When things got really bad in our lives, Momma would say, “This, too, shall pass.”
She didn’t use it for the small things in life. Just the really bad, dark stuff when life was kicking us in the stomach. I think Momma got the saying from an Ann Landers column, though it apparently has much, much older origins. According to Momma, Ann counseled readers to “Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and repeat to yourself the most comforting words of all: This, too, shall pass.”
Yin and Yang
Now, I’m pretty sure she didn’t know anything about Taoism, but their philosophy reminds me of that phrase. The Taoists believe in yin and yang. Yin is gravity and Yang is energy, each continuously see-sawing with the other, providing counterbalance to even things out.
For every good day, there will be a bad one. For every celebration, there will be sorrow. For each positive, a negative appears. If we didn’t have this duality, neither one would make sense to us. If we didn’t have sorrow, how would we know what to celebrate? Could we recognize beauty without ugliness? Something that tastes delicious is discovered by eating something awful. Another take on this thinking is Newton’s laws of motion. The third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The universe is always seeking balance.
A Temporary Solution
In 2018, two famous people – Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain – committed suicide within days of each other. To outsiders, both of them looked like they had the world at their feet, but their actions told us that they suffered from the same grief and disappointments the rest of us do.
Suicide, of course, isn’t limited to the rich and famous. Tragically, there are also many non-famous people who end their lives every day. And while not all of us take such drastic measures, who among us has never been so depressed that they thought the world would be better without them? It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you are surrounded by darkness.
But, as the saying goes, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. With time, and often with help, deep desperation will pass and brighter days will follow.
Hard Times in the May Household
My mom came about her optimism in the face of despair the hard way, unfortunately. When I was a girl, my dad’s business failed. The family was broke and my parents were, to put it mildly, quite depressed.
That was when “This, too, shall pass” became my mom’s mantra. And, eventually, she was right. My Dad went on to have a couple of very successful businesses and even retired early. Hard work and optimism gave her faith that there would be better days ahead. Even at the end of her life, when the doctors told her there was nothing more they could do to cure her lung cancer, she kept using her mantra. This time it had a deeper, spiritual meaning. She knew she was going to pass from this earthly world to the heavenly world and was joyful about it.
No matter what you’re going through, whether it’s heartbreak, job loss, or even an incurable disease, you can still have hope in the middle of it.
If you’re in a good place right now, that’s fantastic. But, as we all know, there will be days that are the exact opposite. And if you are depressed and despairing, remember it won’t last because “This, too, shall pass.”
Michelle May O’Neil is an entrepreneur, lawyer, and motivational speaker. Her most recent book, “Wisdom from Momma,” is a guidebook from, and homage to, her mother, Sandra Verdene Crouch May. It contains life advice from Momma, whose spirit and tenacity guided her and her family through their most trying times.