My father loved vocabulary, and he encouraged us to learn words, too. One way he did this was to use words unknown to us, so that we would have to look them up to find their definition. At the time it seemed oppressive and punitive, but in retrospect I must say it helped me to love words, too. My mother was a lover of words, too, just not so provocative with the way she taught them to us.
One of the words I learned from my father long ago was the word “vicissitudes.” To me it always held a negative connotation, but in actuality it just refers to changes or alterations in life. Of course, changes can sometimes be troublesome, especially for those of us who like most things to remain as they are.
I am reflecting today on “the vicissitudes of life,” the changes that have occurred over the past few years for me and for many that I love. You, too, may identify with these vicissitudes for you and/or those closest to you. Looking in retrospect at the vicissitudes of your life can sometimes give you gratitude for the unwanted changes; that is, you might decide that what happened really made things turn out better than they would have otherwise. Other times . . . not so much.
Many stories about innovative inventions are like this: penicillin; plastic; the pacemaker. Of course, to be honest, many mistakes do not turn into inventions; rather, they destroy, maim, or kill (just to give equal time to the possible detractors in the audience).
But in your life’s experience . . . what would you say?
I know my near fatal heart attack in October 2016 was nothing but an unexpected disaster when it happened. And the resulting irreversible damage it caused seemed to confirm that assessment. But looking back on it now . . . it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. How can such a vicissitude be viewed in two such diametrically opposed positions?
Sometimes a vicissitude can be a catalyst for more change. It can cause one to “rise to the occasion” (so to speak) as it did after the disaster at Pearl Harbor. It can unite a whole nation as it did after 9/11. Often, struggle (a vicissitude which is almost always unwanted) can catapult you into a more honest, genuine and authentic relationship with those you love.
And so, the object is not to find any way possible to avoid, or block, or prohibit the vicissitude (if that were even possible); rather, the object is to embrace it . . . even reluctantly (since none of is an expert at this) as soon as possible, then look for the resulting benefit on the horizon. [NOTE TO SELF: horizons can sometimes be pretty far away]
Over the past two years families have suffered from many vicissitudes heretofore unknown (or at best, infrequent), and this has taken a toll the proportion of which is unparalleled in modern times (at least in the USA). These vicissitudes have split families, severed marriages, exacerbated the incidence of mental illness, and left an emotional pallor on the faces of untold millions. If you can identify with this resulting depression and discouragement, you are not alone.
However, I for one am trying to look to the horizon for a coming benefit. At least I am trying to do so. Because I am learning (slowly, mind you) that when the challenges of change arise I have a decision to make: I can either embrace the change (as quickly as possible) and arrive at its benefit, or I can resist/deny the change and suffer even more fallout and pain before I embrace it. It’s my choice. And yours.
So, if you find yourself in the midst of turmoil, be it family, personal, national, social, etc. do not lose heart. Get honest, Be genuine. Let authenticity do its cleansing work.
The sun will rise again.
[Thank you, Dad, for that good word. Rest in peace. You didn’t waste it on children who didn’t pay any attention. We have seen the horizon you wanted us to see. And it is beautiful!]