Marvin the Paranoid Android was fond of complaining, though no one ever listened.
"Life?" he moaned. "Don't talk to me about life."
Fortunately we don't all necessarily have this terrible pain in all the diodes down our left side, but life does sometimes throw obstacles and challenges in our way. What happens then depends on our mindset.
If I share Marvin's outlook on life, I expect bad things to happen to me. I'm the quintessential victim. Nothing good can happen, plenty of bad things can and will happen (generally the moment I start to relax) and life is just... Well, don't talk to me about life.
What a depressing way to live. But what else can you do when you're a manically depressed robot with a brain the size of a planet?
In my time I've done a bit of work on myself. I learned the truth of who I am, I finally figured out what I want to be and to do in my life, I took responsibility for living authentically, and I started helping others to do the same. So far, so good.
Then, along comes life and gives me a proverbial slap in the face.
Whack! Take that! Okay, smartarse, now let's see how authentic you are.
Authentic: living in alignment with my values.
Whining, complaining, feeling sorry for myself and being a victim... None of these things are in alignment with my values. Therefore, if I'm really going to demonstrate living authentically, I can't give in to the temptation to indulge in them.
If I'm being authentic then I must practice what I preach. That means refusing to be knocked off balance when life deals me an unexpected blow. It does not mean pretending that nothing is wrong, burying my head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich. It means continuing to take responsibility for the decisions that I make, the actions that I take, and the outcomes that I achieve.
If I do that, I am responding rationally to the situation I find myself in rather than reacting emotionally. Attractive though it may sometimes be to throw my toys out of the cot, stamp my feet and, emulating the former tennis brat John McEnroe, scream loudly, "you can NOT be SERIOUS, man," I know that such immature, puerile behaviour is not only unhelpful but it's also incompatible with who I claim to be.
Therefore, if I really am who I claim to be, I must respond with equanimity.
Yes, this situation is unpleasant. Yes, I would prefer that it hadn't happened. But it has, and I must deal with it. I must be rational, calm and solution-focused whilst at the same time not practicing denial, pretending that everything is just fine.
So, that's what I know intellectually.
How am I doing, really?
I knew someone would ask that question, so I'm getting in first and asking it myself. The only way I can answer it is with complete honesty, otherwise I'm not being authentic. What you see is what you get, if I'm not a hypocrite.
The truth is, I'm doing OK. I have allowed myself a moment or two of "dammit, why'd this have to happen," but by and large my equanimity is intact. I give myself about eight out of ten.
The really encouraging thing about this is that although I know equanimity is important and that it will help me to deal appropriately with whatever life throws at me, my understanding is now being tested. I'm very pleased to report that the theory translates well into practice. I have not lost my cool, I have not thrown any tantrums, I have not even once felt like a victim, and I have responded rationally to the unfolding situation.
I'm sharing all this not because I want to boast about what an enlightened person I am, but because I want to share with you what I'm learning.
The things I teach - mindfulness, self-awareness, self-confidence, always maintaining a constructive, can-do attitude, persistence, patience, equanimity - all of these things are valuable and are serving me well.
There is one other thing that is helping me enormously, and that is the care and support of my friends. That is not something I've ever experienced before in my life - perhaps I've never before known how to accept it or to trust that it's real - but it's been a great comfort to me. Thank you all, most sincerely.
The lessons I take from this situation are that living authentically is not only possible, it's really the only thing that makes sense. Equanimity isn't just some esoteric, ancient wisdom, it's a practical way of life. And the love, care and support of my friends around the world can never be underestimated.
Am I being authentic? I think so. It feels right.
This episode has not derailed me. In fact, in the last week I've been more productive than at any time in recent months, as you'll see if you visit the rest of my website. I think that's because I've had an idea growing in the back of my mind for a while now, and this situation has reminded me that time is passing, I'm not getting any younger, and that if I want to achieve anything meaningful then I'd better get on with it.
Life? Yes! Come and talk to me about life, as often as you like!