Sucker-Punched by Life: How to Cope During Stormy Times

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.” ~Charles Dickens from A Tale of Two Cities

During her 1992 Christmas message, Queen Elizabeth referred to the past year as “annus horribilus” — a horrible year. It was the year that the marriages broke down of her two sons Charles and Andrew, and Windsor Castle burned down. I can relate to the Queen’s sentiments. For me, this has been “menis horribilus” — a horrible month.

We all expect unpleasant things to happen to us now and then, but I have felt sucker-punched by a series of events and situations in my life that have left me gasping for air. I have been dealing with some of these things for a while. But several in the last few days and weeks — the loss of a friendship, the death of a neighbor, the serious illness of a beloved aunt — have dropped on me like an atom bomb, rendering me wobbly and stunned.

By nature, I am a positive person and have learned to move past difficulties without bitterness or remorse. I strongly desire a whole and healthy life, and I don’t hesitate to ask for help and support when I need it. I am quick to seek the lessons from a situation or try to find the good to take away from the bad.

But sometimes, when you experience a series of unfortunate events, you just want to crawl in a hole and dwell on the awfulness of it all.

Why, when I am working so hard to live a balanced, happy and peaceful life, is the hand of fate reaching down to rock my world and throw me off course? I think the “working  so hard” part of that question is part of the key to the answer.

As much as I believe in controlling one’s own destiny and creating the life you want to live, I also know that so very much is out of our control. It’s all well and good to define and work toward the life of your dreams. I do believe with planning and action, you can make your life profoundly better.

But when a storm comes, sometimes you just have to stop working so hard and just relax into the turmoil and confusion. You have to embrace the strange beauty of life’s ambiguity and randomness. The storms are inevitable, and as with all storms, they eventually calm down, and you can assess the lay of the land. It is what you do during the storms that can be life-changing.

Here is what I have learned and continue to learn about what we can control in life and how to be peaceful and strong during the best of times and the worst of times. I hope it helps you too.

Bad stuff happens—sometimes really bad stuff. Accepting this fact can be the greatest awakening of your life. It’s the start of real peace of mind. Acknowledging that life is uncertain is the first step toward authenticity—toward discovering who you are and what you are made of.

So try this for a moment: imagine yourself on a boat. It is your boat. You are floating along the river of life.

Sometimes the river is calm, the sun is shining, and the scenery is beautiful. Sometimes the people on the shore are happy and smiling. But just around the bend, the water starts to get rough. The rain comes down, the sky is dark, and landscape is barren and oppressive. The people on the shore are angry or demanding or have run away. But in your boat, you remain calm.

You have seen this landscape before, and you know it’s only temporary.

You use this time to patch holes in your boat, to learn to ride the rough waves, to steer clear of the rocks, and to look ahead to the next bend in the river. You know that sooner or later the scenery will change. You can’t control what will appear next, but you can control your boat.

There’s peace in that. There’s certainty in that one thing—you can control your boat. Don’t keep trying to control people or circumstances. Let them go. Let them float on by.

Just command yourself. Just decide to be the peaceful captain of your own boat.

If you have been sucker punched by life or are dealing with a difficult time, here are five books that might inspire you as you become the peaceful captain of your life:

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Comments

  1. Christopher Lovejoy says:

    Hi Barrie, I woke up early this morning to the most ferocious storm I’ve ever seen and heard. Brilliant flashes of lightening lit up the sky outside my window, as if they were close, right above me. Thunder cracked with ear-splitting regularity. The rain came down in a torrential downpour. For a moment, I had to ask myself: is this real? The little storms of life are like that. There’s a period of unreality that invades our peace of mind, leaving us more than a little bewildered. What to do? Exactly as you suggest: relinquish control and yield to fate for a time, go within and find the peace, be the peace you wish to see and hear. And after the storm clears? Share the wisdom of your experience with those who need to hear it. The chaos of a storm is the price we pay for the opportunity to be true, wise, and free. Thanks for baring your soul and sharing your insights. I’m sure someone will benefit from them.

    Christopher
    .-= Christopher Lovejoy´s last blog ..A Fulfilling Complement =-.

    • Leah McClellan says:

      Hi Barrie,

      Oh boy do I understand this! What a month for me as well–first, one of my beloved cats passed on. The next day, my other cat had to be hospitalized due to coming out of long remission from cancer. I almost lost him, and I fought tooth and nail to not only get vets to help him (they didn’t think he’d make it) but also come up with the huge amount of money needed for a long hospitalization. He’s great now, and at home on the mend and back on chemo, but it was two punches in a row (plus I lost another cat 2 years ago and a dog three years ago) and a serious crunch on finances (oops, mortgage? LOL! Um….)

      Everything else, all my smaller challenges or issues, pale by comparison. Stressed? Yes. But what keeps me sane is pretty much what you say: this is life. These are growth opportunities, learning opportunities. I’m just doing my job in taking care of my beloved animals, and unfortunately they get sick and die and it breaks my heart. It’s on me to make the best decisions possible for their benefit and mine. It’s just life–how I react is on me. Not that it’s easy, but my grief or sadness is smoothed over with the knowledge that they have to go on, and I did my best to love them and all that, and it’s just how it is.

      On to the next challenge lol Thank god I have a sense of humor! And I know that sadness passes on with time as long as I keep smiling (and letting tears come when they want to).
      .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..How Many Ways Can We Harm Someone =-.

      • Leah McClellan says:

        oops, sorry Christopher–obviously I hit the wrong reply button 🙂
        .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..How Many Ways Can We Harm Someone =-.

      • Barrie Davenport says:

        Oh Leah, I am so sorry about the loss of your sweet animals. I know how that feels. It is so true that we come to accept the inevitable ups and downs of life — and hopefully learn and grow from them. Just keep sailing on — this storm shall pass.

  2. Barry, it felt comforting, just to read this. Thank you. And if you start to get too wet, call for help:).
    .-= LPC´s last blog ..Discovering Artists- Anna Mavromatis- Artists Books =-.

  3. Elizabeth Grannan says:

    Thank you for this Barrie. What a great reminder that stuff happens and I always grow in the process! Another visual that works for me is imaging that I’m a speeding car (when I’m stressed my energy can match any race car) and I see my car/self slowing down into a nice mellow pace. I’m able to look around at the trees and new road blocks along the way without smashing right into them and demolishing my car. I end up feeling calm and back in control of my actions. It’s all good.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you dear Elizabeth. That is a great visual. I hope it’s a little red convertible! I really appreciate your call the other day and hope to see you again soon.

  4. Such beautiful, comforting words! Thank you Barrie!

  5. Tess The Bold Life says:

    I’m sending you blessings and good thoughts!
    For me the spiritual practices I do when things are going great and OK are what gets me through the troubled times. Then of course when I’m going through a lot of stuff I step up my spiritual practices big time.

    Another good book is, Breaking Open by Elizabeth Lesser. I read it when hubs lost his job. It’s simply amazing. Her writing is a gift. Hugs Tess
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..On the Path of Enlightenment- Expand Your Beliefs =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you Tess — I look forward to checking out Breaking Open on Amazon. I appreciate your warm wishes and good thoughts.

  6. Linda Gabriel says:

    Barrie,
    I really appreciate yor sharing both the highs and the lows. I’m holding you in my thoughts and prayers and trust you will weather this storm beautifully. Know that these words you have written today will inspire amd support so many others.
    .-= Linda Gabriel´s last blog ..The Problem With Problems =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Linda,
      Thank you so much — know you have support makes anything more bearable. And I hope my post inspires others. We all go through these times. By the way, you look like Lauren Hutton in your photo!

  7. Dear Barrie,
    why do such storms happen ?
    I think we should consider what we really want.
    Do you really want what you mentioned?
    A balanced, happy and peaceful life, but which could quickly become a monotonous slipping from one year to the next ?
    Or may be you really want to grow experiencing all the potential this life can offer you?
    May be that’s just what is happening, may be that’s what you are “working so hard” for, and the result could be the storm you get to help you grow.
    You have also this wonderful opportunity to awaken other people through your experience.
    You can get so much insight from other people, you can get so much positive thought from other people, that no doubt you will find out what you really want.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you so much for your kind and supportive words Roberto. Yes, I agree completely that the storm does help me grow — at least if I choose to allow that. And I certainly hope I can offer something to anyone who might be going through a rough time. That is something good that I can find even in the eye of the storm.

