By Lizbeth Schoen, LCSW-C
“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” From “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
Events of life can be overwhelming, leaving us feeling at the mercy of our fate, not the master of it.
Over the years I have known many people who felt greatly challenged and sometimes defeated by the circumstances of their lives. Loss of a job, a loved one, disability, serious illness, aging, a major life transition can leave us feeling awash at sea, without moorings, out of control to some degree.
Victor Frankl, in his book “Mans Search for Meaning” writes about people in the concentration camps who came through the trials they faced with dignity and hope. He said “… everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
So, how do we cope with great challenges that alter our lives and may involve big losses? We grieve for the losses. Then we get to choose how we will face the future.
I knew someone who had a very hard life. She met many of the challenges she faced with anger, which gave her energy to do what she needed to do. Then she received a terminal diagnosis. She thought for a while and said “I’ve had a good run for my money.” Her anger was gone. She spent her last months enjoying every minute of life she had left. She sat in her driveway, looking at the sky and the flowers, greeting her neighbors and the postman as they came and went. She welcomed her family and let them feed her delicacies and care for her. It seems to me that she made a choice. By making that choice she became the master of her fate and the captain of her soul and spent her last months in a state of grace.
So, when we face great challenges maybe we can draw some strength and peace in reminding ourselves that we can make a choice about how we will face them, adapt and cope, and be the master of our fate and the captain of our soul.
By Lizbeth Schoen, LCSW-C, JCS Therapy Services in Howard County
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