By Suma Varughese January 2010 The knowledge that life has no guarantees has helped unlock gratitude and a determination to make the most of the present moment Suma Varughese is Editor-in-Chief of Life Positive. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org Perhaps one of the most difficult truths to absorb and come to terms with is that life gives us no guarantees. None at all. There is no guarantee that we will not suffer an accident or a stroke in the next moment; turn bankrupt, or have the ceiling fall on our heads. All we have is the present moment and the present breath. Everything else is wreathed in uncertainty. Over the years, I have gradually become more and more comfortable with life as is, but even so, it took a recent experience to really confront existential uncertainty.It happened in a place where I am currently most vulnerable – with the attendants that I hired to look after my sick mother. After a string of day ayahs, I considered my problems solved when I took on a full-time help who would look after my mother as well as help in the kitchen. For the first time in months I relaxed and decided to tentatively take back some of the strings of my life. No sooner had I made a visit to the office, than she asked to go on leave for a day. It was part of the arrangement that after a month she was entitled to a couple of days off, so I granted it. Off she went. And never came back! In the one week that it took me to get her replacement, I suffered a string of mishaps with the attendants who came to look after her. By the time the next full-time maid appeared I had been through my trial of fire. I now knew that there were no guarantees. Life was uncertain, and that was the truth. I could not expect stability. This has turned out to be an aha moment. Finally that long-discerned truth about no guarantees was revisiting me as a felt reality. The awareness has brought two shifts within me. In the first place, it has made me determined to make the most of what I have in the present. Since nothing is going to last, I might as well make the most of what I have while I have it. The gift of breath, the gift of having limbs that move and senses that work, the gift of peace and stability, the gift of air, and sunshine and water. The gift of having caring friends and family. Living in uncertainty has opened up for me the golden gates of gratitude. There is so much to be grateful for in the present moment. Secondly, it ensures that I take nothing for granted. Not my health, not the people in my life, not my job, not the purr of my cat. None of these need have been and who knows how long they will be? Therefore, one needs to partake of their presence with full-hearted joy. This is the very opposite of the state of entitlement with which we mostly live our lives – thinking that a happy, healthy, and comfortable life is our Godgiven right. No wonder we always whine when life does not go according to our design. However, life owes us nothing, and there is not one thing that needs to go our way. So let us rejoice and be grateful when anything does!
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