Of Life’s Triumphs & Tragedies


In searching for the meaning of life, I’ve begun to realize that there may be more than a subtle difference between the meaning of triumph and tragedy or at least the manner in which we interpret such.

Could it be that triumph is a gift or at least a positive effect on the ego and not a whole bunch more? Maybe it’s a signal that we are on the right track. Maybe it’s not even that, but simply that lady luck has decided to bless us for a moment. Often our feelings will be so elevated that we don’t take the time to reflect, but simply glide on in a wave of bliss. 

Triumph may not even really belong to us, but be a group experience where our favorite team, player, organization, country, or person has triumphed in some sense, and somehow made us feel a little better about ourselves. It may simply be the joy of the tribe. Triumph could even entail our imagination such as a story conveyed in a book, movie, or illustration. Triumphs feel good and there’s nothing inherently either bad or evil about them, but beyond their effect on the ego, are they little more than fleeting? We cling to them in story, photos, memorabilia, and the like.

Could it be that suffering, on the other hand, may be a gift or a lesson to the soul? Have you ever encountered a person that had no experience of suffering? I doubt it – at least I haven’t. It may be the loss of a loved one, embarrassment, a perceived mistake, an ill-informed decision, bad luck, etc. Suffering may result in loneliness, hunger, physical pain, grief, financial stress, lack of choice, poverty, illness, injury, or a hundred other maladies. Unlike triumphs, we are quick to dismiss loss and pain, hide them out of plain sight, and perhaps even curse our fate, and wallow in suffering.

Unlike triumph, pain has a way of lingering. It provides us the opportunity for reflection. As with anything, we have nearly an infinite number of ways we can view anything. Even after the fact, we are always eligible to reframe anything. With loss or tragedy, the most common question may be “Why me?” but convert to “Why not me?” I could have been an innocent victim due to the fickle finger of fate to someone else, a main character with full accountability. Maybe I was just a secondary or innocent character caught in crossfire so to speak. Am I so important that everything that happens to or around me is all about me? There are no right or wrong responses, but I will venture that there are some responses that work out better for us. As I’ve always asked my clients, “How’s that working for you?”

In reflecting upon every sort of tragedy or loss I’ve experienced, I am now realizing that I’ve gotten off easier than most – so far. I suppose that’s something to be really thankful about! I’m a positive, generally optimistic sort so I look forward to continuing a more pain-free future, but who knows? And we all hold a different threshold of pain don’t we? But what about the past? Is an accident, illness, or sudden calamity just around the corner for me? For me, it does no good to obsess about those possibilities, but to rather simply live in and absorb the present moment.

It’s beginning to dawn that each and every single one of my perceived losses be they as inconsequential as a sports mishap or perhaps the loss of a relationship, injury, illness and health, career, financial, or business mishaps all have had something valuable in common. Each contained in them an element for learning, of growth. The premature loss of a loving relationship, a cruel accident or illness, mistakes, rejections, and the like all possess the elements of growth that our soul may have signed up for and need. 

Is this an easy journey? Is pain ever easy? Of course not, but unlike the joy of triumph and winning, of getting my ego’s way, tragedy, loss, and pain may be more valuable in the long run. It has been said that that life will keep provide us with the lessons or challenges until we get them right or what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Some lessons I learned more quickly and easily – others perhaps not. Regardless, they now have me examining what I might more fully learn or embrace.

Appreciating the opportunity to live, to share time with others, to be grateful, resilient, to not quit, to take loving action, to step over fear, to forgive all including myself, show more kindness compassion, to exhibit less haste, to not take things so personally, to not react with contempt, righteousness, judgment or anger are but a few lessons I now realize that life has been trying to teach me, often in repetition.

While I have many beliefs that are constantly subject to change, I know only one truth. When I operate from a position of love and its many cousins as opposed to fear and its family, life’s flow is smoother for me – like rowing my boat gently down the stream. I suspect that is the case for you as well, but that’s only a belief.

Savor your triumphs, but also remember that hidden in every pain and loss is some lesson to be embraced and cherished.

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