Vicissitudes of Life
Mere Reflections, Volume 5
Published by Innocent Mwatsikesimbe, 2016.
Not a constant
The lines are drawn
My highs and my lows
The good idea
The lone visionary
Everything and nothing
I will live it
Things can change fast
Life is a slim chance
When the worst is the best
All rights reserved. The opinions expressed in this book are those of the author.
VICISSITUDES OF LIFE
Copyright © Innocent Mwatsikesimbe, 2016.
Written by Innocent Mwatsikesimbe.
The clock’s tick is a force unstoppable, always on the count; but it doesn’t always work against us. Though time is always spent and never really created, we have the opportunity to choose to work with it and not against it.
From the time of birth to that of death, your life’s condition changes in response to the innumerable factors that be. Circumstances come and go, and perhaps come back again. Fortunes favor and oppose, we gain and we lose, often with seesaw effects: when we gain, we lose something in return, and vice versa.
In the presence of all these laws of life, a way to benefit from their effects exists. Life is not a constant, things change, and by watching life sway and by studying the pendulum’s swings, we equip ourselves with the power to make the most of life’s vicissitudes.
When life changes for the worse and our fortunes are not in our immediate control, it is wise to utilize that which we can control: our minds and the attitudes we maintain. A trained mind will learn life lessons from misfortune and understand how things work in the world more and more as time passes. When basking in life’s successes and privileges, a trained mind will stay in touch with reality and still learn from life. Consider a person truly fortunate when he can ride the highs and lows of life, good times and bad times, and still maintain love for life.
Being the perfectionist that I am, I like order, predictability and clarity. Anything to the contrary is inexplicably irritating. Though life doesn’t always allow these three to coexist, I always work to keep them all in my life, to whatever degrees possible. This is why I can only find one word to describe my life at a certain point in time, not very far back: chaotic.
I will never forget the last few months of the year 2008 and the first couple of months of 2009. Every effort I put into getting some order back into my life ran me into a brick wall. I discovered that no order can be found when you’re living in a country at the peak of hyperinflation, economic meltdown and societal dysfunction; Zimbabwe is the country.
The disturbing experiences I endured left permanent mental scars, that I study and learn from, up to this day (June 2016). They even inspired me to write one of the earlier works in my career, Defunct Money, a short memoir I wrote and published in 2012.
Can you imagine living in a country where money doesn’t work and you have absolutely no hope of making something of your life through normal hard work and focus? Can you wake up every morning and not know what you will eat and if you will be alive tomorrow? Would you have a reason to live if you knew that all you’ve been working to achieve in your life was most likely going to end as just a dream? With no work possible to do, lack of the basic needs of life such as healthcare, food security, reliable water and electricity supply, and no ray of hope in the near future, would you have something to look forward to? With so many important things missing from your life, would you have time to think about dreams and hopes for the future?
Of all of my life’s lows, I consider these experiences to be the worst of the worst; I had hit rock bottom, and proceeded to fall further—into a very deep crack in the rock, and hit the bottom of that as well.
I embrace all these memories now, because I realize that the experiences helped shape my character and opened my eyes to another side of life that I never knew existed. Many lessons can be drawn from what I experienced and I’ll share some important ones.
Among the most salient lessons I learned from that chaotic period of my life, the ability to better appreciate the value of order in life comes first. When things are going well and life’s events and circumstances fit into each other frictionlessly like a well-oiled machine, it is easy to get so used to the seemingly perfect and unbreakable harmony that we become lax and unappreciative of the underlying principles that hold an orderly life together. Nowadays, I am unable to ignore the enablers of order in my life, because I’ve seen how things can get out of hand easily. Work, foresight, proactivity, keeping in touch with reality and questioning things in life; these are the enablers of an orderly life.
Work is more important to me than ever before and I appreciate not just the rewards of it, but even the opportunity to work; the opportunity that I yearned for and lacked for almost four years. Work is sweet to a productive soul once deprived by circumstance.
