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Facts of Life That Get in the Way of Living, Loving, and Laughing

by William Cottringer
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Facts of Life
Life can throw a curve ball at us. That is just one of the facts of life we must accept and adapt to be happy, successful, and content.  

We rarely see things as they are but the way we are—our vision is clouded by our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, interpretations, expectations, and all the other facts of life that get in the way of living, loving, and laughing.
One fact of life that has always gotten in the way of my own living, loving, and laughing is that life throws curve balls at me when I least want or expect them. I know they will keep coming until I stop striking out and hit the ball.  
My list of the facts of life that get in the way of living, loving, and laughing is hardly exhaustive but more of a way to motivate you to think about your own list to deal with.
These are the realities we must adapt to if we are going to be as happy, successful, and content as we would like. Acceptance is not a weakness; it is just a way to release your true strength and put you in a better position to use it for the best results.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

This is a tough spiritual question for ministers, rabbis, and priests. How do we explain an all-powerful and loving God allowing tragedies like innocent children to be mercilessly slaughtered in a classroom, hard-working folks to lose their homes in a vicious storm, or young soldiers having their lives cut short in a senseless war?
The only possible answer that makes any sense and doesn’t offend our feelings is that both good and bad things inevitably happen in life, and they are not directed at good or bad people. Of course, there is a distinct possibility that we don’t get all our answers here on earth and may just have to wait for a bigger purpose to be revealed later, which will finally make good sense and feel right about such inexplicable tragedies.
There is no fairness vs. unfairness war in the rest of nature, so any thought about fairness gets in the way of our living, loving, and laughing.

Life’s Way Is Rarely Our Way

From the beginning, we see that life will not stop and cooperate with our needs and preferences. It has its own way that is impossible to deny and yet we keep foolishly trying to twist it in our direction, sometimes until the mortal end.
The problem is that sometimes enough people luck out in changing realities into ones they want and creating new and better ones than most of us have, deluding the rest of us into thinking it can be done. But even those few élite winners operate with a secret. They let go until life gradually takes them where they want to be and they find success.
We usually interpret acceptance as a weak passive consolation. But that is wrong.  Accepting something you don’t like is the hardest thing you can ever try to do, but that gives you the strength to develop.

Acceptance of life

Acceptance of facts of life is not a weakness but just a way to release your true strength and put you in a better position to use it for the best results. 

We Resist Certainties Until Death

There was an earlier saying in the human potential movement that was annoyingly true—“What you resist persists.” One such thing—change—comes with two inevitable qualities: (a) it will always make us feel annoyingly disturbed and uncomfortable, but usually more so when we are most comfortable, and (b) It just keeps coming like the Energizer Bunny. Once you begin to accept that change is the way of life, there is no need to expect otherwise and get disappointed by all that it brings.
Fortunately, there aren’t that many certainties to accept. Some say only death and taxes are certain. The problem here is that we often resist near certainties, even when our experiences confirm the thing to be mostly true and something to avoid. We know overeating or over-drinking and not exercising is bad for health, and yet many of us go against that fact.  

What We Know Is Often Not So

I learned something important in helping my youngest daughter get through a final exam question to finish graduation at a high school. The question was, “How do you know for sure what you think to be true is really true?” After weeks of researching the esoteric field of epistemology, or theory of knowledge, we both arrived at the inescapable conclusion that it was a giant leap of faith to believe in the truth of something arriving from your senses, reliable authorities, intuition, critical thinking, or any other way, 
I am learning that all that I thought I knew to be so is not so at all. We are stuck with only seeing partial truth and waiting for the rest of the story. Our brains aren’t wired to capture it all at once, we try to deal with situations with only half of what we need to know to be more successful. Yet, just knowing this fact of life helps you from taking yourself or your position too seriously and you become more open to learning what you need to know.

