Odds and Evens
Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - January 8, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — We’re now starting another year. Some of us may be brimming with hope of better times ahead. Others, however, may be sodden in gloom, fully convinced that things can only get worse. It’s interesting how some people can spot opportunities where others can only see misery.

There are people who claim that they were born under unlucky stars. And if we look at their life conditions, it’s easy to believe their story. These people are always in trouble, always in need, always hopeless.

Their misfortune began at birth. They were born into impoverished homes – some even without parents to raise them – and they grow up to become derelicts and felons. They see no way out of their difficult circumstances.

Yet life offers no guarantees, to anyone. Even among those who were born into affluent families, at least some still end up miserable. On the other hand, a few orphaned and abandoned children are eventually able to rise above their bleak beginnings and attain success, on their own.

It must be true what Shakespeare wrote: “The problem is not in our stars, but in our selves.” Two infants born into similar circumstances will come out two different people. One will see life as a problem; the other will view life as a challenge.

Unsuccessful people will enumerate ten, fifteen or more personal drawbacks for their failure. These, however, are mostly imagined hindrances. They may have only one real stumbling block, though – a flawed attitude.

Yes, we may still lose even if we dare to fiercely wrestle with adversities. But the mere act of trying gives us a chance to triumph, where there’s only imminent defeat in cowing out.

Stressful, hurtful circumstances will always be there. The daily arrows will come our way, and there’s not a thing in the world we can do to stop them. All we can do, at least, is to continually try to evade them, so we won’t get hit all the time. The more we evade, the better we’ll get at evading; so we won’t remain to be an easy target.

But instead of taking cover, we often expose ourselves to the blows. How quickly we take for granted our positive points and dwell on the negative. We harp on our shortcomings, weaknesses or defects. We tend to be satisfied only with perfection, as if it is our birthright.

We feel totally ugly or deficient because of a slight personal flaw. It’s like cutting our heads off because of a headache. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

Not everybody is blessed with stunning beauty to be a movie star. The rest of us who are ordinary looking are blessed differently, with skills fit for the various other jobs of the world. Life would be so boring if we all looked the same, did the same jobs, dreamed the same dreams.

Contentment is an experience that doesn’t only come from fame and fortune. We are okay just to have food on the table, no matter how modest. We don’t need new, expensive clothes to look decent, or tiled houses and water beds to rest well. Many people are hungry and cold, and can only dream of the meager provisions we complain about.

We only need to open a window on the locked room of our own self-centered complaints, to see that others are in much worse state than us. The rigors of everyday living, the responsibilities to look after and the attacks to be fended off can really consume us – but only if we let them. 

There is a time for everything; a time to engage in drudge and duty, as well as a time for play and celebration. Every now and then we need to take off our combat suits and put on our party clothes. Life is very difficult, indeed, when spent only in working and worrying.

It need not cost anything to enjoy a real good belly laugh, except the decision to let up and let go. There are a lot of everyday opportunities to make us smile. Even simple chitchats with a friend can really sweeten our lives. But we need to make time for it.

We are never so unlucky so long as there are people whose faces light up when they see us coming through the door or hear our voices on the telephone, or get a short note of loving regards from us. It is in our human nature to want to connect, to touch others and be touched by them. When we reach out and warm others, we are warmed ourselves.

No one is ever so poor to not be able to share. And openhandedness is a highly therapeutic trait. People who make a daily habit of comforting others are energized by expending that energy. By giving others what we need for ourselves we divert our attention from our own lack.

Life is full of good things, ripe and ready for our picking. There’s a saying: “If we wish to be joyful, we must be prepared for joy.” The process can be started with a simple mindset – gratefulness. Let’s count our blessings; we’ll be amazed to realize how so many we have.

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