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Category: Havamal 77

Dealing with Adversity: One Heathen’s Perspective

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:

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well 

What is Your Legacy?

What is Your Legacy?

Cattle die,
kinsmen die
you yourself die;
I know one thing
which never dies:
the judgment of a dead man’s life.

— Havamal, 77

A friend of mine died recently.  It wasn’t unexpected, but it was depressing nonetheless. She was concerned with her legacy after her death, which is certainly understandable. But there were several things that happened around this time that made me think about a person’s legacy.  I’ll probably be saying something someone who reads this will take umbrage at, so be forewarned.

There’s a lot of conjecture whether someone who is of another faith goes into their god’s afterlife, while we Heathens go to ours, but I truly suspect that if there is an afterlife, that we all go there, regardless of our faiths. This is my belief, and a few of my UPGs (Unverified Personal Gnosis) seem to confirm this. Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV), and given that none of us REALLY know, it’s sort of a moot point, anyway.

Shortly after my friend’s death, I went to a convention that I was committed to going to.  There, I ran into some new people whom I haven’t met (I know quite a few peeps in my real life) and the comment one person made after reading my bio and talking to me was that I was vying for the title of the most interesting person.

Mundane versus Interesting

That, of course, got me thinking. It wasn’t my intent to become anything anyone would be interested in. My life seems rather mundane, at least to me.  There are plenty of things I have to do so I may eat, such as writing Internet content, hunting, and taking care of the critters. I’ve done <mumble, mumble> racing and have had plenty of outdoor experiences, but I hardly think of myself as interesting or unique.

If anything, I have some of the worst patience when it comes to living.  My basic problem is that it’s exceedingly hard to cram in all the experiences I’m looking for in a finite unit of what amounts to a lifetime, that I sort of become frenetic when I do stuff. There are too many books I haven’t read, too many places I haven’t been, and too many things I haven’t tried. So, I get that my life seems on the surface interesting, but in reality I’m racing against time to do stuff I want to do, even if it’s a pain sometimes to make plans for it.

My husband remarked that people think my life is interesting because they don’t deal with the minutia that I do all the time. They hear the stories and see the outcome.  Hence, they compare their lives which are relatively comfortable by comparison and look at my life as an adventure. Now, to be honest, there are some interesting stories I have that are even amusing, but it isn’t something I set out to do to impress anyone.

Just Make It a Good One

As I said earlier, my friend before she died was concerned with her legacy, in this case, as a writer. I get that one’s legacy is important, but to quote the Doctor, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” What we leave behind isn’t immortal, by any stretch.  But our deeds, our stories that bear repeating are, assuming people find them interesting in some fashion.

Seldom does the person who lives a common life end up remembered for the day-to-day crap. To paraphrase an old adage, boring lives rarely make history. The person must have done something notable to get considered worthy of our attention.  But even then, it’s a hit or miss.

You Want a Guarantee? Buy a Toaster

Even if you live an uncommon life or achieve some sort of fame or notoriety, there’s no guarantee you’ll live on by your work or deeds.  I’ll make my point with writers, though you can do it with just about anything.  There are plenty of prolific writers who aren’t household names. Unless you’re a well read writer, you probably don’t know who Anthony Trollope was.  He wrote 47 novels in his lifetime and quite a few shorter works.  He was famous in his day. How about Lauran Paine, who wrote more than 900 works?  How about Andrew Murray who wrote more than 240 works?

Now, there are authors whom we do recognize such as Isaac Asimov, Barbara Cartland, and Michael Crichton, who were prolific, but it’s no guarantee that will happen just because you write a lot, or even make a bestseller.  Doing something well and extraordinary my may continue a legacy, or may not.  In fact, some authors do better after they die than while alive.  Which is why pursuing fame is difficult.

My friend’s legacy is sadly mixed. Her books didn’t take off the way she hoped and toward the end she was doing things that she hoped would make her books appear better.  She was a good writer, but like many writers, she wanted everything perfect. Only there wasn’t any way for them to be perfect.  Still, she has a legacy of sorts, and one that will hopefully be remembered.

What the Fuck does this have to do with Heathenry? 

If you haven’t read my quote from the Havamal at the beginning, read it again. At some time, despite my insistence that I refuse to die, I suspect we all are going to the grave. What lies beyond is anyone’s guess.  Sure, we may end up in Helheim, Valhalla, Folksgangr, or any one of the halls of the gods.  Maybe we’ll just be in our graves.  Maybe we reincarnate, or maybe we just go into oblivion and our bodies rot.

When we go, we should have lived a life of honor. And at least an interesting life.