AGAINST THE ODDS
Dee Chadwick
03 Nov 2019
Winning against the odds is the stuff that leads to biographies flying off the book shop shelves, literally or electronically. Battles fought and won against the enemy of disease, climate, accident. Tales of entrepreneurs losing all, to then go on and claw their way back to financial success in the business world.

IT CAN BE AN ORDINARY INDIVIDUAL’s FIGHT THAT AFFECTS US

For myself, I have always been affected by the little things. The little things compared with the headline hitting happenings that is. Things that are in fact just as huge, but at a much more personal level – the level of a single person, a family, a community. This is especially so if I know someone involved in this particular fight – possibly even a client with whom I have worked – possibly one who has seemingly beaten the odds of a horrendously abusive past to move on to live a rewarding, content life. A life with past memories binned for the majority of time.

As for those huge happenings that hit the headlines, I fear that we have become de-sensitised to these. I wonder is it due to the immediacy and the repeated telling of the stories on our twenty-four hour news channels? Or is it that they happen more regularly, so they have become less thought provoking, less impactful on our emotions? Yet I am affected by the story of a single person, or family’s fight against the odds within such a larger scale setting. It’s probably down to that personal touch again for me.

I recently heard of a bio-pic made in Aleppo by a young journalist, called ‘For Sama’ which was very recently shown on Channel 4. I was just beginning this piece, so, as I thought it probably fell into the ‘against the odds’ category, I decided to watch it. I never, ever watch anything with sub-titles. I struggle to read them with my gippy eyesight and to take in the pictures simultaneously. Very much against my personal odds, I watched the film. If you haven’t seen it, do check it out. Watch the no punches pulled tale of survival of a small family working in a very, very rudimentary hospital. Working against the odds of the bombs falling and their city disintegrating around them. As for the title – Sama is the little girl born to this family who endeavour to care for her with love enough to counter-balance the sounds, sights and feelings of the war being waged around them. OK, there were many times when I asked why they didn’t leave their city. Why they returned following a visit to family in Turkey, bringing Sama back with them. Against huge odds, they survived. And were eventually evacuated when Aleppo fell.  It certainly stopped me moaning about the things that were going wrong around me. It made me appreciate being able to choose a piece of fruit from my fruit bowl, having just witnessed the sheer joy shown when a husband presented his wife with the rare gift of a piece of fresh fruit. When I went to bed that night I was even more than usually grateful to be going to a warm, comfortable bed in my peaceful, safe home.

IT’S NOT ALWAYS THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

Back in my university days, we were introduced to the concept of natural selection according to Darwin’s ‘Theory of Evolution’. Due to the fittest surviving, there was felt to have been a natural selection with the weak, the sick falling by the wayside whilst the strong maintained a healthy lineage, no matter whether this involved homo sapiens or other species. Survival of the fittest came to replace the use of ‘natural selection’ – losing what could have been a somewhat misleading word, selection, instead placing the emphasis on an ability to survive in the setting and conditions prevalent at the time.

Whilst this can still apply in consideration of wild animals in their natural setting, it isn’t necessarily so for some of us. Basically we humans who have ready access to a steady supply of food, not solely relying on what we can gather or grow ourselves. Those of us who have safe, warm homes in which to rest, raise our family and weather the meteorological, physical or emotional storms of life. However, probably the most influential factor leading to a lessening of the rule of only the fittest surviving has been the availability of western medicine and medical research.

Over my lifetime, the advances have been amazing – not only the drugs, but also the surgical techniques and levels of medical care allowing for diseased organs to be replaced with donor ones; very premature babies moving through surviving to thriving; limbs to be replaced by prosthetic ones – including ones that allow for movement way above and beyond the basic.  Those prosthetic limbs that allow for sports to be a major part of the life of people who would have previously struggled to even partake in the mundane necessities of everyday life. The Paralympic and Invictus Games show the huge benefits to physical, mental and emotional wellbeing such modern medical advances have made. They also show how some have fought against odds stacked very heavily against them to survive terrible injuries.

It's not only in the field of sporting endeavours that we see shining examples of those odds being kicked in to touch. For example, there is Stephen Hawking. At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, but he went  on to live 50 years longer than expected at the time of diagnosis. Not only living, but achieving as a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author. At the time of his death, he was the director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. This despite that fact that his illness saw him having to use an electric wheelchair, and, following a major infection in 1985, being left unable to speak. His computerised voice became famous for doing his talking for him. A combination of modern medicine, modern technology and a man with an amazing intelligence who expanded our knowledge of the universe, stars, black holes. Through his writing he was able to share this knowledge not only with academics, but also with non-scientists and children.

