“Half the story has never been told…” ~ Robert Nesta Marley.
Superstitions are funny things. For whatever reason, human beings hold on to unreasonable beliefs, even after science refutes them. Whenever my mother spilled salt, she would always pick up a pinch and throw it over her left shoulder. I am not sure what that accomplished – but it was an instinctive action, perhaps to keep evil spirits at bay. Long after people outgrow such beliefs they may still surreptitiously practice them, ‘just in case’.
Another practice which I learned growing up, was not to over-anticipate positive outcomes. Whether it was out of modesty, we were certainly never encouraged to have an inflated sense of our own importance, or another aspect of superstition, we did not advertise happy events too loudly. It is hard to remember this now, in our age of social media and instant sharing of all life events. But it was almost a fear of jinxing a good thing, to keep it quiet. I know that even as a young adult, each time I was pregnant and about to go into labor, I left the bag containing the baby’s clothes at home, not to be brought to the hospital until after the safe birth of the new addition. I was acknowledging that life is fragile, that outcomes are not assured. I was letting the fates know that I respected them, and I would not take anything for granted.
This practice is the complete opposite of a belief in the power of intention, the belief that by speaking positive things, we bring prosperity and success. There was a book that made the rounds some years ago (and there are many others along the same line) that spoke of the power of attraction. By telling the universe what you want (prosperity, happiness, a life partner), by speaking it out loud and believing in the possibility, you increase your chances of it coming into being.
Positive psychology works this way too. Many of us have self-doubts, we lack confidence in our own abilities, we have low self-esteem and cannot see our own potential. Speaking affirmations, saying out loud that which we need to believe, helps to bring about change. I have told many students (especially those mathophobes who freeze whenever they see a dosage calculation exam) that they can tape positive messages to their mirror and recite them daily. Many of them have to believe they can do it before they have any hope of passing the exam. We are all familiar with this. If I don’t believe I can lose weight, what is the point of starting a diet? The weight is going to come right back on. Self-efficacy, the belief that you have the ability to do something, has to be the first step.
But this morning I am thinking more about the fear of saying out loud the things which scare us the most. When faced with a health scare do we share it with only our nearest and dearest, or do we go on facebook and immediately get hundreds of positive comments, prayer warriors activated around the world. How do we handle life’s challenges? When should we keep things private, and when should we call on a wider circle for support? My tendency is usually to keep things private, it is my challenge, and who wants to burden others who have their own hurdles to face?
And so, it may come to a surprise to many, that my own family is celebrating a huge and happy event today. My middle son, (too smart for his own good) has emerged from a seven year, eleven month and two week confinement and is now settling into his new reality: a half-way house. He is almost home. Yesterday he wore ‘regular’ clothes for the first time, ate fast food for the first time, was able to receive a phone call, for the first time.
My father-in-law would often recite the good old Jamaican warning: “Those who can’t hear will feel.” My son has had the opportunity to learn those lessons which his parents could not teach him. He has been given an education that has been both expensive and effective. He has developed skills that hopefully will translate and be useful to him out here in the ‘real’ world. He has developed patience, perseverance, and persistence. He has had plenty of time to reflect on what is important, what are those things that are truly of value in our lives. We can only hope that the world gives him the chance that it should, that it recognizes that he has done his time, he has paid his debt to society and he will be allowed to live his potential.
As with many of the challenges we face, it can be tempting to think that we are alone in our fight. But often when we choose to speak our truths out loud we find that many others have had to face similar situations, or are facing even tougher battles. To those who suffer alongside of family members who have had to learn their lessons the hard way I hope you find the strength to cope, and find ways to see the positive in everything. My own family has grown through this experience. My children have become closer, our bonds are tighter.
This Friday morning I give thanks that my Prodigal Son has moved on to the next phase of his life, and try not to be too emotional. (He thought I was going to break some of his bones when I hugged him yesterday morning). I give thanks for the lessons that life teaches us, and for the opportunity to live through them.
Have a fabulous weekend Family! May you have the strength to survive the bad times, and plenty of good times to balance them out! And however you find the strength to cope with life’s adversities, whether in private or public, be aware that there is always support available, whether you know it or not.