Consider the following: Your boss has just given you the old heave ho – you’ve been pink-slipped. Now, how do you react? Or maybe your hot-water heater has exploded, flooding your basement and incurring an expense far beyond what you can afford – and insurance barely covers it. What now?
You’ve just learned that you have a serious illness. You’re not sure how you’ll cope with the pain, the cost and the anticipated time away from work. And what are you going to do about it? Any of the above examples can be seen as a catastrophe, but if you try to find that flip side, you may weather the storm with greater ease and grace.
Grace is not just a state to which one can aspire. Grace is what one demonstrates when greeted with life’s great disappointments where dignity and a sense of serenity may help to ease the pain.
Grace under fire
This is, of course, often easier said than done. How can one become calm when faced with bad news? Well, that’s the whole point: When the bad news hits, resist the urge to kick, scream and pummel your way as you vent your anger. Instead, take several deep, calming breaths and focus. What does this bad news mean to you? How will it affect you? What can you do to face it head-on? This is a time for you to be practical, and to examine your situation objectively.
Let’s look at the circumstances above: Learning that you’ve lost your job may feel like a sucker punch, but remaining calm is beneficial for several reasons. First, because your employer will appreciate your lack of dramatics, so when you ask them for a letter of reference, they will be much more likely to assist you. Plus, you never know what company the person who’s letting you go may end up at – they might be in a position to hire you again, somewhere else.
Secondly, the grace that you show demonstrates that you are in control – and thus makes you feel more in control. Who knows: when you work out that severance package, you could be more likely to receive the optimal arrangement, because of your clear-headed grace. Third, remember that the feeling you get from this graceful demeanor will physically and emotionally help to actually calm you. Yes, you still must search for a job, but at least you will have left with your dignity – and your contacts – intact.
Dealing with news of a serious illness is perhaps the most troubling, because your mortality is now in question. So calmly digest the news, and examine what this means to you. You’ll need to ensure that your health policy and your finances are in order. You may need to arrange for assistance from a close friend or family member for doctor visits, treatments and home care. You’ll need to get your finances in order, and arrange your schedule to accommodate your treatments. But above all, this is the need to find a calm place – a state of grace – that will see you through. Screaming, panicking, and losing control won’t make you better, and it will push the very people away on whom you are really depending to help you (doctors, nurses, friends, relatives and other advisors). So take that deep breath, examine your situation, and deal with this gracefully. Bear in mind that doctors tend to respond more favorably to patients who have taken the time to intelligently assess their situations and therefore ask the right questions – rather than those who try to place blame.
Strength in balance
As for the flooded basement scenario, it’s bad… but no one will die from this. You will arrange for someone to pump out the water, and someone else to install a new heater. Yes, the cost will be painful, but demonstrating your graceful state (and maybe even a little humor!) will make it easier on everyone.
In all these cases, if you can find that sense of grace and balance, you will come through the situation a much stronger person. In fact, it will help you build character. Many people over the age of 40 find that this becomes easier as they age. What would once have sent them into a tizzy now runs like water down their backs. They’ve been through the anger and loss of control, and they have learned that it doesn’t solve their problems. Try repeating “this, too, shall pass” like a mantra… because it shall.
Life is full of challenges, but it’s how we meet them that says the most about us. Be graceful, be calm, find a serene place in your heart – and tap into that when faced with the worst. You will be happier for it.
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