A Chinese farmer’s neighbours came over to offer him their sympathy after his horse ran away. “I’m not so sure it’s a misfortune”, said the farmer. The neighbours left, shaking their heads.
The next day, the farmer’s horse returned, and three wild horses came home with him. The neighbours returned to congratulate the farmer on his good fortune. “I’m not certain that it is good fortune”, replied the farmer. The neighbours left, more bemused than before.
Later that week, the farmer’s son broke his leg trying to train one of the new horses, and the neighbours came by to offer condolences. “I’m not sure this is a misfortune”, said the farmer again. The neighbours left, discussing the man’s mental state among themselves.
The next day, the emperor came through, gathering up young men to be in his army. They bypassed the farmer’s son, since he had a broken leg.
This story very evidently elicits the very yin and yang of life – the ups and downs, the swirling nature of life’s habit of good and bad fortune which sometimes are intrinsically linked – bittersweet. Recently my dad died and so many things are bittersweet because of it. My dad was a difficult man to know. He drank to excess and wanted to live his life so that he enjoyed it – despite how that affected everyone else. My father’s parents and grandparents were hard taskmasters. My father hero worshipped his father and when he passed away in 1966, my father was indelibly affected. So much so that he began a daily ritual of drowning his sorrows until this became the habit of his life and he literally didn’t know what else to do with his time.
Being the eldest son, the death of your father really causes you to examine what’s happening in your life. I didn’t have a great relationship with him over his life. I couldn’t deal with his self-righteous self-publicising. I remember feeling a bittersweet sense of being devastated that I’d not made up with him and simultaneously of nothing can hold me back now. He had had pneumonia and needed oxygen constantly. His lungs were incredibly scarred from years of heavy smoking. The last thing that I’d said to my father was “if you don’t put back on the oxygen mask, I’m leaving” at which point he again threw it on the floor for probably the tenth time. I left.
It had to take the passing of my father to realise what was really important to me. The passing of my father had a bittersweet moment also for my mother. She had taken care of him through his dementia for over 10 years but she would now have a chance to live her life again.
I resolved that I would make the passing of my father an occasion where the past was undeniably put to rest – again a bittersweet pill but isn’t that one of life’s beautiful agonies? It’s down to you to choose your viewpoint on life events – you can use them to push yourself on to success or you can use them to be a victim and wallow in your misfortune.