Inspired by “Don’t look back in anger” by Oasis & “Scars” by Michael Malarkey
When did you last read a fairy tale? It’s probably so long ago, that you can start your answer with “once upon a time”, right? Well, I enjoy remembering my mom reading fairy tales to me when I was a little child. And now it’s the time to read them to my little niece from time to time. It’s interesting to see history repeating. You know, I’ve always loved these exciting little bedtime stories. But I especially liked this sense of safety and cuddliness before falling asleep. I always knew I would be at the right place no matter what was happening. It made me believe in the good. And I love to see how important it is to give this feeling of safety to our upcoming generations.
The thing is, fairy tales don’t come sugar-coated. In fact, most of the time they’re really harsh. Have you ever thought about how absurd it is to put a children-eating witch into an oven, or to tar and feather people? Scary, isn’t it? Even if the prince(ss) gets his or her crush at the end, these little stories mainly tell us about their struggles on the way; about fights, dilemmas, grief, death, loss and hurt. And in fact, next to the good things, this is what life very often is about. So, more importantly, fairy-tales also tell us about how to cope with life’s ups and downs. They teach us about the experience of life, without putting us in real trouble. That’s how we can learn without yet perceiving the pressure of responsibility.
Nevertheless, while in one second we’re still listening to these stories, in another we’re thrown in at the deep end without prior notice and in a very subtle way. Suddenly we grow older and those stories become unreal kids’ stuff, as we uncover that the promoted happy ending is not going to happen. However, speaking in the words of C.S Lewis, “Someday we will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again”.
The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all – Mulan
You might know from Encountered creativity on my way to Copenhagen Half Marathon, that I planned to take part in the Copenhagen Half Marathon in 2016. Well, everything was ready, and I saw me passing the finish line already. But in the end, life prepared a different lesson for me. More precisely, fate decided to give me a kick-ass lesson on my biggest weakness – patience.
As the result, I was forced to cancel the run due to health issues. However, even though it felt like the apocalypse, the hardest part was still awaiting me. What started with a stupid cold ended up with a painful, chronic syndrome, which kicked me out of my daily routines and once again out of my comfort zone. But I didn’t want to accept this. You know, if we want to ride toward the sunset with our prince(ss) in the end, we must look beyond our own nose and check what’s the reason for our disturbed princess sleep at night. We must even push others out of their comfort zone to find a solution to our puzzle in the end.
The latter is the hardest part. As it forces us to question our own reality and restructure priorities, it leads to stress almost automatically. Our skills are put to the test; We feel desperate and Murphys Law seems to be the new mantra of our life. We are losing some of our fellows on the way, while taking care of not losing and hurting our self like the Golden Mary once in Mother Hulda.
In this context, one of my favorite authors – Caroline Beaton – once wrote: “When everything’s going wrong — our jobs, our families, our health, politics — it’s easy to freak out. Like a fly slamming against the window, we hunt the nearest exit and hurt ourselves in the process”. And that’s when we’re left back with dunning scars, of which we might tell an exciting story to our spouses one day. Scars make the man, right? Well, I think sometimes we simply need to lose ourselves to be reminded of our ability to handle our lives self-determined. We need to go through this process to learn and appreciate our current situation. It makes us special and shapes who we are.
Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on. (Henry Rollins)
Regarding my health situation, I went through a tough time accompanied by regular breakdowns. However, as you know, I always try to act and make the best out of a situation, because my sport career taught me so. But this time it was different. This time I started with the action approach, too. I went to several doctors of different fields, went through painful examinations, questioned anamnesis processes, bought different medicine from all around the world, applied relaxation techniques, read a lot about medicine, tried concepts aloof from academic medicine, asked for advice from my family and friends. I’ve really pushed for getting healthy and time was passing. But nothing really helped. Just one sentence all the instances had in common: Trust your body and stay patient. So, I tried to do so. In fact, I didn’t have any other chance, as I was slowly running out of action options.
The good thing is: I learned a lot about my environment, my life and my personality. I got to know the ugly sides of our health care system and developed a different perspective on the work of doctors. I learned how important it is to take over discrete responsibility for our health, and most importantly that patience is rather the presence of stamina than – like modern movements are trying to tell us – an absence of actions.
Even miracles take a little time – Cinderella
To be honest, I was already so infiltrated by this take-action approach, that I felt very bad every time I did nothing but wait out the storm. But this is what patience is about. Following literature, it’s the propensity to wait calmly in the face of frustration or adversity. It teaches us in acceptance of our feelings and action options.