Perceptions and Reality Often Disagree

Our personal perceptions and reality rarely agree at the end of the day. Even our faulty memories aren’t successful in reconciling these differences. The “rest of the story” that we always find out after-the-fact, changes our perceptions and realities with more accuracy and additional completeness.
From physics, we know that even mechanical “observers” change outcomes in experiments specifically designed to avoid that. Things are the way they are, and all we can do is try to see and talk about them in close approximation. This means not taking our individual perceptions as gospel truth but rather a tentative conclusion at the time to be modified later.
Yes, initial perceptions of a situation or another person may be difficult to undo. Because you can’t admit the possibility of you being wrong. The earlier perception becomes more changeable with a little openness to questioning the way you feel about a situation. A long-term friend I met at a workshop led by maximum security inmates at a jail in Illinois once posed an interesting question to me: “If I couldn’t keep an open mind, was I sure I had one?”

letting go

The few élite winners we envy operate with a secret. They, too, had let go until life gradually took them where they wanted to be, and they suddenly found success.

Illustration courtesy: Marianne Faguy

Patience is (Almost) Impossible

The rest of nature has the luxury of patience, not human beings. Becoming patient is like losing your ego, which is hard. The easy way is not to try to do something that is impossible. Instead, try to take your mind off wanting or waiting for something. Or think of something in place of the desired object to divert your brain’s focus. That is the only way kids can control their natural immediate need for gratification in the classic marshmallow experiment: promising youngsters in a classroom two more marshmallows as a reward if they can resist eating the one right before them for three minutes. 
Patience is like a muscle; it atrophies when not exercised regularly. Unless you were lucky enough to be born with the “patience of Job”, you must start by exercising a little patience on the little things first, building up the muscle for when you need it to get through a severe tragedy with a burden so big it buries you. In the meantime, always look for a usable diversion, and when things are “smooth as glue” plan for your best reaction to when the glue gets sticky.

The Tail Wagging the Dog

In an earlier movie, Wag the Dog, Robert de Niro and Dustin Hoffman conspire to fabricate a war as a diversion to draw the public’s attention away from the President’s sex scandal for him to get re-elected. The dog is the only animal that can wag his tail, but oddly the tail wagging the dog occurs often. That fact of life does get in the way of living.
Life and the universe are already in perpetual motion before we take our first breath or step. Unless you dam it, stopping a flowing river and redirecting it is a pipe dream full of inevitable frustration. The tail seems to be wagging the dog to give us a hint about what we can, in fact, control and fix. Then, we can gradually be in a much better position to move on to our collective march toward being the dog that wags the tail when we all get to the finish line with team effort. But we are a long way from that. Every time you get close to the finish line, the finish line is moved farther ahead of you. The lesson, then, is to control the controllables and let go of the rest.

Good Communication is an Oxymoron

We originally invented a spoken and written language to talk about things that became too cumbersome—things like mountains, rivers, the moon, and later cars, houses, and furniture. The purpose was to choose words to represent what we wanted to show, and even the ones that didn’t even exist. This system quickly got out of hand, growing exponentially and widening the gap between the real objects and the names we were giving them.  
Our communication system opens the door to infinite interpretations and beliefs about what is or isn’t true. People’s brains don’t adequately process what their ears hear, so good communication is not possible in most interactions.
Feelings Always Outweigh Facts
Facts can be interesting, but do they ever really result in decisions or choices that produce any good changes or outcomes in anything? Not really. First, the science of facts isn’t what drives the entire universe but rather good storytelling. It is the story that helps us know what we believe to be true through how the story makes us feel. Simply put, we want to feel good and avoid feeling bad unless a little bad may just be in the way of a lot more good.
Yes, we have already realized the critical importance of emotional intelligence in the success equation. But intellectual and emotional intelligence are the best two raw abilities to mix with effort, good timing, perseverance, and a little luck to produce genuine success and the authentic happiness that goes with it. Confidence and competence are inseparable, but it is how you feel about both that drives you forward from graduating from just surviving (which is quite an accomplishment these days!) to the world of thriving with abundance.
When you start doing the impossible thing—accept the sure reality that you are just a small part of life and that life isn’t a big part of you—you get rid of the bad effects of the facts of life that get in the way of your living, loving and laughing.

Visuals courtesy:, and Marianne Faguy (

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