How do we find meaning, create a winning story out of the many slaps life hands us? First, the scientists are right: tragedy is random, not personal. I was raised to believe that God’s hand was in everything. But the tragedy of my brother’s broken life was not ordained, but chance. In religious terms, it was hard to make sense of: a good-looking, lively child who without reason shut down at 15 months, losing speech, comprehension, descending into a blank nothingness that we couldn’t breach. How ever to feel safe when that could happen to a blameless child? My childhood fear was: Is God cruel?
In Getting to Yes, William Ury asks if we say Yes or No to life. In Einstein’s words, do we feel “the universe is a friendly place”? Spurred by his book, I made a list of the worst things that had happened in my life. And then I went through again and looked at what happened afterwards. Was there guidance and help? Did God hear me?
Yes, He did. It was clear as long as I saw the initial setback as random. There’s a huge difference between viewpoints: if you look for an initiator, deliberately setting an event in motion, you will see a very different picture from looking for a comforter after the fact. When you start looking at each hardship after it has happened and don’t take it personally, then you can see the strength, happenstance and kindness.
We had great trouble having children because I had cystic ovaries. At 25 I had two thirds of each removed. My doctor told me I would be very unlikely to get pregnant. We might beat the odds if I could get pregnant immediately, while my ovaries were raw. My naval husband was at sea! A very low ebb – why us? It felt personal. Yet my husband was unexpectedly given 2 weeks leave and our daughter was born 10 months after I left hospital. A miracle? It felt like one – and the surgeon was so surprised he wrote it up in a medical journal.
When Bill had heart failure last year, it was terrifying. Yet that day my gratitude list stretched to three pages. Compare it with the previous day when I had half a page. We were lucky: he survived, but even if he hadn’t nothing could have taken away the kindnesses in that day.
So, yes, life’s jolts are random. They come for no reason, blindsiding us, but yes, God, the universe or the life source, what you will, is also generous and kind. If you look, you can see happenstance, coincidence, and strength – the universe finding its way to you through the hearts of others. The grace notes of despair.
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by William Ury – link to description