Road Signs For Success – October 22, 2008

By Paula Lau

A few weeks ago I read with dismay about a financier in Europe who, in his great despair over the stock market, stepped in front of an oncoming train and ended his life. This and other stories are making headlines around the world as people in crises make life and death decisions that have a catastrophic ripple effect throughout their families, communities and the world at large.

There is no doubt that we are indeed living in uncertain times. Many of the things that we have relied on and trusted in are at the moment very much in flux. That which was solid yesterday (or at least we thought so) is now questionable and shaky. The question for most of us is “Where do we stand?”

One of the interesting, but little known facts, about Hurricane Katrina was that after some analysis social services workers found that out of all the classes of people that they worked with during Katrina and its aftermath, the mentally ill and downtrodden actually fared the best in riding out the storm. In dissecting this interesting phenomenon, they found out that for many of them, the events of days and weeks following Katrina were “just another day to them.” Now whether that’s held true over the long haul or not, I don’t know. But I got to thinking about what it is that made them resilient under tremendous amounts of stress and why the folks who seemingly had it “all together” suddenly fell apart.

In my experience, folks who battle with mental illness do not live in a world of black and white. If you ask them about their experiences in life you’ll find that they will share stories with you where great injustices have occurred, outcomes were not certain and things just didn’t happen the way they should have. A protective measure for them is to “remain open” to both the good and the possibility of the bad. The question needs to be asked, “Do you remain open or are you so rigid in your thinking about your life and how it should go that you’re unable to flow with current events?”

People who face regular and daily challenges are willing to wait in line. They know that time often plays a surprising role in outcomes. We’ve watched the stock market and those involved, literally dance day after day while our media has played a fast and furious tune to back them up. I know it’s difficult to relax (especially if you’re heavily invested in the stock market), but the more reasoned and seasoned voices are being drowned out by the cacophony of one-uppers in our mainstream press. There are those who are saying that this is a correction and given time things will right themselves. Will sacrifices be made? Most likely. But it’s important to remember that the worst decisions you can make in life are those made out of panic and fear.

A little ignorance can be a good thing. If you find that your depression, anxiety and despair grow as you watch the daily news or get your news via the internet, turn the darn thing off. Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add one moment to your life?”

Leo Tolstoy wrote, “The strongest of all warriors are these — Time and Patience.” Six months from now, if we are out of work and starving with very little prospects for ourselves for our children, this article may be deemed overly optimistic and naïve. However, given enough time and a little patience, an ability to remain open and wait in line, we may find that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things are not as bad they may now seem.

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