Boy, was yesterday going to be a great day! So many fun plans, and perfect weather for them, too! (You: “What were these fun plans, Bill?” Me: “None of your business. But trust me, they were going to be fun!”) I hop out of bed, eager to get started. But first, a quick e-mail check. Yes, this is a blatant violation of the rule Julie Morgenstern talks about in her book Never Check E-Mail In the Morning, but I’m a “throw caution to the winds” kind of guy. Besides, checking e-mail first thing in the morning is kind of like a mini-Christmas, every day. You never know what Cyber-Santa is going to leave in your Inbox. Sure, most of the time it’s junk, but honestly, isn’t there a tiny part of you that gets excited with the anticipation that, just maybe, this will be the day that that long-lost fantasy girl or boy from high school finally comes to their senses and decides to reconnect with you? And so, eternal optimists that we are, we check our e-mail in the morning.
So I’m checking my e-mail (all of which is junk, by the way), and then, because I want to jot something down, I lean forward to get a piece of paper. This is a physical motion of maybe two inches. There’s no heavy lifting involved, no yoga stretching, no weird Cirque du Soleil twisting. Nothing out of the ordinary; just routine. And that’s when it happens.
My back goes out.
This happens every couple of years or so. And it never happens when I’m bench pressing 200 pounds or helping a friend move a grand piano. No, it happens when I’m reaching for a potato chip, or a piece of paper. It’s a nuisance, but one that, with a little ice and common sense, will pass in a few days. But yesterday it meant that, in a blink of an eye, all of my plans changed. The day I was looking forward to was not to be. No matter how much I wished my back were fine, the reality was that it wasn’t.
Sometimes the unexpected happens. Your back goes out. A potential investor has a stroke. Some fanatics fly an airplane into a building. And everything changes.
We can’t always control what’s going to happen in our world. What we can control, however, is how we react. My good friend W Mitchell, who has faced several unexpected and severe challenges in his life, has written a wonderful book based on his equally wonderful presentation, both called It’s Not What Happens To You, It’s What You Do About It. I think Mitchell is exactly right. When the bad stuff happens—and it will—we have a choice to make. We can become angry and/or depressed, or we can turn the situation into something positive.
Before they were twenty, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney had lost their mothers (Paul’s mother died of cancer; John’s was hit by a car). The sudden loss of a parent is a devastating event for a young boy or girl, one that instantly changes everything. John, in particular, became very angry, and this anger stayed with him for most of his life. But he learned to channel his emotions into his music, and created some of the greatest songs of the 20th century.
It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it.
Yes, we’re going through challenging times right now, most of us. Perhaps you’ve been hit hard by the current recession; you’ve almost certainly been affected in some way. The recession is something that happened. The question, of course, is: what are you going to do about it? Your world may have changed, but you’re not helpless. You have choices. It’s easy to forget that in times like this, but you do have choices.
By the way, I had a great day yesterday. It wasn’t the day I had planned on having, and my back hurt most of the time, as it no doubt will for the next few days. But I got caught up on a lot of reading, listened to some great music, watched a good movie, and had a few phone conversations with wonderful friends. Yep, it was a great day.Share