When life turns out to be s*&t…REALLY???

thinking through it all

by Kenneth Justice

By Kenneth Justice

~ “Dude, she used to be so friendly, always smiling…and now look at her; she’s miserable and everyone knows it” he said.

At coffee recently I was sitting with a friend of mine and a mid-40ish woman came in, she’s been a regular at the coffee shop for nearly a decade and is well known by all the customers and employees. When she first started hanging out at the coffee shop my friend’s description of her was spot on, “I remember how happy she always made me feel when she would stop by my table and chat for a few minutes; she was so full of life and energy. Yet now, all of the employees and customers talk about her behind her back because they see how sad, depressed and miserable she has become” he said

Although I’ve talked with the woman occasionally over the years, it wouldn’t be fair for me to say what has gone on in her life……..the simple fact-of-the-matter is that life didn’t turn out the way she had anticipated.

I’m sure the example of this woman is something many of us have experienced, whether in our own lives or in the lives of our friends or relatives; we start out in life with so much confidence and joy in what we are going to do with our life…..but then things simply don’t turn out the way we had hoped.

In many ways, that is the story of my little Website. I had begun graduating with a succession of college degrees in psychology and counseling and then woke up one day to realize that what I had been pursuing for so long……..was something I really didn’t want any part of; and for a moment I felt my entire life spin around in circles.

And then I started writing………..

Unfortunately, for many people there is no rainbow on the other side of the hill,

—-) Some people who want to have children find out that they physically cannot do so

—-) Some people who want to work in a particular field find out that they are simply not equipped with the right personality or abilities

—) Some people suffer debilitating physical injuries, disease, or on-going pain that prevents them from doing half of what they hoped to do with their life

In a Hollywood film; tragedies often lead to great joy,

—) In “Ghost” the tragic death of Demi Moore’s husband ends up allowing him to protect her and bring justice to the conspirators

—) In “Regarding Henry” the tragic gunshot wound Harrison Ford receives ends up transforming him from a cold and heartless businessman into a loving husband and father

—) In “Meet Joe Black” the impending tragic death of Anthony Hopkins allows him to reconnect with his two daughters and son-in-law as well as leaving his company legacy in the right hands

Unfortunately, as much as Hollywood reinforces our thinking with the idea that behind every tragedy lurks a great joy……life simply isn’t a movie. Sometimes……we may not get what we want; and the true measure of a woman or man becomes not simply what we’ve done with our life but who we are as a person.

So you didn’t end up becoming the million-dollar CEO of a Forbes 500 company; so what! So you didn’t attain that big house in the suburbs with the white picket fence and the dog named rover; so what! So you didn’t meet the woman or man ‘of your dreams’; so what! Shouldn’t we be more concerned with who we are as a person?

–) Are you a liar, a thief, a slanderer, or a crook? I hope not!

–) Are you a good friend, joyous in the face of adversity, peaceful in the face of disaster, and loving in the face of misery?

What kind of person are you? What kind of person are you becoming?

Someone wrote to me recently and made the observation that, “Kenneth, you spend too much time emphasizing the influence of Hollywood and the Media in Western Culture”, and while I appreciate their view….I wholeheartedly disagree.

Hollywood and the media are tremendous forces of influence that permeate so many different facets of Western Society. Even religious institutions have been impacted by Hollywood as so many various religions and churches have exchanged thousand year old liturgies for hip-new media driven services with digital televisions, dramas, and pyrotechnics. Not that I’m condemning churches who have contemporary services…….I’m merely pointing out how much influence our media driven culture has had upon such institutions.

For those of us in our twenties, thirties and forties…..we are at a place in life where we realize that we aren’t getting any younger and how we deal with that reality can have a direct affect upon who we are as person.

For those of us who are in our sixties and seventies, we realize that we are closer to the end than the beginning; and how we face that reality will determine the level of joy or sadness we express each day.

Perhaps I’m merely an optimist, but I prefer to count it all joy. What point is there in wallowing in misery? What does it serve us to lament the fact that life isn’t turning out the way we hoped? Is it a sad thought; sure. But so what…..we must move on and embrace life as it comes at us and move forward with courage just as Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Thankfully, I have coffee to keep me company along the way,


P.S. if you haven’t heard I’m currently on a national and worldwide tour of 100 coffee houses this year. Check out my website for dates and locations.





Categories: Culture & Society

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72 replies

  1. Interesting to see that nothing has changed for the generations. When I was in my 20, 30 and 40’s I did the boo hoo thing. Cryed over the life I didn’t get thing. Then I had a chaplain say to my face; “You are crying about what you wanted in life; what did God create you for?” I stopped crying and began to wonder.

    He gave me a book; The Purpose Driven Life and told me to read it when I was ready. That was key. Being ready. It took me 6 months to be able to do this. And when I read it I saw my purpose and it helped to make me see that I was crying for the wrong things. I am one of those people you tagged above who could not have the children I so deeply wanted and it altered my path in life. What I didn’t see while living my life was that I was fighting against the path I should have been on the whole time. That is when I was unhappy.

    So I moved on with my life. At the age of 45 I met my husband. At the age of 51 (3 years ago now) he told me that we were going to retire and travel for as long as we could handle it (he is 10 years older than I). We sold everything and haven’t looked back. So instead of looking at my life and crying about what I thought I should have had; I look forward to what my life might bring. Maybe that comes with age; and wisdom.

    I think when we stop fighting or crying over the life we thought we should have and we enjoy the life we do have we find happiness. At least that worked for me.

    If you are ever in my neck of the woods lets have coffee. I love a good cup of Joe.