Our current circumstances say a lot about what happened in the past and what might happen in the future. Foresight is an important enabler of order dependant on our awareness of the overall direction of life. With it, decisions are made today to create a desired tomorrow. Such decision-making is the beginning of proactivity and any actions we take will allow us to be ahead of circumstance, acting ahead of time.
At all times, I make sure that I am in touch with reality; especially when things are “well” and life is on a high. I’ve learned that the comforts of life can easily seduce you to idleness and procrastination, if no deliberate efforts to be productive are made. Questions also possess much power, as I wrote in this book’s predecessor Questions Asked (Mere Reflections, Book 4), and if you question the things in your life, you initiate thought processes that lead to answers with solutions, guidance, wisdom and change.
All these enablers work together to maintain the principles that uphold an orderly life. Disturbances in my life’s order brought about these lessons and forever engraved them in my mind.
With each day you live, the statuses of your fortunes fluctuate up and down. The areas in which this happens are varied; with health, finance, well-being, happiness, productivity, social life, career and knowledge being just a few examples. As though your life is a line graph, imagine these values being plotted constantly; the lines are drawn all the time.
You have to learn to read between the lines to avoid being shaken by the ups and downs of life and to keep things from getting out of hand. People who learn to understand their life’s varying fortunes and use them to their advantage will stand out as being resilient and they will weather life’s storms.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be a data analyst to study and understand your life’s vicissitudes. You just need to apply the right efforts in the right direction and everything else will fall into place. In whatever area of life you are interested in, study how the line is drawn and in which direction its graph is heading. Do you like the direction? Can you see any patterns over time? This imaginary line graph of your life’s vicissitudes gives you a chance to see what is going on, when it all started and how you can change things. This knowledge becomes power when you use it to make decisions that change your circumstances and mindset, to improve yourself.
Other lines are drawn too throughout a person’s life stages. Misfortune in your life draws the line between those who care and those who just pretend to, and you will not need anyone to tell you which side they are on. It also draws the line between cowardice and courageous resilience; when you choose to refuse to give in to hardship instead of accepting life’s pressures without resistance.
Success draws the line between genuine friends and family, and people who are not comfortable with your good fortune. It also draws the line between the wise and the imprudent, when you choose to continue working on maintaining your success and improving your life, instead of losing yourself to fortune and recklessly risking regression.
Over time, riding the ups and downs of life matures the mind. My view of life’s vicissitudes evolved in the last few years to the point that I have developed my own definitions for what I call “highs” and “lows,” apart from what onlookers might think.
When you’ve hit rock bottom, the fear of failure dies a permanent death in your life. This is also a time when your eyes are opened to see many opportunities that you just couldn’t see all along, because of the veil of “success” or life’s comforts. My best decisions in life were made at a time when I had hit an all-time low, which makes me question if it is right to call that phase in my life a low. In light of the decisions I made at that time, I had reached new heights, of self-knowledge and self-will.
It was ironic. When most people thought that I was going through a tough time, there I was being hit by epiphany after epiphany; learning so many life lessons. When everything was said to be over, I could only see a chance to start afresh.
I suppose I could have suffered as they expected, had I not resolved to learn from life, make changes and move on. I definitely would have suffered a lot of pain if I had dwelt in that retrospective state that you initially enter after a bad occurrence, in which you think about the “good old days,” instead of working to make the coming days the best days ever.
Nowadays, I consider it a low day when I feel empty or fail to learn anything at all. Admittedly, these days are now few. I feel blessed to wake up in the morning and look forward to my day. I am thankful for work that I love to do, being aware that not too long ago, I yearned to find my own way in life. I constantly asked myself what I would do with my life and angrily searched for answers. The memories of bad times now make me grateful for my lot and make life sweeter than ever before.
One should never underestimate the power of a good idea. It is life-changing to have an encounter with a good idea. Its effects are irreversible and its benefits irrefutable.
A good idea is a highly infectious virus with no cure, that will destroy all fallacious beliefs in its host’s mind. I learned this when a good idea hit me at a time when my life was a mess. I had just experienced a painful setback and I naively believed that my world had come to a standstill, yet my life was about to take a much better direction.