However, patience itself is often not perceived as a strength. It’s associated with being powerless or less proactive: Powerful people don’t have to wait, powerless people do. I mean, really? You know, I’m getting really tired of this “You can reach everything, if you act”-thing. Once it was some kind of a revolution with a solid intention. But in the meantime it became a general and consuming social pressure. I feel, that we need to develop the awareness for us not being able to influence everything, even though current trends try to tell us so. But while being so obsessed with rapidity and power, in this world ruled by competition, we fail to see that some things simply take time. And even if we act, some things are never going to happen. That’s when we end up in these exhausting and frustrating feelings of not being able to solve all problems or events we’re confronted with on the go. What we need to learn is, to accept the success of others without going crazy. And this process requires stamina in its purest form, because it’s simply one of the toughest experiences if you have to stay calm and wait out a storm – especially when you’ve just learned to dance in the rain.
Just because it’s what’s done, doesn’t mean it’s what should be done – Cinderella
However, if you just have a look on several social media platforms, advertisements or even job descriptions, you will probably notice that this approach somehow made it to the top. You might even feel guilty realizing that you might have missed out a few things in the past months or years. And you desperately start to do something, because you’ve learned that it’s better to do some random stuff, than standing still. So, the trap snapped: You have the choice, so don’t you dare to not act! If you don’t act, you’re not part of the in-group. You’re worth nothing and not welcome here.
But, what nobody tells you is, that imprudently starting to run somewhere doesn’t lead to success – chances are rather that you starve on the way, as you forget to take some proper resources with you. To solve today’s problems, it’s not enough to advise consistency, willpower or action, and pretend that this is a Swiss army knife. The devil is in the details. Today I feel that we’re confronted with a chronically impatient world, where it’s all about being quick and succeeding fast. It’s about getting things done right now, no matter if the results are superficial, lukewarm stock, which need fixing later (mostly by more conscientious others). That’s when we realize we’ve left a big mess with our madcap decision we have taken in our delusion of importance.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve grown up in sports and I’m working in a startup. I’m a big fan of pragmatic approaches, failing fast and a getting-things-done attitude. Anyway, I’m really wondering if it’s getting too much sometimes. I think, in this world full of complex information, it’s not solely about being proactive. It’s moreover about prudent decision-making and the canny timing of our actions.
“Sir, my need is sore.
Spirits that I’ve cited
My commands ignore”
You can see the double standards if you have a look at some major lifestyle trends. People currently strive for mindfulness, staying fit, reducing stress, more work-life-balance and so forth. More and more companies develop services to support humanity with these needs. However, coevally our digital age forces us to overcome hierarchies, outperform competitors and work more agile, while putting more and more time pressure on us. First come, first serve! But it’s always easier to call for the spirits than getting rid of them. So, in the end we imitate the sorcerer’s apprentice by desperately trying to fix the things we’ve created. We’re trying to make the lives of others better, by following an impatient, unhealthy lifestyle by ourselves. We legitimate our actions based on our own lifestyle failure without questioning the origin. Impatience steadily follows and compels us. It surrounds and consumes us until we find ourselves at the ground of a water well looking for the spool we’ve lost in the chaos.
“Patience [rather] waits on the right time to act, for the right principles, and in the right way” Fulton J. Sheen said. It’s about leaving the ego at the door as well as meeting the core of our highest goals and values with our actions. So, yes, it’s the right way to act and it’s right to challenge the status quo as well as overcome stagnation. But I think this idea is not fully thought out. It’s good that we have these initiatives today among proactivity, but it’s time to go one step forward and bridge the divide between action & palsy by practicing patience. Acting without brain – just for the sake of acting – and remaining in full battle mode is not a wise way to live [our lives]. It produces incredible stress, alienates the people around [us], and distorts [our] ability to enjoy and appreciate life. Patience instead brings control back to today’s unpredictability.
So, if you’re finding yourself being impatient the next time, remember this article. Before you act, first, make a plan on how to vanquish the dragon. Before you go, check where to go. Ask yourself why and how fast you should run or if there are other options. Think about people who would join and support you and take care of your provisions. Ask yourself if it is really the dragon you’re fighting or if it’s the nice guy pretending to be your supporter. Take your time and take prudent decisions the best way you can. Be aware that pragmatism doesn’t equal rapidity and vice versa.
And if you do so, you will see that life is very much like our lovely childhood fairy tales. No matter how scary and fire-breathing the creatures might be, there is a happy ending prepared for every one of us.
Fairy tales are more than true:
not because they tell us that dragons exist,
but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten