Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears. ― Marcus Aurelius

Last Saturday I went to San Francisco because my best childhood friend was going to be there. It’d been fourteen years since I’d seen her, and I loved every minute of our time together.

Tamara said something that’s stuck with me. She’d read an article that pointed out how, here in western civilization, we expect life to be good, smooth, easy. Thus we are disappointed and upset when something goes badly or not as planned. What if, the article suggested, we adopted the more eastern view that, essentially, life is full of struggle and suffering? Then we could be pleasantly surprised about the good things that happen, rather than bitter and distressed about the bad.

(I was pleased to find that the girl who was my best friend at the tender age of six was probably a wise soul, given that, forty-some years later, she was pondering this sort of thing.)

So your kid gets a diagnosis of autism. Instead of plunging into despair, denial and depression, you think: “Of course. This fits nicely into the struggle that is life.”  And on you go.

My friend, Jaquelyn, loves her pottery class. The running theme in her class is wabi-sabi, a Japanese phrase meaning flawed perfection. Jaquie might be forming a bowl when, at some point, she finds a crack or an inconsistency somewhere. “That’s the wabi-sabi,” she’ll say. The class agrees that the flaw only adds to the beauty of each creation.

And so it is with Joseph. When it gets difficult, I am now more accepting that it’s supposed to be. The challenges Joseph presents fit perfectly into the struggle of life. Joseph and his autism are wabi-sabi: imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Just like the rest of us. How beautiful.

pepsi generationThis is in direct opposition to the American “It’s all good” attitude.  I blame the media for a lot of this expectation of perfection. Like the Pepsi Generation: those young, beautiful, on-top-of-the-world  people who have not only Pepsi, but everything else they’ll ever need in life. No wabi-sabi there!

Of course, one in four Americans is on anti-depressants, trying to find their own personal Pepsi Generation. Lotsa luck, guys!

Expecting life to be difficult doesn’t mean I’ve turned into Eeyore. Rather than moping about,  I find myself much happier with lowered expectations.

Rabih Alameddine says, “…What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little; only stories of events affect us.”

Want to be happier? Listen to the stories your mind tells you about how it “should” be, and see what happens when you change the stories.