Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.
To this day, one of my greatest teachers in life is my German cousin Rosalinde, who passed from this earth plane three years ago, following lifelong complications that resulted from a birth defect in her heart. Not that she ever shared any information with me that could have served as a blueprint for living my life; yet, the way she conducted herself as she lived through some of the most difficult situations imaginable, runs like a continuous thread through my life as a constant reminder and motivation that “this is who I want to be like”.
Rosalinde was born in a tiny village in the southwestern part of Germany in 1951 with a gaping hole in her heart. Soon after she was born, her face turned purple and she underwent her first heart operation. However, the hole was very large, and complications required half a dozen more operations during the course of the first eight years of her life. Early on, the doctors informed her parents that her chances to live beyond 10 years of age were extremely slim and that they should accept the possibility that she could die at any moment, any day, without warning. They were told to keep Rosalinde from exerting herself in any way because of her tenuous health situation.
Well, Rosalinde, although very frail and weak at the time, decided she wanted to live a fruitful, fulfilling life. Like every girl at that age, she had dreams of being someone special, of having a family of her own, even children, although the doctors told her parents that her heart condition would never permit her to give birth to a child.
In spite of having gone through the traumatic events of one heart operation after another, and spending months on end lying in hospital beds, Rosalinde became increasingly resilient and determined that she, like most other children, deserved a truly satisfying, fulfilling life.
Rosalinde and I soon became the best of friends. We had so much in common. Like her, I was a very sickly child, also stricken with a complicated heart condition, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, and suffered from frequent, unpredictable fainting spells, not knowing if I would wake up from the next one. But instead of complaining about our predicaments, we used the little energy we had to play card games, get dressed up to ‘wed’ each other (make-believe marriage ceremony), play doctor and patient (she would treat my illnesses and I would treat hers – all done very innocently), conceal ourselves from our parents under makeshift tents, and play hide and seek inside the house. Rosalinde learned to play the piano and I listened with great intent and enjoyment. I played the guitar and she loved every bit of it. Many times, we had no energy to do anything and just laid on the bed together, giggling until we fell asleep.
The greatest lesson I learned from Rosalinde is that she never felt like a victim; I never heard her complain, not even once, about how difficult life was for her. Nothing for her came easily, but her spirit was strong. She eventually decided to advance her education and get a university degree, and she did. After completing her studies she returned home and ran an educational institute for several years. Soon after, she fell in love with a young man and they got married. Her husband knew about her serious heart condition and that she could probably not give him any children, and that there was always the risk of her suffering a heart attack.
But Rosalinde didn’t accept that she couldn’t have a family on her own, and against her doctors’ advice, she chose to become pregnant. She gave birth to a beautiful daughter, and then two more daughters during the following four years. She became a full-time mother and raised her three gorgeous, healthy children until they were grown up and able to begin their own independent lives.
Rosalinde had fulfilled all her dreams and was now ready to leave her frail, delicate body. She left this earthly existence the way she entered it, in and out of hospitals for several months. When I asked her husband how she handled it, he said to me, “she never complained even once”.
I am sharing all this with you because Rosalinde’s life has been a true inspiration to me and it may be to you as well. True life stories can help us see a part of our own lives that otherwise might remain hidden and inaccessible to us. How many times do we feel like a victim of some sort – frustrated that we are not in control because of dire circumstances, perhaps sulking because of what someone else did or said to us, or neglected to do? How many times do we choose to see the glass half empty instead of half full? How many of us blame others, like our parents, siblings or teachers, for having made our lives miserable? How many of us blame the government for destroying our economy and livelihood? How many of us even blame the weather when we have a bad day – too hot or cold; too wet or dry? It seems we have so much to complain about in life, and so little to be grateful for. However, when an illness or disaster strikes, we may become reminded that there is far more to be grateful for than there are reasons to complain about.
Life is designed in a way that steers us in the direction we ought to take, where deviating from our path is sometimes met with hardship and difficulty. Instead of feeling disempowered by the occurrence of obstacles or disappointment, we can just as well choose to believe that these impediments and derailments are actually good for us, if not a blessing. You may think that taking a detour in life is a “waste of time and energy,” but you can also see the detour as a means of learning more about who you are and where you are heading in your life. Being off the beaten path may be disorienting and confusing at times, yet it challenges your creative spirit to discover new and different ways to get back “home”, into your heart; for your heart is your real home.
When we complain and feel like a victim of circumstances, situations or people, we are actually displaced, like refugees, and certainly not living in our heart. We are on the run, hoping that someone will help us along the way, to give us shelter, take care of us or do those things for us we believe we can no longer do for ourselves.
However, being a victim is an illusion, even if you are born with a gaping hole in your heart. You are given obstacles in life only so you can become stronger and wiser by surmounting them, just like Rosalinde did. She simply refused to take “no” for an answer. The only vocabulary she knew was “yes”.
Rosalinde story’s serves as a daily prayer or reminder for me that the moment I say “no” or “I can’t”, or “that’s tough”, or “I have another problem”, I chose to be a victim. But the moment I say “yes” or “I can,” or “I will do my best,” or “there must be a way out of this”, I am a victim no more.
We can certainly be our own stumbling block or downer if we choose to focus on what doesn’t work in life. Likewise, we can facilitate our own resolution to these perceived annoyances and hardships, being our own strongest asset if we dare to accept every detour and use each one for our own benefit. Letting things be instead of desperately trying to fix things, or “get rid” of what’s not working, allows the energy and passion for living a life full of unlimited possibilities to emerge.
There is only so much energy available to us in life. Spending it on solving problems is one possible way of living your life, but this may leave you empty-hearted; spending it on what excites you is a lot more fulfilling and fun – and effortless; and usually, the previously experienced problems vanish on their own. We don’t have to battle against the darkness when all we need to do is turn on the light.
Surely, there are secondary gains from being a victim in life. Other people may feel sorry for you, so you get their attention and, perhaps, even some love. But being loved is not truly fulfilling unless you also love yourself – and respect yourself for who you are, at any given point in time. Feeling sorry for yourself, for being sick and not having to take care of certain chores and responsibilities, for example, may offer the advantage of having an easier day-to-day life, but it’s also a trap that nobody can help liberate you from, except you.
Rosalinde refused to believe she could not get a decent education like everyone else. In fact, she excelled and received an award of distinction for being an outstanding student. She wanted to raise children of her own, and she did. She left this world with great honors and a full heart, even though it had a big hole in it.
Like Rosalinde’s life, yours may also not be perfect; it may be riddled with inadequacies and shortcomings, but you can never lose out on anything when you choose to accept and embrace all your experiences. This is the true meaning of personal empowerment, and it is just a heartbeat away.
With my warmest wishes,
Andreas Moritz is one of the world’s leading experts on Integrative Medicine. He has practiced and taught Ayurveda, Meditation, Yoga, Nutrition, Iridology, Shiatsu and Vibrational Therapy for over 30 years.
“Go to your fears, sit with them, stare at them. Your fears are your friend, their only job is to show you undeveloped parts of yourself that you need to cultivate to live a happy life. The more you do the things you’re most afraid of doing the more life opens up. Embrace your fears and your fears will embrace you.” – Jackson Kiddard