The Rest of your Story

Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that does not make you who you are. It is the rest of your story. Who you choose to be. ~ Kung Fu Panda 2

I got the quote above while watching the dvd of a tubby Panda turned Dragon Warrior and his trusty sidekicks with my 6-year old recently. What can I say except…sometimes, great reminders and lessons come from talking animals?

I don’t think there is anyone here who has never known defeat or personal failures. I don’t think there is anyone here who has remained unscathed by the thoughtless actions of another. I don’t think there is anyone here who has never experienced the delibitating blow of being dealt an unfair hand in life.

Yet, I am reminded that strong men and women are born in such times. Character is built by the choices we make during tests. Tests that we sometimes bring upon ourselves from our own ignorance and folly. Tests which come from a divine source to purify and strengthen us.

Each moment is a choice of how the rest of the day pans out. Many times I come into a conflict within myself when I try to change the things that are out of my control to change. But what is within my power to change is the way I look at life and how I choose to intepret it.

We who lived in concentration camps can remember those who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.

Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone.”  ~ Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) Holocaust survivor

There are many things I may not understand about life. Yet, I know there are those who have gone through unimaginable sufferings and in their darkest hours, chosen not to buckle under defeat or bitterness. These are the trailblazers who pave the way for us with their strength of spirit, clarity, insight and wisdom into life.

I think of these ordinary people with extraordinary attitudes when I am sometimes assailed by the clouds of darksome despair (and how can I even begin to compare seemingly trying days to those tests these great souls went through!)

And so, it is from them I have learnt the following which have helped sustain me while navigating through this wonderfully intricate, sometimes bumpy journey called life.

Choose to have a good attitude. How I respond tells a whole lot about my own character and the condition of my heart.

Choose to stand up on the inside. Fall seven times, stand up eight. Self-pity can a be a very soothing companion because it strokes us gently, lulling us to believe that we are the poor victims of great injustices, defeated and nothing will ever change.

Choose to start each day, each moment on a fresh slate. Everyone makes mistakes even with the best of intentions. Continuous self-flogging or holding on to unforgiveness keeps us from truly learning the lesson that needs to be learnt. It was a revelation to me that I should not miss out the lesson of the moment which goes beyond hurt and regret. I learnt that I cannot really change the days if I don’t start with the moments.

Choose to be happy. Surround yourself with life-giving words, people, thoughts. For me, I choose to get inspired by heroes of the past and present who in the face of great injustices, physical and material deprivation, outshine the brightest stars.

Choose to let each day be better than its eve. Each morning I wake up, I wake up to the tremendous, often untapped power to choose. Even if it’s already unravelling by the time I have my eyelids open, it’s never too late to get a grip and direct the day to a better path.

Choose to be watchful and be ever vigilant. Of every thought. Every emotion. Every motivation. Sometimes the slew of negative thoughts and emotions may seem so real but in actual fact have nothing to do with the actual reality. They are  merely fleeting feelings which do not determine the reality of life. An emotion is only as valid as you put value on it. Be on guard against these impostors.

Choose to examine the heart. When I examine my motivations and deep inner intentions, I get a clearer understanding of why I respond in a certain way. Even when it feels more natural and satisfying to judge another’s heart. I am only responsible for my own thoughts, attitudes and behaviour.

Choose to see the bigger picture. I have found that getting some perspective helps. Because in the bigger scheme of life, that ordeal of catastrophic proportions that has landed on our laps are usually an inconsequential glitch in the light of eternity.

And so, how the rest of your story ends, begins with what you choose right now. May we all choose well.

O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life. O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord. ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

This prayer was written by a great man born in Persia in 1844. His enduring legacy lives on today through years of extreme persecution, imprisonment, exile, betrayal, poverty. Yet he rose to be a champion for mankind, and the rest of his story is one of unequivocal kindness, vision and happiness. This I think is as much a prayer of supplication and surrender to God as much as it is a resolve to shake off all that is troubling within and step out into the light.