Why Getting A Parking Space Might Not Be Good & The Trick To Finding Meaning In Tragedy

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.”~Thomas Carlyle

Why is it that seeming good fortune is often accompanied by seeming bad fortune?

Life is “going well”. It feels as if a portal of creation is open – I only have to think a thought and what I imagined is immediately manifest. Support comes from unexpected quarters, people are helpful and kind, money flows in where before there was none, plans unfold to perfection.

Yet at the same time, loss cuts a deep swathe of grief through my family. My stepbrother took his life a few days ago. People I love are suffering deeply.

How can these circumstances exist side by side?

Definition is everything. We are conditioned, from our first taste of oxygen, to define what takes place in life as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Everything falls into these categories: behaviour, people, actions, policies, foods, decisions, days, months, years. Good and bad relate very closely to definitions of right and wrong.

These definitions colour our view of ourselves and our lives. Life appears a certain way. But definition is a decision, not an accident. It’s not fixed. It is dependant on the conditioning, education and psyche of the one doing the defining. What I define as bad, you might feel is OK. What you define as good may seem morally reprehensible or abhorrent to me.

For example, I have met dedicated hunters who truly believe they are doing a good thing when they head out into the woods armed to the teeth and shoot feral pests. And they enjoy it. I find shooting animals detestable, even if those critters are making a nuisance of themselves. It sets off an invisible ‘bad’ alarm deep in my being about the value of life and the rights of sentient beings, regardless of species.

Definition is uniquely personal

Let’s look at the ‘good’ stuff. It’s a bright sunny day. I’m going to a particular shop in town where I know it’s really hard to park. I happen to feel open and in the flow. Hey presto, a vacant park is available outside the shop. I rejoice, park my vehicle and go inside, happy that things are going my way. Standard ‘good’ thing.

But what is inherently ‘good’ about that circumstance? It saves me time – I don’t have to drive around looking for a park. It saves me energy – I don’t have a long walk in sweltering heat. No big deal in the scheme of things. Subconsciously, however, that empty parking space makes me feel as if I have some special power or am favoured by the universe. Therefore, I am accepted by life, I am supported. It’s all going to be OK (phew!). That’s a really big deal, a subconscious meaning derived from definition.

On the flip side, I might define driving to a shop as being selfish and irresponsible to the global community. I am using precious resources to pursue my own agenda. I am driving a vehicle with only one occupant. I am burning up fossil fuels so that I can have the experience of a new frock. And I have the hubris to congratulate myself on the availability of a parking space for my air poisoning, gas guzzling, individually focussed mode of transport. Subconsciously, therefore I am ‘bad’ and will be rejected by life. Everything will not be OK. That’s a really big deal, another subconscious meaning derived from definition.

We’re all doing it, all the time!

Definition = Feeling = Experience

We have a choice about the way we define everything in our experience. This is the ultimate in free will.

Which brings me back around to the remarkable flow and the terrible suffering co-existing in my current experience. Two massive definitions right there – one ‘good’, one ‘bad’. Let’s strip them back, undefine as much as possible …

1. What I am thinking about creating is appearing in my reality faster than I believe it has at other times in my life.

2. Someone who mattered to people who are important to me, is no longer here in a physical body.

What is obvious about these two statements is that they are mostly undefined in terms of feeling.

You might regard such statements as callous – another definition.

You are free to add definition to these two circumstances in whatever way you choose. Your definitions will influence your feelings. Your feelings will colour your actions, your perspective on life, and your view of yourself and others. Those actions and perspectives will fuel more definitions.

What’s more, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to define a circumstance or experience. There’s no Global Panel for standard definition. There are, however, social codes for how we define things. For example, death is almost always defined as ‘bad’, regardless of the specific circumstances. Wealth is almost always defined as ‘good’. These social mores have a powerful influence on our thinking and meaning-making, but we are still free to choose our own definitions.

I invite you to contemplate the quote at the beginning of this piece, Thomas Carlyle’s definition of tragedy:

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.”

By not acknowledging choice, we miss the opportunity to define our circumstances and lives in ways that feel powerful, helpful and meaningful to us. 

Some definitions connect us to our limited views on life, which generally come with uncomfortable feelings. Other definitions allow us to connect with a more expanded, wiser version of self and less urgent, more sanguine feelings.

Choosing a definition = choosing the experience …

Here’s how I choose to define my current experience:

At the moment, I have a window to create in a powerful way. I view this as an opportunity and I will take advantage of it. This is my kind of fun.

The people I love are very sad. I am too far away to help them with my presence, but I can send them my love, check in on them, and listen when they want that. And I can stay alive to the beauty and tenderness that comes with grief. I can allow the preciousness of life to flow in my veins. This is not fun. But it is meaningful to me.

The extraordinary and beautiful paradox of life is that those two can exist alongside one another.

How are you defining your life experience? How does that colour your feelings about yourself and life?

I love your comments, so please leave them below. And if this touched something in you, feel free to share it far and wide using the buttons at the top or bottom of the post.

If you’d like to explore your own definitions more deeply, try my free, simple and powerful process here: http://bit.ly/lovelifefreebie

4 Comments

  • Gen Douw

    Reply Reply January 23, 2016

    So beautifully put, as ever, Pollyanna. You always jolt me out of my ‘normal’ response and make me look at life slightly differently. I wanted, at the beginning, to say “Oh no! How terrible! I feel so sorry for you & your family!’ and although I can still empathize with the grieving and loss, I see that barrier of presumption: of presuming you must be feeling a certain way. I have been practicing trying not to presume anything. Thank you & love to you, Gen xx

    • darling_lover

      Reply Reply January 24, 2016

      Thank you xx

  • Margaret Bending

    Reply Reply February 8, 2016

    A late response Pollyanna, I wanted to make sure I digested what you wrote.
    Yes I wanted to at first empathise with you on the loss of your stepbrother, and then all these deep feelings arose about someone taking their own life, as I have lost a Nephew, and my Mother this way.
    So how was I defining “suicide”?
    Bad or Good?
    Then I decided it was all about the choices that people make for them selves, and yes their perceptions of good and bad experiences. They can live side by side in your life, and like you I often experience joy in my own life, to only find out someone close is experiencing grief, and this brings me down with a jolt . Thank you for your insight about making it meaningful and staying present with those who are grieving.Love to you and your family Pollyanna xxx Margie

    • darling_lover

      Reply Reply February 9, 2016

      Thank you, Margie, for your thoughtful response. Most of the time society doesn’t want to think or talk about suicide, so there tends to be a very one-sided view of it. I think the more we can look deeper and explore our feelings and possible definitions, the healthier we will be.

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