This was the good idea that hit me: to be an author. I made this decision at a very difficult time in my life, and following this vision was like signing up for years of trouble, but I still did so. I was fully convinced that this was a good idea; the best idea of my lifetime. It felt like falling in love: you know that what you are doing is right, even in the face of so much opposition.
The fallacious beliefs that this good idea destroyed in my mind are too many to recall, and the number grows by the day. The closest to memory is the belief I had of my life’s worth. I had no idea that I was worth as much as I am now, and I underestimated my own value in the world. My way with words entertains, educates, inspires, uplifts and motivates people around the world to love life and improve the way they live, and that makes me feel really good.
This good idea became a constant reminder, to not let what my life’s circumstances said about me at the time determine what I said about myself. Whenever life and the people in it hurt me, I knew that no one else had the power to kill my dreams but myself, and I never gave up on them. Though it might feel as if you are groping in the dark, you should never stop looking for answers. No matter how dark the hour, the light switch you need might just be a single step away.
When it comes to insults and pain, I’ve had enough to know that there are much better things to do in life than to subject yourself to them, tolerate them unnecessarily or to even inflict such on another human being. I’ve had people insult me in varying degrees of intensity and I admit to being hurt by them initially. That was before I realized the real meaning of their insults.
By choosing to insult me, they revealed that they were neither receptive enough to understand me nor courageous enough to work on their own self-esteem issues. I ended up feeling low levels of pity for them and it helped me put their insults behind me and not take them to heart.
Sometimes all you need to make sense of things is to just be alone. I truly was alone, as no one understood me. Having no one to relate to is a loneliness of great pain; you can’t connect with the people around you and any interactions you have further prove that point.
The upside is that the loneliness is my strength. I’m less likely to be deterred by other people’s opinions and influence when I know that I am alone in my path of life. This makes the most sense when I view it in light of following my dreams. My ambitions have always created a significant difference of opinion between the people in my life and I.
Then again, when it comes to following a vision, the owner is usually alone, as it is very rare for two people to pursue the same version of a vision. It doesn’t always have to be like this, but it is what it is. I’ll be the lone visionary, striving to be the best that I can be; lone until I find a woman who understands me that is.
My family’s financial downfall came at a time when I really needed some support to build my own life up, as a young man who had just finished highschool. To make matters worse, the extended family members who could have helped out where also affected by the country’s economic woes. They actually needed our help. The other members who were much better off and were immune to the chaos (mostly because they had left Zimbabwe a long while back) were just not willing to help out. Dysfunctional families are no new thing, but they hurt the young ones the most. I know this personally.
As frustrating as my circumstances were, I had been crashed. No one can ever know just how much I was hurt and how much my mind was changed by it all. Fortunately, Lady Luck was on my side and I somehow managed to not only survive, but I found myself a career and brought hope back into my life. The years that followed were filled with a lot of hard work, fortune’s favor and many lessons learned.
My family never fully recovered from the troubles it faced. There were moments of relief here and there, but the unit broke under the weight of life’s pressures; culminating in the divorcing of my parents. Ironically though, nowadays I feel closer to both my parents than I ever was, even though we no longer live together. I suppose my relentless efforts to keep in touch and cultivate love are paying off.
Back to the subject at hand, something happened to me during my troubled times though. Among the many lessons I have learned, a theme stands out. Having come to a point where I had lost “everything,” I realize that what I thought was everything was in fact nothing. I mean this in two senses.
Firstly, everything I had and lost that time was not of the most value in my life. Loss suddenly opened my eyes to see the more important things in life. Immaterial assets such as time, knowledge and skill became some of the few things remaining that I could hold on to, that nobody could take away from me.
Secondly, it all dwarfs in comparison to what I have now. This slight mishap as I see it now, actually propelled me toward greater endeavors; setback put me ahead, loss gave me more in return and everything became nothing to give me everything again. The irony of it all is educating.
