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2/01/2002     It's No Fun Being a Grownup
                                 
One of the unfortunate casualties of becoming an adult is the realization that many of the notions we had as children are just not true.  While most of us have overcome the jarring news that dad (instead of Santa) actually bought the bike , and mom (as opposed to the Fairy Godmother) really put the quarter under the pillow , there are other childhood concepts that we never seem to really come to terms with.  One that's been nagging at me a lot lately is the idea that life is supposed to be filled with nothing but good things.  Think about it: by the time we enter adulthood, we have been conditioned to assume (if not demand) that a "normal" life is one where we have no money problems, no sicknesses or diseases to deal with, and no difficulties in our relationships with other people.  Oh, and let us not forget, people we love are not supposed to die. 

Then, as we start to experience some unfortunate events in our lives (an illness here, a broken heart there, the passing away of a relative), we rationalize it by convincing ourselves these are just aberrations, or things that "shouldn't" happen, but sometimes do.  Now fast forward a few years, and what else is put on our plate to deal with: maybe a divorce, the death of a parent, a handicapped child, possibly losing a job when you were already in a tight financial situation. Even at this point, we're still probably clinging to the idea that this stuff is just not supposed to happen in life.  Perhaps we attribute it to bad luck, bad genes, or bad decisions.  While all of these things may have played a part, we still overlook something basic at work here, and it's something we don't want to accept: the idea that, for most of the time we will be on this planet, we will have problems of some sort to deal with.  That, my friends,
is the norm, not the exception.  And for every person who seems to breeze through each day without ever getting hit head-on by one of life's little sledgehammers, I'll show you 100 who have had more than what should be their rightful share to deal with.   

Now that I've depressed you, here comes the good news: we can turn this seemingly hopeless state of affairs into something powerful and positive, and it only requires a bit of an adjustment in our point of reference.  For a moment,
DO NOT look at life in the way we have been brought up to believe it -- that life is a predictable, linear journey, where the bad things that befall us are temporary, unnatural deviations that we must overcome as quickly as possible so that we can get back on our merry, problem-free way. Instead, try to see life as being fluid, a continuously changing situation which, at a moment's notice, can just as easily bring us wondrous highs as heart-shattering lows.  At the same time, instead of separating your life into good events and bad events, try to view the whole of your life as an experience comprised of constantly occurring situations and challenges that can range from beautiful and tender (falling in love, having a baby, consoling a hurting friend) to downright terrifying and tragic (no need for more examples of that here -- I'm sure you can supply your own.)

Initially, this may bring an unsettling feeling,  but the prize that awaits you is a refreshingly different new way to approach the difficulties life places before you.  Instead of struggling to get
over our difficulties, we should focus on getting through them.  This means we must not stop living as we deal with our troubles; instead, as we are trying to  find ways to overcome our burdens, we have to remember that we can't just stop existing until the obstacle is removed and normality can return.  It means that while we are "waiting" for that relationship to work itself out, we are staying busy at strengthening our character; while we are "waiting" to find a job, we are also working on improving relationships with our family; and so on. A large part of the problems we have stem from the frustration we feel at not being able to "solve" our problems in an acceptable timeframe so that we can get "back to our lives."  By removing the roots of that frustration, we may finally be able to start living again.  Dealing with the frustration isn't easy, and that's where prayer to close friends like St. Jude can help, coupled with a belief that there is a God working behind the scenes in our favor. 

Maybe we cannot recapture the innocence of our youthful beliefs.  But in its place, there is the possibility of attaining a new, mature realization of what it means to truly experience all the shades and colors that life offers.  And that just may be the best way to deal with the bumps and curves that we all inevitably must face along the way.

Best regards,

Daniel

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