Home > Public House, Things to Praise, Things to Praise > when the going gets tough…

when the going gets tough…

This was first published in publichouse under the title Things to praise, not things to curse … http://publichouse.sg/categories/highlights/item/50-things-to-praise-not-things-to-curse

reposting here for archives.

I was on my way for my regular check-up. I was not feeling confident, to say the least. The last half year had not been easy. I had to change medication, since my body was getting immune to what I had been taking for nearly 3 years. The next drug I was put on gave me bad side effects, and I had mobility issues and horrendous water retention problems. So I had to change meds yet again. The previous drugs had made me put on a lot of weight over the last 6 years. With this latest change, I was losing weight – finally! However, to lose 6kg in 2 months was bound to give my oncologist the jitters. So I was dreading the visit.

At the mrt station, I saw an old couple. They had streaks of white, between grey-looking tufts of hair. The man had on a pair of sunglasses – the very yesterday, two-toned kind. He looked incongruous, in his baggy short-sleeved shirt and trousers that had seen better days. The old lady had on the typical middle-aged style blouse, the kind that my mum used to wear when she hit fifty. Strange how, though I am already 52, I never dreamt of wearing this style of floral print, loose blouse with collar and short sleeves that can be found in almost every store in Chinatown.

Why did I notice them, you ask? Aren’t these typical, especially in mature estates like Potong Pasir? Yes, in appearance they are typical. What made them stand out for me was that they were holding hands.

No, they were not holding hands to give each other walking support. They were walking well enough. They were holding hands and swinging them as they walked, very much the way that good friends do. There was such an aura of care and affection that I stared at them for a while, a smile slowly widening on my face. I wish I had a camera with me, but I knew the lens could not capture what exuded from within. There was an air of comfort, an air of acceptance that this couple shared. It was quite evidently the fruit of a lifetime of being there for each other, whether life served durians, bittergourd or rambutans. This ease that they shared really made my day.

This made me pause and think. Most of us, if we have lived long enough, would have had our share of sorrows, our challenges. Life is not getting easier either. The young couple worry about having a home of their own, the middle manager is constantly anxious about being retrenched and replaced by a cheaper, foreign talent, the less healthy worry about healthcare costs, those approaching 55 wonder if their meager savings will see them through retirement…

We can choose to focus on our troubles, allow them to constantly overwhelm us. We can even try endlessly to help those in need and wonder if we can ever make a difference. We can get frustrated at the government, and lay all our ill-will at their feet. We can choose to be bitter and be consumed by angst.

Or we can choose to balance our life by looking out for situations that bring hope. In the midst of despair, many have risen and overcome, but many of us choose not to see these victories.

For me, this couple represents one such situation. They do not appear to be affluent. The lines on the faces show that their life could not have been easy. Yet, they have made it together. They are still there for each other. They hold hands when younger couples, a few years into marriage, often neglect to do. Perhaps in the middle of their journey together, their differences almost split them up – I have no way of knowing. What is important to me is that they give me hope that marriages can survive, with or without wealth.

On the way home, I complained to my husband that though I could move better, I was so slow, and tire so easily. Then we both saw an old man, shuffling along, cane in hand. He was on his own, and my husband, a tinge of admiration behind the jest, remarked that he must be moving at the speed of 5 cm per minute. Well, we could see his disability – but my husband and I saw his determination.

Success need not mean wealth. Victories are not measured by accolades. These two simple examples illustrate this.

Whenever I was depressed by how tough life was, I used to look out the window of my apartment, and stared at all the windows in the neighbouring apartments. I told myself to shut up, because there were people in worse positions than me. I thought I was clever to have found a way to console myself.

Now however, I have a different approach. I will look at the simple triumphs of everyday people. Then I will tell myself the when the going gets tough, the ordinary person can get going, one step at a time.

While we do not deny the struggles we go through, we need to give ourselves hope. Worrying and rage seldom bear fruit. Hope does. Being thankful is the best way to chase away bitterness. The good book teaches that we do best by filling our minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly, things to praise and not things to curse.

I cannot summarise it better.

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  1. September 11, 2011 at 3:44 am

    As we grow older, we become wiser but our body will start to decline and age. That is the irony of life. We all worship and adore youth and its vitality but then we also yearn for wisdom and knowledge. They dont reconcile but tend to move in opposites! Sigh … ! Take care.

  2. Jessica Tan
    February 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. It’s all how you look at it.
    ~J. Kenfield Morley

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