I had no money, no career to look forward to, the life I lived had been stripped of all its glory and luxury, and to top it all, I lost my family and those who I thought I had as family proved to have never been mine in the first place. What an eye-opener it was! This is when I developed a new understanding of “everything” and “nothing.”
Where you are privileged, you are disadvantaged multiple times more: you don’t know how cold the world can get if you’re locked up in a warm house all day. We should be more appreciative when we face problems in life because we encounter reality in the process. Life is a problem; one that no one has yet been able to solve. Living it is a never-ending problem-solving process.
There is a statement I made once that turned out to be one of the most important mottos in my life.
This is my life and I will live it
It was more of a response to serious forces that were going against me at the time. I had many troubles in my life (circumstances and negative people) and everything seemed to want to take away my love for my own life. My reasoning for making this statement was that I have always loved my life, even when I faced difficulties in the past. Yes, the current obstacles were the worst I had ever seen, but I refused to hate my life. Why should I hate life because things are not going my way?
Making that statement was my way of accepting responsibility for my own life and whatever my lot was. I had resolved to stop wasting time stuck in negativity and to begin making efforts to change my life for the better, however long it would take.
It is a sign of maturity to take responsibility for your own life. When things are going well and your life is attractive, it is easy for you to say, “This is my life.” However, when your life hits a low and it is not attractive, you are tempted to shy away from accepting responsibility only if your mind is not matured to life’s vicissitudes. The mature person will say, “This is my life,” in good times as well as in bad times.
Change is a very powerful thing and when that change is affecting your life negatively then things can go from good to bad in a very short space of time. A few thoughtless decisions can send your life on a downward spiral that will result in big or even irrecoverable losses. The same force of change when it affects your life positively can bring effective improvement that lasts for up to a lifetime.
The law of life’s vicissitudes allows for all that rises to fall, and from that velocity, to rise up even higher. If you understand that the same power that causes to rise can cause to fall, you will see why it is wise to be friends with change and never enemies with it. Change is unstoppable, but the good thing is that we can befriend it and work with it, not against it.
Working your way out of unfavorable life circumstances is more a matter of positioning yourself than it is about fighting things or people. Sometimes all you need to do is shift your focus from what’s happening around you to what will be happening in the future. Ask yourself what you can do today to align yourself with change.
Defiance is not always about acting out. Changing your mind can defy fortune. Maintaining control of your mind throughout the rising and falling offers much better prospects of success and happiness than mental laziness. This type of defiance cancels out both opposing forces of ups and downs, by amplifying the upsides of our falls and the downsides of our ascensions.
It is when your life is falling apart that you understand just how fragile it is. You understand the elements that held each breakaway piece together and also why they weakened. This confrontation with reality is a unique and personalized life lesson for you to embrace and learn. It is a fact that a person who builds his or her life up after it falls apart will value that life more and handle it with a lot of care.
Life’s misfortunes are not to be despised. They can befall anyone. It’s best to learn from them and benefit from the reality check; and hopefully identify ways to avoid or mitigate their effects. Avoid falling apart as your life falls apart; who then will pick up the pieces? Keep it together and discover what holds your life together.
Think of it as a chance to start afresh instead of a loss you’ve incurred. I learned this lesson when multiple areas in my life began to fall apart at the same time. My financial position made me lose out on a lot of things, but I took it as a chance to revise and redefine what I wanted out of life. A lover abandoned and insulted me, but I saw it as a lucky escape from a relationship that was not meant to be and as a chance to start a new one with more wisdom to choose someone I am more compatible with. I also faced health challenges, but I saw them as a chance to start taking better care of myself and as a reminder to appreciate life.
Reflecting on it all, the things I lost came back to my life in even better form because I changed how I viewed the situations. I saw the misfortune, but I also saw a chance to start over and make things even better. This positive attitude helped me to make very important decisions that later proved to be the best I had ever made.
There is at least one advantage behind every disadvantage to enter your life, at least one good thing behind every bad occurrence, and those good things are found when we use our misfortune to our advantage.
