Friday, 27 April 2018

What the old cowboy told me

"Making a bad decision is better than no decision at all" the old cowboy says, looking at me fiercely, as if daring me to disagree with him. There's no danger of that - he's a formidable guy, tall and lean and wrinkled, with the wisdom of the old and proud who have lived a very full life. 

Besides, I happen to agree with him. We are so afraid to choose poorly, to make a wrong turn somewhere, that it seems easier to wait and weigh all the options for a little bit longer. But the longer we wait to make a decision, the harder it gets, and here is the real kicker: it's impossible to know beforehand if a decision will turn out to be the right one. So in a way, all the agonizing, the sleepless nights, the list-making and the weighing of pros and cons are futile. Ironic, isn't it?

That's the thing about life: we try our hardest to plan, to make the future as safe and predictable as possible - but our apparent control over our life is really an illusion. We can't foresee what turns our lives are going to take. There are too many elements out of our hands: economy, weather, illness, other people, love and loss. 
We can try to be the best possible person for our partner, but do we have real control over whether they stay or leave? No.
We can work hard at our job, show up every day, never late, never calling in sick, but do we have real control over whether the company will stay in business? Or if there will be a downsizing? Or if new management takes over, changing everything? No. 
We can try to be as healthy as possible, eat our greens and exercise and don't smoke and drink in moderation, but does that guarantee us healthy, long lives? Sadly, no. 

There are no guarantees in life. 
And while that sounds scary and awful and may make you want to curl up in a ball and give up now, here is the other piece of advice the old cowboy imparts on me:

"Never give up," he continues, settling in more comfortably. "I have never given up in my life. Once, I hobbled along on crutches for 4 days, with no food or water, until someone finally picked me up. I was starving and dehydrated, but did I give up? No. Never."

Because here is the thing: while we may not have much control about what is going to happen to us, we have all the control in the world over how we are going to react to it
Also, here is the other great relief: once you realize that there isn't really a right or wrong decision to make, it takes an immense amount of pressure off, doesn't it?

Here's the third thing the old cowboy tells me: "When I get to the top of the mountain and see the valley spread out below, I always stop to look at it. Because it's so beautiful, isn't it? It's so beautiful." 

The old cowboy doffs his hat and leaves.

Here is what I've learned to be true:
Out of the biggest tragedy can grow the biggest joy.
What we think we can't survive will, in fact,  make us so strong that we can do things we never thought we would be capable of doing.
There is beauty everywhere, if we stop to see it.

The old cowboy, of course, is right.


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