Some days there are simply too many shining examples of people triumphing over crushing circumstances. The media parades before us teachers like Eckhart Tolle or Joe Vitalle who rose to riches from being homeless or Aron Ralston who sacrificed his arm to save his life. That awe-inspiring, brilliant glare of achievement produces an equal amount of dark shadow where a normal life seems to lie hidden in the shadows of in consequence. Our daily struggles seem like ant hills next to the mighty Himalayas scaled by those gods of achievement.
Many people faced similar situations and survived but did not triumph. They are never noted in the news except with certain indifference. You can find them, if you find them at all, in a footnote to a news story along these lines: Six other hikers were reported lost this same week, but were eventually found safely.
Others exist still, in terrible circumstances, mired in the drama and pain, resigned to their despair. Often we pity and placate them with charitable donations to ease our conscience. Or worse, we harangue them from our position of knowing what is best for them that they cannot or will not do for themselves.
Let us admit that it is struggle, not the eventual outcome, which we find inspiring and engrossing. The heroics of impossible odds captivate our attention (think Frodo at the Gates of Mordor). The happy-ever-after ending creates a heartfelt sigh of appreciation, and then we almost immediately lose interest in where Life leads our hero next. We know people living happy ever after results who are simply annoying: tedious advice givers; boring philanthropists; and those who explain ad nauseum that they walked barefoot through the snow uphill both directions to get their results.
We, who face more modest problems, while living normal lives, are left struggling to break free of our own daily mediocrity. How can these teachers really apply to our lives? If the edges of our path are simply bumpy gravel instead of a thousand foot cliff edge, a wrong turn does not need to be corrected instantly. If the river of our life turns in ox-bow curves through a vast monotony of prairie grass how are we to find the will to break free and paddle to new perspectives?
Without emotional fuel of the ‘Do it now or die!’ variety, we simply face the grinding choice of ‘Do something Different or… Die Slowly by Inches’. Most of us choose the slow torture of enduring one more day…. while decades pass. We look at the glittering examples touted in our media and decide they do not apply in our lives.
Consider that making changes in your life can actually be more difficult. Facing extreme situations we surrender our old ways and make new choices because there are no other options left. In normal lives change seems a luxury — and an effort. Yet, the small changes, made by the people just like you and me create massive results. Never underestimate the impact of everyday heroes making tiny changes.
Do not be overwhelmed by the glittering gurus. And when looking for inspiration – check first in your own mirror!