Saturday, March 14, 2009

Overcoming Disappointment

Yesterday's quote about Abraham Lincoln was from Rabbi Harold S. Kushner's book Overcoming Life's Disappointments. And as I mentioned in my post, since mine is a secular blog, I don't feel comfortable discussing theology. However, I finished the book last night, and realized that Kushner's message transcends religion, so I've decided to share it with you.

"Kushner turns to the experience of Moses to find the requisite lessons of strength and faith...because Moses was a man whose soaring triumphs were upset by crushing defeats in some of the things that mattered most to him...His people don't listen to him, he is denied entrance to the Promised Land, his family suffers. But he overcomes."

For me, what Kushner says is particularly important because during my last depressive episode, I realized that I have viewed my illness as a "crushing defeat," my inability to achieve wellness as a failure, which I have been unable to overcome, and I have been sorely disappointed.

Kushner writes: "Perhaps failure and disappointment can teach us that we may fail at one thing, we may fail at several things, but that does not mean we are failures as people. The worth of a person's soul is not measured by his or her bank account or the volume of applause a person evokes, but by one's humanity, by one's compassion, even by the courage to keep on dreaming amid the broken pieces of your earlier dreams.

"True success consists not in becoming the person you dreamed of becoming when you were young, but in becoming the person you were meant to be..."

Kushner goes on to quote Viktor Frankel, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist who was interned in a concentration camp, and is the author of Man's Search for Meaning. "Looking back at his Auschwitz experience, he [Frankel] wrote, "Everything can be taken from a man but the last of the human freedoms, the right to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."

"In other words, what happens to you , no matter how hurtful or unfair, is ultimately less important than what you do about what happens to you."

Kushner concludes his book by talking about the blessings in the Bible. "What sort of blessings were these? I can only understand the phrase a 'full and complete blessing' to mean the experience of life in its fullness, tasting everything life has to offer, the bitter and the sweet, the honey and the bee stings, love and loss, joy and despair, hope and rejection. The blessing of completeness means a full life, not an easy life, a hard road, not an easy one, a life that strikes the black keys and the white ones so that every available emotional tone is sounded.

"If you have been brave enough to love, and sometimes you have won and sometimes you have lost; if you have cared enough to try, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't; if you have been bold enough to dream and found yourself with some dreams that came true and a lot of broken dreams that didn't, that fell to earth and shattered, then you can look down on the mountaintop you now find yourself standing on, like Moses contemplating the tablets that would guide human behavior for millennia, resting in the Ark alongside the broken fragments of an earlier dream. And you, like Moses, can realize how full your life has been and how richly you have been blessed."


Paula Joy said...

Wow, Susan, that's really great!! I have been reading about Moses, too, and I have learned a lot from his life. One things that gets me the most is when he said that he couldn't do what God was asking because he couldn't speak well. The truth was, God knew about his speech issue and CHOSE to use him anyway - God promised to be with him.

So, whatever we find ourselves with, be it a speech problem or bipolar, we still have a PURPOSE to fulfill in our lifetime. And, the best way to do that is with God's help.

Sounds like the book touched your life, and I am happy abot that.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula Joy,
Yes, it truly did touch my life! Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it!


Gianna said...

very nice...I like what you've been sharing lately...

It's in keeping with what i think about.

you know I am not religious, but I post a lot about the spiritual and religious because I've always been fascinated by those sorts of interpretations of reality...

I know some people make assumptions about my religiosity but like you, what I post, at least in my mind, transcends religion and speaks to the nature of being human...

I do have a skill though that comes from having studied religion at university to translate spiritual and religious language internally in such a way as it makes sense to me...without it being explicitly religious

I'm grateful for this ability because it allows me to learn from all the worlds traditions while not believing anything in particular. I know I confuse the heck out of people all the time though.

Gianna said...

mmm... I didn't read Paula's comment when I wrote that...

I almost added that purpose in life may not be grand at the eyes of the world...

I feel I am living my purpose now and that alone has given me the will to live as I live the most difficult part of my life so far...

on facebook the other day I put in my "status" Gianna is living the cliche---it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Thanks for sharing. I know that about you and religion. And, as you know, it's a new topic for me to be thinking about.

I think it's great to take what you like from different religions. That way, it's more inclusive, and there's such a richness of material to pick from.

And regarding your second comment, I think it's great that you've found your purpose and can help so many people.

I like that you're using the quote from The Tale of Two Cities that way!


Wendalyn Love said...

Let's hear it for Kushner! What wonderful insights he has! Let's hear it for Moses who never gave up! Thanks again Susan for sharing uplifting, helpful and encouraging remarks! Today is a day of overwhelm for me and I needed to hear these kinds of words. And now... I will begin my self-talk to get me through the day....

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendalyn,
When I'm overwhelmed, I, too, look for inspiration. On my good days, I can find it inside. But, on my bad days, I find it very helpful to read what others have said or done to lift themselves up. I rarely post on weekends, but today I'll write a post for you!


Carrie said...

We all need a reminder sometimes that the love and soul within us (however one defines it) are the definition of self - not how much money we make, speeches that fail, relationships that fail, etc.

Thanks, Susan, for the reminder!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Carrie,
You're welcome. I think I found the quote because I need the reminder as well!