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These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.

— Rumi, Essential Rumi

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Everyone knows the cliché, of course, and   brave people often rise above adversity to climb great heights. Given that life hands lemons to everyone from time to time, the bravest approach is to turn those “lemons” into   lemonade.

I put this lesson to the best use in my own life.

I was an outstanding student in my school and was highly ambitious about my career I was also a highly promising sportsman and there was little bother on the health front .I passed out of school with flying colors. But a sudden event in my life changed my course. It is painful to relive some of the history but it will provide inspiration   to others currently struggling with similar problems, and to their families and loved ones.   

I had suffered from recurring bouts of depression in early college life.  As life dragged, this   problem remained and became stubborn.

Thus began a journey through the entire maze of Western medical approaches to mental health. It took me through psychotherapists, psychologists, general practitioners, psychiatrists, all with various diagnoses, suggestions, and prescriptions.

Early on in this process, I was diagnosed with depression, and later with bipolar disorder. On good days, the world seemed bearable and livable, but at other times, I felt I was being swallowed up by a giant black hole, numbed to world. It became an everyday challenge, and also challenging for the people I lived with.

I was advised to switch over to a less strenuous career and it seemed I would   have to make a big  compromise .it was upsetting news as I was already  on the cusp of a bright and promising future   .But as later developments unfolded, I found  there was both hope and solace .

The doctors told me that people with a bipolar trait are normally very creative and several famous artists had this behavioural attribute. After deep thought and consultation with friends I gave up sciences and   decided to focus on journalism and writing. I knew I had to take charge of myself.

While I picked up the pieces of my confused life, I stared writing poetry and fiction  and as  my bylines stared  adorning the pages of  popular magazines ,my enthusiasm pulled up my spirits and helped me to  come to terms  with  my  depression  .  It is almost four decades now, and I have had a flourishing career and a fulfilling life .My problem which initially appeared a great handicap turned out to be my best ally in setting up my family and establishing my career and social position.

I now   keep advising people that engaging mindfully with our sufferings is a fruitful way for living authentic and meaningful lives. Sufferings, like ecstasy, have a  role  in   developing   our emotional toolbox. My experiences have taught me that we should create a template of our core values that can be used as a shield against our adversities. Once the template gets firmly embedded, both pain and pleasure make positive contributions .Each brings out our inner repertoire of talents. We should periodically take time off   to look inwards to keep our focus in order. This way we also boost our resilience.

With introspective analysis, we begin to realize that prosperity is an emotional booster but    adversity is not without value-it is a great teacher. One burnishes the mind, the other hones it.   Even when life is hardest, there are meanings to be found, riches to be harvested, and gifts to be reaped from the ordeals that one undergoes. Those who embrace this philosophy make trials   lose their sting. Rumi tells us, “In tears come laughter concealed. Seek the treasure beneath the ruins”.

Adversity makes you tap into the deeper wellsprings of fortitude and keeps renewing them. In its absence, they   remain lain and dormant and eventually dry   up. As Byron said, ‘A man can see farther through a tear than through a telescope.’

With every crisis, you emerge a stronger person. As gold is purified in fire, so too is a person, in suffering. Like gold, we cast off impurities of egoism and vanity. We cast off our baser self     to let the    spiritual self emerge. The Bible reminds us: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

When people are faced with intolerable pain, a devastating loss, an incurable illness, or a financial disaster, they find that life is not as great as they imagined it to be.Life suddenly becomes cruel and harsh. All the ease is transformed into a sense of gloom and doom.  It is at times like this that we realize how fleeting life’s pleasures are. For most of us the real focus of life gets defined in our moments of adversity.

Ask any wise man what is the great learning experience and he would say without hesitation that it is adversity. Adversity is a critical test for man’s spirit and endurance. Each painful episode fortifies our endurance and resilience, and is   an essential learning experience for our life skills. Faith in oneself demolishes the toughest of blocks. As Nietzsche puts it, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” For every negative that happens, there is a positive side. Life forces us to stretch so that we grow and become sturdier.“There is no education like adversity,” said Disraeli. We all know how Abraham’s faith was tested by the fire.

Sigmund Freud believed that people make decisions according to the “pleasure principle”, intuitively seeking comfort or pleasure and shying away from discomfort or pain. Avoiding pain does have immediate positive implications for survival.  But   unless we are exposed   to healthy doses of pain we may later turn hyper-sensitive and vulnerable to even small doses of stress .This avoidance is the enemy of resilience. . To use Rumi’s wisdom again, “Suffering is a gift. In it is hidden mercy.”

When you have gone through any painful situation, for example cancer, abuse, addiction, loss of a loved one, financial ruins and the like, your self-worth is likely to get destroyed. It takes hard work and determination to restore it.  When we recover from adversity, we are left with a rare gift-resilience and tenacity. The Tao Te Ching teaches that darkness is the gateway to a brighter light.

Maya Angelou explains it with a beautiful analogy.”We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. “   Each   adversity carries its own challenges and has the potential to yield its own unique form of wisdom.  We need to recognize it, and grow wiser from it.

As I look back to those painful days four decades ago when I thought my life would turn into a black slate , I am overwhelmed with gratitude  to so many people who made sure that I  did not give up and never allowed me slide into  the dumps. I now carry a conviction that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I know it may seem hopeless at times—it may appear like a darkness that never ends. But you can get through the toughest of adversities. What you ultimately need is to summon your will .I have seen it really works in mysterious and miraculous ways. In fact, you might just be at the beginning of the final corner before the road turns to our desired destination.

Moin Qazi is the author of the bestselling book, Village Diary of a Heretic Banker .He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades .He can be reached at moinqazi123@gmail.com

 

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Shakespeare has said ,’ sweet are the fruits of adversity’ …. This is because of the value attached to the achievement in trying conditions. The success in any extra- ordinary condition is great