HOW CAN WE OVERCOME, WHEN THE ODDS MAY SEEM STACKED AGAINST US?

For some of us, it could well be simply the taking of a deep breath, a gritting of teeth and getting on with whatever faces us. These people probably have a wonderful default setting enabling them to see what needs to be done first whilst simultaneously seeing ‘the end’ as in the final product, the job completed.

For others, this may be a setting that clicks in under certain circumstances. I guess for me, it happened when I came down one morning to an over-riding smell of wine. The cause – the collapse of my wine rack, in the utility room. It’s landing on a full (plastic) tub of paint which had disintegrated to give a pool of wine and paint with broken glass and whole bottles, cookery books at a precarious angle, in grave danger of landing in the paint/wine mess. Step 1 – move the cat tray, de-paint and de-wine it and put with cat into sitting room so that free to clean and clear without fear of cut or paint smeared paws. Step 2 as pj’s and fluffy dressing gown were far from the ideal clothing, get into scruffiest of scruffs and then methodically work through sorting the mess. The alternative – to sit on the floor and cry flitted only very briefly through my mind! Like many things in life, it just had to be done.

What if we don’t feel that we have that impetus to work against the odds?

Most of us want to succeed at what we do. However, it could be the choice of what we do that is the problem – biting off more than we can chew at a particular time or place. I know that as I get older, I am having to slightly amend some of my choices of what I am to do, not to bring the odds to a more amenable level, rather for health and safety reasons. I know that being up a ladder with a hedge trimmer or a saw in my hand is not a good idea as, if I tilt my head, vertigo can set in. Not a good idea when up off ground level! I learnt that from the previous experience of just managing to save myself from a fall. Past experience can teach us well, as can recognising past errors of judgement and mistakes. Remember that saying that there is no such thing as failure, rather a learning of how not to do something. Obviously, logging what worked well is equally as important.

Never say no to offers of assistance and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Either physical help – as with someone to go up that ladder for me, or turning to Google, YouTube as wonderfully ready sources of ‘how to do stuff’ that you haven’t tried before. I’d be lost without these, an essential element in my on-going quest to learn new stuff.

Accept that battling against those odds could well involve a high degree of effort. You may have to learn those new skills as steps along the way to achieving. Few skills are learned without that input of effort which could well involve practise until you develop a satisfactory level of competence. Just think of those whose chosen skill involves hours and hours of daily practise and training – including musicians, dancers, sports people, artists. How much effort they have to put in to achieve against what can be the difference between carrying on for enjoyment and, usually against pretty highly stacked odds, achieving recognition for their ability.

They need a positive mental attitude, as does anyone out to beat their own set of odds. You made the choice to set that goal, so no point in telling yourself that you can’t do it. It may be a case of positive self-talk followed by pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. Those who say ‘they can’t’ usually prove themselves right, so don’t be what my Mum used to call a mingy moaner, and have a go instead. Don’t put yourself down. You are just as good, if not a whole heap better, than many of those around you. Choose your goals wisely and take SMART steps towards achieving them. Think of how many odds you have beaten already – starting with your conception and the odds of that sperm and egg getting together and producing the amazing individual that is you!

IT’s NOT ONLY WE HUMANS & ANIMALS THAT CAN BEAT THE ODDS

There are the daffodils that break through a cold, hard layer of snow and frost to remind us that Spring is awaiting its seasonal turn.

I remember a few years ago when I had been having building work carried out on my home.  Around my home, there had been barrows, boots, and piles of broken masonry and concrete that had missed the skip. It was like a battleground, a demolition site. When it was cleared away and the skip removed, there was a single tiny beautiful violet that had survived being surrounded by all of that mayhem. It was part of a clump on the edge of my drive that I had transplanted from my Mum and Dad’s garden – one of my Mum’s favourite flowers. Tiny, perfect beauty that had survived against the odds of trampling boots and building debris so much larger, sturdier and heavier.

 

Chances are you will find yourself at some time fighting against the odds when dealing with health, relationship, family, career issues. Don’t give up, rather acknowledge that like that tiny, seemingly insignificant little flower, you are strong and cherish your strength.

Do get in touch if you feel that some support would help with how you tackle facing up to things. If you would benefit from support with acknowledging your strength.

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