Ups, Downs, but Never Still

One of my clients was sad. “Something has gone wrong every day this week,” she said. “It’s not supposed to be this way. Life is not supposed to be this hard.”

I asked what she thought life was supposed to be like.

“Smoother.  More effortless. It shouldn’t be so hard. I should be happy.”

Some boats come in faster than others. Photo from Kifu.blogspot

Interesting to think about. My thoughts always go back to immigrants–people who left everything that was familiar to them and traveled (not without danger) to a country that was new and different and probably frightening. Because they wanted something better and were willing to risk. They hoped for a better life, but never expected happiness as a requisite life in their new home.

When my parents were young, they worked hard, studied hard, and created a life that created respect and work they loved. But a few years after they were married, their world fell apart. A war wiped out their house, took their possessions, took the lives of relatives and friends. They arrived in America with a few wooden crates with what was left of their lives and started over.

In my entire childhood, I cannot remember hearing my parents complain about having to work hard or wishing they were back in Europe. My father believed that you built your own happiness, that the effort you put into being happy determined how happy you were.

Martha Beck, the life coach and author, has a wonderful quote about how we view life:

As long as we are breathing, the conditions of our lives will always be in flux, our ships still sailing in, the things we already own potentially dissolving (or disappearing). To accept that fact without anxiety is
to enjoy the process of living. Anything less, and we are simply suffering until we die.
–from  Enjoyment in the waiting

I’m not much for suffering. I think we are here to enjoy life. How much we enjoy it, and how we feel about our life, depends largely on how we look at ourselves and our experiences.

Bad things will happen. We will lose those we love when we are not ready. We will make choices we regret. But for all that, we can still enjoy our lives, balancing the joy with sorrow, for neither one can exist without the other.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. Not every day is a bowl of cherries and ice cream, but very few days are cactus spines, either.

15 thoughts on “Ups, Downs, but Never Still

  1. I just love reading your posts Quinn – and then I get to read the comments as a bonus!

    I’ve had an ordinary, extraordinary life with its attendant heart-aches and heart-breaks along the way. My share? Share?! Well, there have been people who shared them with me and that was a joy. More and more I think happiness is a choice. And no, my life is anything but smooth sailing, nor do I expect it to be as that would be unrealistic.

    I grew up without an expectation of happiness – the belief was that you get out of life what you put in. Work hard and help others along the way. I learned pleasure comes in small things, experiences which do not have a price tag attached . . . a good job done well, good friends, sunshine, a bright flower in the rain. I know it’s trite but what you focus on, seems to expand.

    I recall hearing the Scottish proverb (my heritage), “Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead.”

  2. I absolutely Love your posts!

    Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your views…….



  3. “Be happy” always puts me in mind of “just think” — not ABOUT anything, just think. I suspect it’s impossible; must have content.

  4. My mother was always waiting for, hoping for, and, in many ways, expecting her life to be smoother and calmer than it was. Not necessarily unchanging, but slow changing with time to adjust and no harsh surprises. After I was an adult, I realized she’d instilled this expectation in me. If I did things right, worked hard enough, made the right decisions, then my life would be smooth sailing perfection. It took me longer than it should have to realize that there is no “steady state” in life, except for a few happy peaceful calm moments to be recognized and cherished for being so rare. Life is movement and change and surprise.

  5. first, the click back comment on the email of the post goes to a page which says it is not found.
    next, the only thing we can be sure of in life is the prospect of change.
    i think the media, mainly tv, has fostered, created, a false sense of how life is “supposed” to be, not how each day really is. there are days where it goes smoothly and then, there are days when it doesn’t. on which ones do we learn more from?

    • Pam, I checked all the links in the article and they work. I don’t understand what you meant when you said <> Let me know what you mean, and I’ll fix it. And yes, life is all over the place. We learn from different places, I think.

  6. Lots of interesting things in this Post, Quinn. I know you don’t have a class system in the States in the same way as we do, but I’ve thought for many years that “immigrant class” is seperate and different from the British class system. My parents are Polish, but were taken from their country by the russians to Siberia as children. They arrived in England with nothing in 1947 and 1948 respectively. We were quite poor when I was growing up, but never ” working class”. We had books, we went camping, we had silver that came out at Christmas. They both worked very hard. I don’t think happiness was even thought about, let alone aspired to. I looked at the successive immigrant waves in Birmingham as I grew up and noticed that no matter how poor, there seemed to be no self pity, just great determination. Education was important, but hard work just as important.
    Here’s a quote I found in my early twenties, and found in one of my old journals recently:

    “All happiness depends on courage and work. I have had many periods of wretchedness, but with energy, and above all with illusions, I pulled through them all ”

    Honore de Balzac

    and another

    “When we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of men we are. It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life”

    Cesar Chavez

    • I swear, we had the same childhood. Happiness was never mentioned, education valued, intellect prized. Both of my parents had been to medical school, my father was a professor there, my mother had to drop out because of the war. So we weren’t working class in the way working class is often thought of. I love the two quotes. Very relevant. Thanks for taking the time to write them out.

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