The Shame Old Story
Last year at the beginning of the year my family and I spent New Years in the Adirondack mountains at our camp. We did some fun winter activities outside with our kids that included hiking, sledding, fire making contest and survival shelter building contest. This year my daughter Grace wanted to repeat the fire building contest even though the weather had been raining and the conditions were very damp. Last year they were only given a Bic lighter for the challenge. This year I allowed them to use a knife along with the lighter since the conditions were so wet. The knife is a useful tool when building a fire in wet conditions because you can whittle away the outer wet layers of a piece of wood to make shavings with the inner dry wood. This is super useful in making dry tinder to start a fire when it appears that the entire woods are soaked.
This past week leading up to New Years, I heard a common remark from a lot of people. The sentiment was that they couldn’t wait for 2021 to end, in hopes that 2022 would be a better year. Now it certainly is easy to look back at a year and cite things that didn’t go well, or you down right hated. There may have been things that happened in the year that were totally out of your control that you were devastated by, or that went against every moral fabric of your being. I want to remind all of us that if you made it to another year you are blessed. You are blessed with another opportunity to live life on this earth, and you get to decide how you want to spend your time. Time is like a bank account with a million dollars in the morning and zero dollars when the clock strikes midnight. Time does not carry over to the next day and compound with interest like invested money does. Time simply is spent consciously or unconsciously. Time is either spent on endeavors that mean something to you, or on something that is meaningless to you.
The things that are out of our control are things like the weather. They happen and the only thing we can do is to adapt. Adapting to difficult situations is what has allowed us as a species to survive this long on planet earth. When a species fails to adapt to changes in its environment it goes extinct. Adaptation requires critical thinking and decision making. The shock of difficult situations can often cause a kind of paralysis that can lead to a continued focus on the challenge/problem and how bad it is. This is where many of us struggle to engage the critical thinking side of the equation. We can become emotionally wrapped up in the problem with all the justification in the world to continually remind ourselves of the negative, that we struggle to engage the logical, problem-solving side of our brain that provides us with the opportunity to adapt and create a better life.
In one of my favorite movies The Edge, Anthony Hopkins explains why most people die when they are lost in the wilderness. He says that they die of shame. They sit there and think about what did I do wrong? How could I have gotten myself into this? So they sit there, and they die. Because they didn’t do the one thing that could have saved their lives. What is that one thing? Thinking.
You may not find this of value because your life is not in crisis right now. Right now, things may be tolerable or even pretty straight forward. Your may just be doing your usual routine. One constant in life is change. As the time of our lives erodes into thin air, how are you adapting to the subtle and sudden changes? Are you tolerating and accepting, or are you thinking, creating and using all the resources that you have at your disposal to create? I encourage you as you embark on another trip around the sun to use your innate ability to not just engage the emotional side of your brain, but to also take the time to think, reason, plan, and execute your plan. It is your life, you get to plan it, if you so choose.
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