    • What a great story you have, and your so right: it all comes down to when we ourselves are ready…..I’d love to get coffee with ya 🙂

    • Thank you for viewing my blog, you have a exceptional talent in your writing, you get the point in a simplistic, warm, and realistic manner, I truly would like to share a conversation with you over a cup of coffee, let me know when you are in the “D’ again….looks like I just missed you.

  2. Yes! Embrace life, keep on dreaming and have courage!

  3. “Count it all joy…” Yes, yes, yes.

  4. All I can say is although this is a fine motivational piece of writing, the other side of success is not failure (that involves trying) but actually the inability to act / react. It is pretty fine to talk about giving it your best, trying the hardest etc, but unfortunately in a flawed world, and missing the basics (probably not your work case above) one by himself can achieve is next to nothing.
    In an older post of yours you have written about the strength coming from communities, and I guess a community that prospers means individuals that prosper as well. Maybe this is the answer. And of course it takes more than one community to realize this simple truth and everybody push for changes in a society that wealth is not about money.

  5. The media has a tremendous impact on every culture. I agree completely.

  6. Great piece! My only comment is that we DO always get what we want. Even if it doesn’t don’t appear that way. We’re all here to learn something. It just takes great honesty to admit we asked for everything we get, and that includes some of the worst pain in the world. When we finally realize we have everything we’ve asked for right now, what happens next stops becoming so important to us. Just my opinion though. 🙂

  7. We should be for what we have.

  8. Influence is a fact of life: we start with family and “early years” environment having little choice over them. As we grow we have opportunity to change those influences, if needed. As adults we are products of the influences we allow. No doubt, as stated, the media and Hollywood can be major influences, but we have a choice in the matter. Such notions however, dare I say it, make us responsible adults.
    A Servant

  9. I’m interested in this idea of the media as cultural influence, as if “the media” stood somehow outside of it, deciding what, where and when to push the rest of us poor sheep. In my view, it’s part of the dance, of mutual influence, a kind of spiraling progress, or regress, toward…another dance. Movies take some essential part of our culture, and blow it up larger than life. In the case of the ones you mentioned, they just reflect what we tell ourselves over and over, don’t they? And although it’s true that life isn’t always like that, it sometimes is, and it always is what we aspire to. Movies tell us what we think we ought to be. Unfortunately that includes all the vigilante/killer movies as well.

    • Mikels,

      There is an awesome speech available online by the late great science fiction writer Michael Crichton, he, much more eloquently than I, explains what movies are and why they do things a certain way; all businessmen are greedy, all politicians are corrupt, all lawyers are liars and snakes, etc…..

      It’s a must read for anyone interested in the subject of film, media and influence…….I don’t have the link but it’s easily searchable via google.

      Ultimately, because of what movies are, crichton says, they inevitably have to propagate certain stereotypes, its unfortunate but inevitable……..

  10. Hi Kenneth

    I think the church has been permeated by something equally insidious as the Hollywood culture; it has been infiltrated with the idea that we deserve God’s favour & He Will Bless Us if we do the right things.

    Emphasis is all wrong. Surely we do things because they are the right thing to do rather than to be blessed? When people are in need they need help not more sh*t pouring into their cesspit through crass speculation or spectating. Good intentions remain exactly that, good intentions, until they are put into action 🙂

    Sure, we all screw up & have regrets, some of us more than others, BUT we are the only ones who can make a decision to change & be different, accept the help we need & be a help to others.

    How refreshing when someone helps another becasue that is what is needed; no reward expected.

    But I guess I’m expecting too much as that is what Jesus did & it rarely brings adulation to ourselves 🙂

    Great, thought-provoking post as always. Keep writing my friend. You can make a big difference a little bit at a time. 🙂

  11. Hey Mr. Monk – GREAT topic today – and whew -so layered.

    and ending it all with that Churchill quote –
    “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

    well it reminded me of this quote I read in Delancey Place earlier this month, which fit so well with the theme of this post – and so I had to include it here —

    DP writes: “My favorite quote on this <> comes from Mary Pickford – who became fabulously famous and wealthy in the earliest days of Hollywood – who said

    “You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

    (from here: http://www.delanceyplace.com/dp_ltreditor.php)

  12. i had a horrible last year – Usually I just say my life was essentially hijacked. And while I could not control the events that occurred, my response to them, I could control. Admittedly I spent a few months stuck in victim mentality and even struggled to get out of bed. Then, I started to look around (with the help of family and friends) and started to see that I still could act, I could still solve problems, and I still had so many blessings. My life is not what I necessarily envisioned it to be a year ago but, it is moving and I am excited to see where it goes.

    I wholeheartedly agree on the influence of media. Increasingly I have been concerned about how the blind consumption of media affects me and those around me.

  13. Some people need more help than others; we can’t belittle someone’s struggle. What might be difficult for me is a snap for someone else vice versa. We assist each other and life can be better, no?

  14. Just me, but I would sit down with that woman in a heartbeat. I feel sorry for people that need other people “smiling all the time” to feel alright about themselves. Other people KNOW IT? Oh my, I guess that is a message to be fake and hide difficult times from your friends.

  15. You are so right! Hollywood influences the way we think, hope and dream… And it has affected reality. Even “reality” shows are not real! Our young people are becoming more dissatisfied when they don’t get what they feel they are entitled to… We all WANT WANT WANT! Most folks need a trip to a third world country. Some of the poorest people on the planet are the happiest I’ve ever met. Spread the love and keep smiling!

  16. Great post like always! So much truth to it. I think that many of us needed to read that so thank you! =)

  17. