People have often asked how I manage to maintain a smile with all I’ve been through in life. I used to stumble over an answer, trying to explain how I found the key to maintaining a positive outlook was to slap on a goofy grin when all else failed, and do my best to believe it – I actually found it pretty darn successful too. Recently though, a friend summed it up far better with a very succinct expression: “fake it ‘til you make it”.
It’s a pretty apt summation I think. Whatever it takes, even if it’s strategically lying to yourself or playing ignorant, keep moving forward – if things really are at their worst, it’s only bound to get better. Dark clouds define silver linings.
I used to think it was a key to success, but lately I realize it goes far beyond that. I used to want to be amazingly successful, and attain all of the material things I thought were necessary for me to enjoy life. After a certain point, I tried to set my goals more reasonably, and just hoped to get by comfortably. Eventually, I didn’t care if I was succeeding; rather, I was simply hoping to survive.
It’s amazing how life can beat you down, but at my lowest point a few years ago something finally clicked in the back of my head – call it the ‘oh well’ switch if you may – and suddenly I was able to ‘let go’ to great mental benefit. My stress level reduced, and I was able to focus on trying to constantly move forward, while ignoring whatever turmoil may surround me. Years of advice suddenly sunk in, and I became a master of self distraction, and functional aversion – roommates were boggled by how I suddenly took to constantly puttering and cleaning, and loving it. “Why does it make you so happy to clean things?” was asked numerous times.
“It just does – either you get it, or you don’t.”
When cancer dropped a bomb on my life, I borderline frightened some people with how well I handled it. Many expected I’d end up depressed – most were surprised to find me regularly giddy and cracking jokes. I kept telling my friends that laughter was the best medicine and I needed all I could get, but for a while there I’m pretty sure a few may have thought I’d finally gone insane. I was told at one point that a few people went so far as to make inquiries around my social group to ensure I was actually ‘dealing with it properly’ and not just living in a fantasy world.
I’m no mental Superman – far from it. I readily admit that on the day I found out that I was going to either require further surgery or have chemotherapy, and the original surgery hadn’t actually been the end of it all (as I had, albeit naively, completely and fully expected), I darn near fainted in the street as I left the Urologist’s office, and bawled my eyes out shortly thereafter on the shoulder of a buddy. But the ‘oh well’ switch’s breaker flipped back on within an hour, and I started moving forward again.
I’ve had a few dark moments since then too. Narcotics can have nasty side effects, and detoxing off of them can be very rough on a person in a multitude of ways. On the whole though, I’ve tried to keep my focus forward. When all else fails, be honest, talk things out, and eventually it all makes sense. The key is not to let anything bog you down in one spot. Don’t ignore things, but likewise don’t allow yourself to obsess – don’t sweat the small stuff, and all that jazz.
My definition of success has changed dramatically: what defines success through this maze we call life isn’t how well you can thrive in good times – far from it. It’s how well you can survive the worst.
My advice to people: embrace the crap that might fly your way. After all – it’s the low end of the scale which helps define and give an appreciation for the high.
When all else fails, remember this: life’s a bitch – get over it, smile, keep working it, and everything will be ok. 😉