You Get Better Or You Get Bitter
It seems like we go through circles of good and bad times. For every top of the circle, there is the bottom. Sometimes the circles are large and sometimes small, but regardless of the size they always do what circles do best – they come back around.
We tend to judge other people’s circles as not being as hard as our own or not coming around again as quickly. It’s easier to compare our issues with someone else’s partly because it takes the heat off of facing what’s really bothering us. If we concentrate on what someone else is going through or what part of the circle they are on, we don’t have to look at where we are on our own circle.
I know that all seems like I’m going round and round (I’m sorry I’ll stop with the circles now!) but I do have a point. At least once, and I’m being extremely generous here, we are all going to find ourselves in a place or situation we’d rather not be. Most of the time, it will be little things. Our pants are a little too snug or the haircut we got was too short. Other times it will seem much more dramatic; like we are in an apartment that is too small or we are working with people that we cannot stand. Regardless of the circumstance though, it occurs to me that there really is only one question to ask ourselves. Do we get bitter or do we get better?
It’s taken me 30 plus years and a sad divorce for me to come to this question and really this philosophy. We cannot always control the things or people around us – no matter how much better off they would be if they just did things our way – but we can control how we react to them.
I’m not a fan of the old adage “when life hands you lemons make lemonade”. It feels a little like the situations we go through are being downplayed and a bit like something you tell young children to try and get them to move on. And I don’t know about you but I’d say a glass of lemonade, unless it has a shot in it, really doesn’t soothe my soul when life kicks me in the butt. So I’ve found repeating in my head that I have two choices, get bitter or get better, helps to put things in perspective.
By reminding myself that it’s up to me to decide how I’m going to handle the situation I’ve come to realize that no matter how big or small the situation, I’m actually always in control. I can choose to let whatever ‘lesson’ life is trying to teach me lead me down a path of anger and sadness or I can take it at face value and figure out how to use it to my advantage. I cannot control what has happened, but I can control how I’m going to react to it and therefore what I’m going to do about it.
Too often I’ve come across people that have let all of the negative outweigh the positive in their lives. It’s not that I don’t understand how this can happen, it’s just that I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to be someone who other’s look at like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. Woe is me doesn’t suit me well. I’d rather be someone that gets knocked down and figures out a way to carry on. It doesn’t mean that we can’t hurt or we can’t mourn. It just means that we realize, it’s hard enough to get up and face the day without feeling like everyone is out to get us.
Practicing what I preach isn't always easy. I still have my days where I'm tired of dusting myself off or looking for a larger meaning. I don't always immediately go to a better place - bitter still pops up. But I have found that asking myself the question "do I want to get better or do I want to get bitter?" has made staying in the sad place a lot easier to get out of. When I face down my problems knowing that there are only two possible outcomes (better or bitter) it's easier to remember that bitter doesn't serve me and that being better will always mean I'm heading back to the top of my circle.