Is life not just the result of lucky streaks brought forth by one mother of all lucky streaks? Think about it. All that we know as life is all happening on one planet, that’s stuck spinning in orbit around one giant star, in the middle of space. A force threw our little planet just the right distance away from the sun to keep it within distance of its gravitational pull so that it doesn’t wander off into space, far away from the radiative energy the sun produces, which also happens to be just the right amount to support life. Never mind where it all came from and the original state of things before our miracle. What are the chances of Earth’s fortunes? Probably one in eternity.
As of this writing, scientists are yet to find a planet truly like our own life-supporting miracle. It makes me wonder. The billions of lives on earth are all in existence because of this one slim chance that enabled life to be. This should really make you appreciate the power of one chance. If one chance was all it took to make our world then why should we waste opportunities and chances of a lifetime in life? Why should we be afraid to take chances in life? What if the slim chance of our existence had not been taken in the first place? Would we have a life to not take chances with? Everything and everyone would not be.
This is just some inspiration to help you be more outgoing, so that you take chances in life. If one chance was all it took to create the universe and this thing we know as life, then will we be stupid for taking some chances in our own lives as well? Hard-to-achieve things remain so until one of us chooses to take the chance and not give up. As I wrote in Mirror (Mere Reflections, Book 2), remember that the opportunity that you are looking at today will probably never present itself again in your life. There will never be another day such as this one, with all the variables of life combining in such a way to form this opportunity. So don’t let it go, grab it.
It is an awakening of a special kind to find out that the worst experiences you have ever endured in your life were actually very beneficial. The same things that brought you pain brought you wisdom, personal growth and now make you feel grateful; a setback did slow you down, but it later propelled you further than you could have gone originally. It’s a strange conflict of emotions that just proves the old saying that not all is as it seems.
The “worst” to befall a person can turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to him or her. With all that has happened to me in the last few years, I realize that it has improved me. My mind was sharpened by life’s abrasion. I was like a blunt pencil, but I was cut and it sharpened my life’s focus. Now I draw my life’s picture in finer lines.
This is why I encourage people to not make hasty conclusions of their fortunes, especially during times of change and uncertainty. What you think is misfortune on first sight might be a blessing in disguise. Give it time and think more on the circumstances. Never let negativity cloud your judgment.
All of this happened because I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a mental attitude that helped me make the most of life’s vicissitudes. This book is an expression of that attitude and I hope it helps you to find your way out of the challenges you face in your life, in one piece, glowing with self-esteem. This attitude should also be a reality check to people who mistreat others and to the abused as well. Wake up to reality: the people you hurt, abuse, use and look down upon, you in fact strengthen, sharpen and elevate beyond your level of thinking; and you weaken yourself in the process.
Thank you for reading my book. It is not just a book you have read, but it is a vision you helped fulfill; I am an author because you are a reader. If you would like to support my work, you can send any amount to me through PayPal. Thank you for being part of my vision.
Wisdom to Master Life's Ups and Downs Life is not a constant; variations in circumstance befall all. Some people experience growth from them and some unfortunately suffer regression. Life’s vicissitudes mature the mind, but only that of a receptive individual. This book has 12 uplifting and inspirational reflections that expose your mind to the effects of varying circumstances and fortunes in life, and they help you to develop a mindset that uses these effects to aid your own mental growth. Expect to imbibe wisdom and encouragement to make the most of the clock’s tick, the pendulum’s swing and life’s sway—to make the most of life’s vicissitudes. This is the fifth book in the “Mere Reflections” self-help series. Some of the lessons and benefits to expect from this book: * Inspiration to look at the ups and downs of life from a positive and life-changing perspective * Appreciating the value of an orderly life and understanding its enablers * The upsides of life’s downs and how to make good use of them * The importance of defining your own ideas of highs and lows in your life to live a life of your choice * How good ideas change your life for the better * Encouragement to pursue your dreams even in the face of opposition and loneliness * Taking responsibility for your life during good and bad times * How the forces of rising and falling in life can be used to your benefit * How to keep it together when everything is falling apart, and picking up the pieces afterwards * The power of a single chance or opportunity in life