“That’s life, that’s what people say. You’re riding high in April, shot down in May. But I know I’m gonna change their tune; when I’m right back on top in June.” — “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra
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I’m a serial complainer. When life doesn’t seem fair, I let whoever I’m talking to know my dissatisfaction with that sad fact.
While in the middle of another one of these therapy sessions recently — where I vent to a friend about something completely out of both of our control simply to make myself feel better — I recanted, “Oh well; that’s life.” It was a simple thought dismissing any sort of responsibility for the “bad luck” I’ve encountered, which is something I rarely do, but it helped make something overwhelming seem almost petty.
I’ve found that a lot of times when life gives you lemons, you don’t have the tools to make lemonade. But there’s always a way to squeeze lemon juice out of the situation, and while it’ll make you pucker, you’ll live to fight another day. Sometimes just surviving is the answer, and when you realize that “fixing things” can actually be the result of just accepting them, it makes it a whole lot easier to get back to lemonade.
That’s where I find Sinatra’s song soothing, in instances where I’m looking for an answer to a struggle I can’t overcome. I still believe that we are in control of most aspects of our “luck” and success. Hard work, integrity, solid relationships; all of these things lead to ascension and achievement of one’s goals. But bumps along the way can nearly derail that path, and can easily become excuses to give up. It’s how we handle those bumps — that can be mountains made from molehills — that makes us either succeed or fail. Instead of giving up on hopes and dreams because things aren’t fair along the way, realizing “that’s life” and persevering can be the key to getting over the hump.
Some things in life we choose: our career path, who we marry, where we live. Some we don’t: the family we are born into, the lot in life we are blessed or cursed with growing up. Both dictate who we become as people, as both have the power to lift us up or completely tear us down. The key is to find a balance between what you can control and what you can’t, while embracing all the blessings you are bestowed along the way.
My life has been an adventure so far. It’s been a wild ride, with twists and turns I could have never anticipated. I feel like I’ve at some point been “a puppet,” “a pauper,” maybe not “a pirate,” but definitely “a poet” and “a pawn.” I’m still wondering what it’s like to be “a king.” I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs in that time, and I’m still learning day by day, year by year, what it takes to handle each situation.
I’ve had people knock me down — “Some people get their kicks steppin’ on dreams” — and others pick me up; and after I’ve dusted myself off, I’ve found not only that I’m OK, but I’m a whole lot wiser because of it. Some people will be a lesson and not a blessing, “but I just can’t let it get me down; ’cause this big old world keeps spinnin’ around.” In the end, it’s up to me decide where I want to end up in it.
Life isn’t easy. For some, it’s easier than others. Still, we all have our battles, and I believe the best way to win them is with a level head. If it’s something I can control, I absolutely should do everything in my power to achieve my goal, whatever it may be for the specific situation I’m in. If it’s something I cannot control, I must learn to acquiesce and let it go. The distinction between the two can be tough, but the rewards for handling both the right way can be insurmountable. Conquering this puzzle this can bring you something most only dream about: peace.
So the next time life feels unfair remember this: While you may not be a king, you can be the master of your own universe, and that means even the things out of your hands are well within your grasp.
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears bi-weekly.