“Margaret, life is about compromise.”
That’s what my dad used to tell me from time to time.
Considering the massive amount of wisdom I’d accrued by the age I first heard him say this, probably around 20 or 21, I remember feeling that my father’s early health problems had colored his thinking. I silently shook my head, and believed he was focusing on the negative — on what you gave up in life. I was sure that with enough effort, and maybe a little good luck thrown in, you could achieve exactly what you wanted.
Now I know what he meant.
He wasn’t being negative. He was being realistic.
Loss — and the accompanying “what if’s” — has to be grieved. But you don’t have to be defined by it.
What if you’d married someone else? What if you hadn’t been screamed at as a child? What if you didn’t have the illness that you suffer from? What if your dad hadn’t died, or your mother hadn’t been depressed? Who could you have been? What could your life have been like?
The Webster definition of compromise is: settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions.
Two parties give up things in order to reach peace. In so doing, they also get some of what they want.
People who know how to be happy find peace within themselves.
They recognize and feel loss. They grieve painful experiences that happen, or they mourn what didn’t happen. But they reach peace within.
They don’t continually ruminate about what wasn’t fair, or seek revenge.
Through the years, many people have described their lives to me in therapy. Marriages have been ripped apart, drunk drivers have killed sisters or brothers, childhoods have been sabotaged by horrific abuse, illness has overwhelmed their partner, chronic mental and emotional illness have made life difficult, or parents have buried a child. It would be easy for any of these people to become bitter. Life hasn’t been fair or just. They’ve certainly not gotten what they wanted. Their grief can, at times, consume their entire being.
The “what if’s” can drive you crazy. There is never a good answer. There is simply loss.
We’re entering another year. I’ve only kept one resolution that I remember in the last few years, and I’d rather not set myself up for abysmal failure so early in a new year. So I won’t make one for 2017.
But I’m going to remember how my dad lived.
He wasn’t focused on what wasn’t. He was focused on what was — on what he had in his life that he treasured and loved.
I will continue to try to do the same — and focus on peace.
Please have a happy, peaceful New Year.
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