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Good or Bad? Who Knows?

How could I know it was not a good thing for me?

Last month I canceled my subscription for Sirius Radio. I didn’t really want to, but the ongoing price increases made the decision inevitable. I was not a happy camper. I was just plain mad, and I could not let it go. I might have even had a hissy fit.

Tired of my grumbling, a friend suggested I look into other music services. Begrudgingly, I visited the website of a service she recommended and ended up registering for a free trial. I had a free month of music, but I was still mad.

I was so mad I did nothing with the free music subscription for two weeks. I finally got desperate enough to see what the site had to offer. As I made my way through the app, determined to hate it, a funny thing happened. The anger gave way as I made my way through all that the new service had to offer. It was fantastic. It was way better than Sirius and cost less. How did I not know about this before? Why had I wasted so much time being mad and grumbling when in the end I ended up with something better?

I was thrilled with the new service but the experience of getting to it seemed bittersweet. In the split second I decided that losing Sirius Radio was bad, I never even thought to consider if there might be something even better. I decided, and that was it. Period. I made a snap judgement and there was no going back. Why? Especially as, just last month, I had been presented with the opportunity to learn that staying positive and expecting the best rather than focusing on the risks of events that were likely to never happen, yielded a much better result.

Ok Creation, I need a refresher course. But what had I missed? I repeated to myself the mantra that I had just recently learned “What stands in the way, becomes the way.” What was standing in my way?

I had drawn conclusions when it was impossible for me to know the outcome. I chose to spontaneously decide the consequence of an event based on … what? What I was feeling at that moment?What I thought should have happened? What I wanted to happen?

There it was. What I wanted to happen. I liked what I had and I didn’t want to change. I was mad that I had to change. The obstacle in my way was my very own fear of change.

Change. How could I know it was not a good thing for me?

As I sat with the realization that, in this case, perhaps in most cases, not only was I my own worst enemy, but I was likely totally responsible for creating much of the aggravation I faced in my life in the first place, I knew the time had come to find a better way.

What I have learned about myself is that I do best if I have a quote, a story, a parable, or something to anchor a change to. That way, in the very moment I am faced with a similar situation, I have something tangible to remind me and guide me towards a better action or response.

As I thought about what that could be and where I was supposed to find it, I remembered the very sage words a friend had written to me:

“It isn’t that we don’t know, it’s that we forget and need to be reminded.”

Many believe that we already possess the knowledge necessary to transform our lives, that the answers we need already lie within us. In this case, I did have a vague recollection of the answer. I had to go looking for it, but eventually I found it. A parable from the Master of Huainan, dating to the 2nd century BCE. A lesson that has stood the test of time, it was just what I needed.

Sāi Wēng lived on the border and he raised horses for a living. One day, he lost one of his prized horses. After hearing of the misfortune, his neighbor felt sorry for him and came to comfort him. But Sāi Wēng simply asked, “How could we know it is not a good thing for me?”

After a while, the lost horse returned and with another beautiful horse. The neighbor came over again and congratulated Sāi Wēng on his good fortune. But Sāi Wēng simply asked, “How could we know it is not a bad thing for me?”

One day, his son went out for a ride with the new horse. He was violently thrown from the horse and broke his leg. The neighbors once again expressed their condolences to Sāi Wēng, but Sāi Wēng simply said, “How could we know it is not a good thing for me?”

One year later, the Emperor’s army arrived at the village to recruit all able-bodied men to fight in the war. Because of his injury, Sāi Wēng’s son could not go off to war, and was spared from certain death.

In the parable, Sai Weng did not react, he accepted life the way it was. He was able to get beyond his own judgement, to see beyond his own self-interest. He chose to stay calm and wait for the impact of the events to unfold. And in that calm, all was revealed.

Is ‘good’ fortune always good and ‘bad’ fortune always bad? Who knows? I just need to remind myself that by staying calm, all will be revealed.

Change. How could I know it was not a good thing for me?


Photo by Gonzalo Facello on Unsplash

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