      • Well right now am deep in the darkpit wher joshua was;my two daughters are giving me heartache with boys have talked to them several times but nothing seems to help have prayed for God’s mercy so many times and we are also in financial troubles one day we had to go without sugar but we are both working plz pray with me

  8. Love the boat imagery!
    I can very much relate to Leah’s grief over her beloved cat. Last October, my Springer spaniel, Muggins, passed away at 17 years old–I spent more than a third of my life with her. It was a huge loss. The day after she passed away, I got up very early because I couldn’t sleep. I’d been getting exercise lately by dancing to music on my mp3 player, and so I got my player and started dancing, and I was crying and dancing at the same time.
    I looked up and saw the plaque I have above my pantry door: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to end. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” And I said, “Look, Muggins, I’m dancing.”
    And that’s what I’ve been doing all year.
    I just launched my new site, Up From Splat, which is all about getting back up after life’s storms slap you around. And I’m still riding the rough water, so your post was soothing and supportive. Thanks!
    .-= Ande Waggener´s last blog ..Expand Your Power—Get A Pen Pal =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Ande,
      Your spaniel was so adorable. I know you miss her. Thank you for sharing your story and words of wisdom and experience. I love the title of your blog! I will check it out right now.

  9. Thank you so very much for touching on feelings that I am currently going through. Yes, I truly believe in the calm during a storm, and I have tried on multiple occasions to remain as such,however, I must play devils advocate for a moment. I am currently out of work and have been for over 1 year, 80 to 100 resumes’ sent weekly, without even a nibble on the line and just recently, I lost all unemployment benefits, this means “no” income at all. So, the calm and prayers and thoughts of better things to come, well, the don’t pay the rent, and I am days from living on the street, so. with the highest of respect, tell me, where is the calm and peace in that?.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Brian,
      I don’t know Brian. I have not been in that position, so I can’t even imagine how frightening it must be. I hope you have family and friends to support you. I hope you are willing to ask for help. I looked at your website, and you clearly have a great business. Just keep moving forward. Don’t give up. There are people who care — even people you don’t know.

  10. Hi Barrie! Beautiful post with a wonderful sentiment.

    I can totally related to your comment “I also know that so very much is out of our control.” When we realize that we can’t really control the events in our lives, we can relax and look for the blessings in what is showing up in our lives, “good” or “bad”.

    It’s best to let the boat go with the river instead of trying to go against the current. Even huge tragedies have wonderful lessons for us. It’s a matter of concentrating on the upside and the lesson to be learned instead on the event itself. That’s how I cope when I’m “sucker-punched” by life. 🙂

    I’m truly grateful for the great tips and for the book resources you offered. Loving blessings!
    .-= Andrea DeBell – britetalk´s last blog ..How to Shamelessly Love Your Bank Balance =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you so much Andrea. I have struggled against the current so often in my life — and all it gets you is sore arms! When you are in the flow of life, good and bad events are just phases we pass through. Thank you for your blessings, and I send them back at you!

  11. Barrie – Thank you for this post. I’m going through some rough time with my parents…and I couldn’t help but think, I can’t control them, but I can at least go home and cook a nice dinner for my hubby. Even though the steak was under cooked and I had no oil for the egg, my hubby still appreciated the gesture. I just kept concentrating on what I could do to keep going. It helped me to take that small action.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Carolina,
      That reminds me of the serenity prayer that Alcoholics Anonymous is known for — God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
      Perhaps you can’t change your parents, but you can connect with your husband. That is a peaceful understanding. Thank you for sharing it.

  12. Hello Barrie,
    A friend sent me this article, thanks for writing it, it is a good one. It is important to keep these things in mind. I am going through some of the stormy times you write about, and your article reminds me of many other wise words I’ve heard before. It makes me think of Randy Pausch talking about how we can’t choose the hand we are dealt, but we can choose how we play the hand. And it also reminds me of the poem “Invictus”, and its closing lines –

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate,
    I am the captain of my soul.