Thursday, June 4, 2009

good thing? bad thing? who knows?

I recently ran into something in my life that seemed an awful lot like a setback. The Universe didn't give me a flat-out "No" (it was more of a "Not Yet") and yet it still knocked the wind out of me and, for about an hour, I was pretty despondent.

But then I thought of a story I had read in Are You Ready to Succeed? by Srikumar Rao:

An old man lived in a valley with his son, a handsome and dutiful youth. They lived a peaceful life despite a lack of material possessions. They were very happy. So much so, that neighbors began to get envious.

One day, the old man used all his savings to buy a young wild stallion. It was a beautiful horse that he planned to use for breeding. The very same day he bought it, the horse jumped the fence and ran off. The neighbors came over to sympathize. “How terrible!” they said.

“Good thing? Bad thing? Who knows?” said the old man.

Ten days later the stallion returned. It came with a whole herd of wild horses, and the old man was able to lure them into the corral and fixed it so escape was no longer possible. The neighbors again gathered around “What good fortune!” they said.

“Good thing? Bad thing? Who knows?” said the old man.

His son started to train the horse. One of them threw him to the ground and stomped on his leg. It healed crookedly and left the son with a permanent limp and endless pain. “Such misfortune, “said the neighbors.

“Good thing? Bad thing? Who knows?” said the old man.

The next summer, the King declared war and all the young men from the village were forced into the army. Except the old man’s son was spared because of his injured leg. “Truly, you are a lucky man,” exclaimed the neighbors who cried over the loss of their own Sons.

“Good thing? Bad thing? Who knows?” said the old man.

And the reality is that when something, on the surface, seems like a bad thing, it could actually be a good thing. I started thinking about all the times in my life when something "bad" turned into something really "good" (or at least something fairly neutral). That time missing my regularly scheduled train meant I managed to snag a seat on the later express train. Or the time I didn't get a window seat on the plane and ended up on the aisle next to a good looking guy I dated for the next six months.

And vice versa: how many times have I rushed into a subway station late at night to jump onto a train car (when they only come once every twenty minutes), only to find someone really drunk (and potentially barfable) in the car with me?

So I'm suggesting that for the next few days, when you jump to a conclusion that something is bad, instead you say "good thing? bad thing? who knows?" and try to see the doors that opportunity is opening up for you, rather than the ones you see circumstance closing. (And, as a note, the MTA is a really good place to start!)

1 comment:

  1. new favorite word: barfable.

    Great post, Kate. It reminds me of an old joke:
    I was riding in a plane
    Unfortunately, I fell out
    Fortunately, I had a parachute on
    Unfortunately, the parachute didn't open
    Fortunately, there was a haystack on the ground
    Unfortunately, there was a pitchfork sticking up from the haystack
    Fortunately, I missed the pitchfork
    Unfortunately, I missed the haystack

    Boy, isn't life better when we take it as it comes and quit trying to force it into our own framework?