Even the most well-planned life can go wrong unless we can dodge life’s seemingly random bullets and the occasional iceberg. There are the everyday bullets of money worries, relationships, family troubles and employment/career issues. Those are just potential bullets in our immediate sphere and sort of within our control, if we plan ahead and don’t do anything too stupid. But there are other random bullets from outside our field of influence. Things other people do affects us whether we like it or not. Watch out for them.
Our journey through life is like navigating a mine field without a map warning us where the dangers are. Change is the one constancy in life. But if we are aware that the ‘best laid plans of mice and men can often go astray’ we can stay focused and positive. We can’t anticipate other’s selfish actions that may impact our lives. But we can roll with the punches, even if some punches hurt more than others. These harder punches leave bruises and pain that take longer to process and heal from.
Some people certainly get hit harder than others. Life can be viewed either as an unfair lottery or a very clever game designed by God to test us. While composing an upcoming talk about the survivors of the Titanic, this concept seemed to capture the randomness of survival on the ill-fated liner which struck an iceberg in April 1912.
The unexpected bullet or iceberg
Many of life’s bullets come unexpectedly, out of the blue, often when you thought you had life all sorted. For 1700 people aboard the Titanic that night, the bullet was an iceberg. Having a fabulous time onboard the unsinkable ship of dreams, the largest object afloat, they gave no thoughts to possible danger.
But it was not just nature (the misplaced iceberg) that controlled their fate but the actions of others. There had been ice warnings sent by telegraph from other ships but Captain Smith and Bruce Ismay, the owner of White Star Line, chose to ignore them. These two men obviously did not act responsibly. Instead of putting safety as number one priority they put themselves as number one. No surprise. Many disasters are caused by this human factor.
Other’s Actions can be bullets
If the ship arrived in New York earlier than scheduled, these two powerful men would look good. The news would be in all the papers. The White Star Line would have another gold star to ace the competitor line Cunard and Captain Smith could retire in glory having delivered the ship of dreams to its destination earlier than expected.
But 1700 people would have preferred to just arrive. Instead, they died a terrifying death in the icy North Atlantic. As the ship listed terribly and the lucky few drifted away in the lifeboats, they contemplated and awaited their certain death.
When millions of dollars can’t save you
John Jacob Astor, one of the wealthiest men in the world could not have foreseen this end. But he, like many of the gentlemen, let women and children board the few lifeboats and awaited his fate. His millions could not save him. Maybe like some others he could have bribed his way into a lifeboat, accompanying his young pregnant wife.
Astor, like many British men, adopted chivalry and stepped aside from self-preservation. Bruce Ismay, however, did not. He snuck onto a lifeboat despite the women and children first policy. Although he thought he had dodged the bullet, he hadn’t. The rest of his miserable life he lived in the shameful shadow of this one act. He never apologised or admitted his mistake, so his reputation lay in tatters. The bullet of other’s opinion had his name on it.
Dodging one bullet but hit by another
In fact, the 705 Titanic survivors also thought they had dodged that bullet too only to find themselves in a hail of others. Many of the survivors had survivor’s guilt as women left their husbands and teenage sons to die. Others had the equivalent of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder and lived as ghosts of their former selves or committed suicide. Others like six-year-old Douglas Spedden, survived only to die three years later in a car accident, a very rare event at the time as there were few cars.
So, for those who thought they had won the lottery by scoring a bunk on the Titanic, life had other plans. And the survivors who also may have counted their lucky stars on the night, faced another unexpected hail of regret and memory bullets. Only the very strong were able to move on from the tragedy. The rest lived on as shadows of their former selves or wished they had died themselves that night. The Titanic cast a long shadow.
I agree this topic is very sobering. But thank you for reading if you came this far. It seems we can only plan our life so much. However, being prepared is always a good motto. Put money aside for a rainy day rather than spending everything as you go. Employment is not always guaranteed nor is health. Wise saving and investment can be a buffer to financial woes and sudden detours.
Another take away from this, I think, is that worrying about things out of our field of influence is a waste of time and energy. You can’t change others. It is hard enough to change yourself and you are in control there. You can’t know what dangers or detours will block your well-planned journey, if it is well-planned. But most of us, me included, don’t plan well. We marry a guy who seems good enough, someone we think in our youthful optimism, that we can change to suit us. Or we eat or drink whatever, expecting our body to stay working well.
But the most positive take away is to be grateful for what we have, for the bullets we have somehow unwittingly dodged. Gratitude is a feel-good sentiment. Enjoy your life each day, being grateful for it and the added bonuses like loved ones, a home, food and good health. So many have not been as fortunate as you. Remember those 1700 waiting to die on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic with no hope of rescue.
Photo by Руслан Гамзалиев on Unsplash
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.