Are You Living in the 10% or the 90%?
It’s already been established that I’m a nerd, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that I’ve been watching a lot of Undercover Boss on Netflix lately. Here’s my rationale, each episode is about 45 minutes (about the length of time it takes to cook dinner), I know what’s going to happen and I can just listen to it while I go about my routine. Basically, the noise just keeps me company. But recently, as I was listening to an episode, something a girl said literally stopped me in my tracks,
“I don’t want people to remember me because of what I’ve been through, I want to be remembered by my accomplishments.”
Wow, what a profound statement! Nobody is exempt from the curve balls that are thrown at us throughout our lives. Unfortunately, some of those curve balls are harder to hit than others. I think the hardest part of life is dealing with a loss – loss of life, career, marriage, or health
– the loss of a part of who we think we are can shake the very ground we stand upon. And what is even harder than just dealing with a loss is sometimes those losses are purely consequences of bad decisions made by us or someone else. Thus compounding the feelings of sorrow with guilt, profound regret, anger, frustration, blame, and bitterness. The young lady from Undercover Boss has dealt with the decisions of her mother’s substance abuse and her father’s absence her whole life – leaving her to raise her younger siblings, one of whom is special needs. It was up to this 19 year old to figure out how to pay her mother and brother’s medical bills on a minimum wage salary. She had to abandon dreams of college so she could care for her family. None of these consequences were a result of her personal bad decisions, it wasn’t her fault at all. She could easily have chosen to descend into bitterness and resentment – a place I hate to admit I find myself in quite a bit.
When I was a teacher, one of my principals used to say, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you deal with it.” Think about that for a second. Sometimes we cannot help the things that happen to us. But we can help and control how we choose to deal with it. My natural reaction to a crisis is to first go into what I call Fix it Mode. I do research, I run to the fire to see where it started to learn how I can put it out – I cook, I clean, I do whatever I can possibly do – I stay busy. I don’t know when I will learn that it never works for me. I just end up exhausted and frustrated and spiritually weary. I don’t have the answer about how to deal with a loss initially. Because I never get it right. It’s easy to spout off research from the top therapists and people in the know, but it’s a whole other ball game when it’s your turn at bat. I’ve learned to never judge anyone by his initial reaction to a loss, that’s for sure. I have no idea how I would behave after losing my husband or child or even my home. I hope I never find out. I think everyone grieves in his own way – whatever that grief is for – a lost dream, a lost job, or a lost future. We have to allow the grief to come for a while, 5 minutes or 5 months, there’s no right or wrong way to accept a loss.
But then comes your 90% – the rest of the story, how are you going to deal with this loss, that 10% of life that you cannot control? Are you going to let it consume you and wallow in it for the rest of your life? Are you going to let your struggles define you? Or are you going to use what you learned and change your path? It’s about choices – we can choose to live in the 10% of our lives or we can live in the 90%. The loss might always be there with you, like a scar. But it might also be a change in direction for the better. Each loss is different and we all have them – a lot of them. So how are you going to be remembered? Are people going to look back on your life and say, “Poor thing, he sure had a lot going against him.” Or are you going to be the person who is remembered for changing the world one small decision at a time. As that same principal used to say each day after the pledge, “Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours.”