And if you expect only good stuff to happen, it soon becomes a recipe for disaster. You are setting yourself up to constantly fail.
Even if it’s hard to see it in any given situation — for me, it took years — the balance is always there, and most importantly, everything will turn out exactly as it was meant to.
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