Dealing with Adversity: One Heathen’s Perspective
One thing that ties us all together, being gods, humans, wights, or other creatures, is adversity. With very few exceptions, most creatures deal with adversity in some manner. I would hazard to state that it’s conquering adversities in our lives that make our lives worth living. But sometimes when we’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to think that it may be beneficial in some way or a cause for growth.
My Life is Shit, or Handling the Tough Times
Honestly, nobody except the true masochist asks for a shitty life. Sometimes that’s just what the Wyrd hands you. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything about it (after all, how do you know that you’re not fated to rise above the crap?) Poverty, disease, war, and death can really fuck up a person (duh!), but if you get through it, you’ll be stronger. I don’t care for the writings of Nietzsche, but the quote That which does not kill us makes us stronger, does ring true. I’d rather paraphrase it by saying, That which doesn’t kill us, pisses me off.
I get that the Wyrd may be what it is. I get that you may have a hamingja that is full of bad luck. And yet, how do you really know? Nobody can really say for certain that bad luck follows you around like a little black rain cloud. You may be able to dispel that spate of bad luck and turn it into good.
With few exceptions, nobody has it easy. I’ve had friends who looked incredibly fortunate, only to have adversity come crashing down. What looks good on the outside may be a total mess when you get to the fine points. And what appears to be on overnight success often was built on the unseen failures before it.
How the Gods Handled Adversity
Let’s look at how our gods handled adversity. Tyr, despite knowing he would lose his hand, stuck it in the mouth of Fenrir to ensure the wolf would be chained until Ragnarok. Odin lost his son Baldr. Thor has dealt with the Jotun in their own world with apparent failures because they tricked him. Each god has had their share of adversity in some way, and in many cases dealt with it.
We’re not told specifically how Tyr had to deal with the loss of his right hand, but we can well imagine the pain that followed. Then there was the emotional trauma and the need to relearn swordsmanship with his left hand. Now, one could say he’s a god and he’d have an easier time of it, but the stories don’t suggest that he could snap his fingers (of his left hand) and have all the abilities transferred over. In fact, we know that the gods feel pain (thanks to Loki), so we know Tyr felt pain. But we know that Tyr stood up in the face of adversity and continued onward.
What to Do When Life Hands You Lemons
You’ve probably heard the saying “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” I think that is a little too glib. Shit happens. I’ve written about when bad things happen, but I didn’t offer any good ideas for dealing with it. Here, I’m actually going to offer some constructive advice.
First, bad things will happen in your life, just as good things happen in life. That is the nature of life. When it is death of a loved one, physical injury, or disease, you need to take time out to care for yourself. Get the help you need to center yourself and the strength to continue forward. You may find help where you least expect it and you might come out stronger.
If your adversity is something like unemployment, change in social status, a failed business venture, a divorce or break up, or simply a failure to perform, you’ll need to regroup for a time and consider your options. In the meantime, look for opportunities that may arise that you never considered. The times when I lost a job were simply times I needed to kick myself in the ass and find something else that worked better. Often, we mourn the complacency we had when in fact, the gods are telling us there’s something better out there if we just look for it.
Your Wake Up Call
Use adversity as a wake up call. When my dad nearly died many years ago, I realized that I could either go the path I was on and be miserable, or take a new step in a different direction. I chose the latter. When I lost both my parents within a span of two years, I realized that I could continue the way I was going, or carve a new path. Although their deaths were traumatic to me, I ended up learning something. I realized that my parents had many regrets. These regrets I didn’t want to have.
When a friend died of cancer, I saw the same issues. There are too many regrets in this world, and in the end, when we leave it, we either leave with regrets or with the knowledge that we fought a good fight, and perhaps won.
I keep repeating the Doctor’s quote that “We are all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” The Havamal says it succinctly:
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well