I’ve spent years training to harmonize mind, body and spirit, with varying degrees of success. I have managed to faced down opponents who were literally twice my size. But I have also had to deal with the humiliation of being defeated by male and female senior citizens half my size. I’ve faced fierce opponents in the ring and on the mat. I’ve spent countless hours in meditation, seeking an understanding of the workings of my mind and my place in the Universe. I’ve studied science and philosophy, and immersed my self in the great religions. I have found truth and wisdom that has challenged me and served me well.
Today I faced something new and unexpected.
After decades of training, I have accumulated a great deal of experience facing many kinds of tragedies and obstacles. These have included deaths, illness, betrayal, and failure. I’ve overcome some, and being defeated by others. I have always been able to recover, thanks to my training, my upbringing, my experience, and no small amount of good fortune.
But today I discovered that there are still some things that can shake me to my core. There are some things that make me question my worth and my ability as a person, as a man, and as a father. Some things make me wonder if any amount of training can prepare me for all the changes that might occur. Today, I began to see that the answer is no. We can teach ourselves to prepare for anything while expecting nothing. But in the end, we must realize that it is life which masters us. We do not master it. How we respond to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is our choice and our responsibility. But what happens to us in never truly under our control.
Sometimes we are the windshield. Sometimes we are the bug. The best of our skills at adaptation will not protect us completely from the fickle finger of fate, or even from the chaos that can be created by our own well-meaning choices. We can be defeated by the distant beating of the wings of butterflies. We can also be destroyed by the innocent choices made by those who are closest to us.
We increase our chances of survival by responding as appropriately as possible. But we must be aware that there may come a time when we cannot dodge all the bullets
I had a shocking and disturbing conversation with my daughter this morning. She announced with excitement that she was getting married TODAY, to some boy named Henry, whom I’ve never met! My world began to collapse around me.
My daughter has always been sure of herself…an independent free-thinker. But this threw me for a loop. I was not planning to have this conversation. Not yet. It was all I could do to keep from losing my cool. I did my best to avoid being confrontational.
I asked questions and listened to the answers. I was hoping that I could make the questions sound like they were for my benefit, while choosing words that would help her to reconsider what was obviously a rash and impetuous decision – one that would have far reaching consequences.
Finally I asked the right question, inspired by the first question that my own father asked me when I announced that I had met the girl I was going to marry, a girl they had never met.
In fact, I did marry that girl. She is the mother of my daughter. But I at least had the decency to introduce her to my parents before I officially announced our engagement. Also, we waited a full three months before we actually got married….. But today I remembered my father’s wise and well-considered words that morning when I announced, at breakfast, that “I met the girl I’m going to marry!”
So, after a what was for me a harrowing conversation, fraught with potential minefields, I asked her, “Does Henry know about this?”
Then, just as her associates arrived to take her attention away from me for the rest of the day she said, “No. He doesn’t. I told Sofia yesterday. But I didn’t tell Henry. Somebody should really tell Henry about this!”
I gave her a kiss, stood up, relaxed, and began to breathe normally again. As I watched her play happily with the other 4-year-olds, and waited for the school bell, my world slowly began to rebuild itself around me.
Today I dodged a bullet, or it dodged me. Either way, I am grateful for my good fortune.
– Ian Sinclair