6/52 Start & Finish A Book

Instead of reading a million books at once I decided to commit to one.

This article started out as a book report on what I’d read and let’s be honest here; no one wants to read a book report. Unless they’re a 7th grade teacher who, if they’re being totally honest with themselves, don’t want to be reading book reports either.

So, instead I want to share one overarching thought about it.

The book of choice is called Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. 

I know, I know, the title is quite something! 

Frankl was a concentration camp survivor during World War 2 and because of his past as a psychiatrist he was able to observe how camp life affected those held in captivity. It’s an incredibly brave and honest tale about his experience. 

As I read my way through this book, I eventually land on page 75 and read the following:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitudes in any given set of circumstances, to choose ones own way.

I stop reading and look up from my book out at my environment. I do this whenever I read something that really grabs my attention. I take a moment to disconnect myself from Frankl’s world to connect this idea to my own.

Because I’m a glass half full kinda gal, (Unless the contents of that glass are wine, in which case the glass will be empty.) I immediately connect with this thought.

Now for you haters and debaters, keep in mind, the guy had everything taken from him. His wife who he loved very much, his parents, his home, his clothing - everything. He was underfed and went through a great deal of physical as well as emotional pain. I mean the guy experienced the concentration camps! That has got to be on the list of top 5 worst things that has ever happened in the world.  I don't think anyone would have blamed Frankl if he decided to become a drug addicted alcoholic. Right?

Anyways, I sit and ponder for a moment before turning my focus back to the page to read it again.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitudes in any given set of circumstances, to choose ones own way.”

Mr Frankl gets it.

We have no control over what happens to us. 

Someone breaks up with us.

We get fired.

A loved one dies.

There are some things we just can’t control. They just happen to us.

But we can control how we’ll let it affect us.

Frankl explains how the sort of person one would become in the concentration camp was the result of an inner decision and not a result of the camp alone. You either become a prisoner of circumstance or take responsibility on how to move forward.

Now he also talks about how the mourning process is important. But, ultimately part of being human means to suffer and this reminded me of Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck where he too, talks about how suffering, or to use a better word - challenges - are what makes us human. He argues that it’s overcoming challenges that brings us joy. But that’s a whole other conversation and I’m keen to get some dinner.

Frankl continues:

His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.

Some days I’ll wake up and feel like THIS and the most satisfying part of it is the thought that maybe perhaps I’ll give up, run away and let go of all my responsibilities and ambitions.

It’s comforting for a moment. Playing the victim can feel great.

But that’s the easy way out.

The tough thing in life is to take your challenges and make something beautiful out of them.  

Frankl says people consume themselves in retrospective thoughts to help distract themselves from the present day horror and hardship. He argues that robbing the present of the reality makes it easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive out of the experience. He says that even in camp life, these opportunities existed.

So surely, if they existed in camp life, they exist in each of our lives? We all know people who love suffering to the point where suffering becomes who they are. It becomes a defining characteristic of how they interact with the world and they then limit themselves from who they could become because they can't let go of the things that didn’t quite go their way.

And the point I’d like to make, dear friends, is this - Your life is yours. It’s not your mom’s or your dad’s. It’s not your boss’ or your friend’s. They have their own with which they can do whatever they please. I’ve learned that I need to take responsibility for everything that my life is and isn’t because essentially, I’m a grown up (some days at least) who can make her own decisions and blaming others gets you nowhere.

So, let me summarise with one final thought:

No matter what happens, you get to choose how you’re going to let situations affect your life and before you make any decisions remember this: Destruction is infinitely easier and lazier than construction.

Nina RubesaComment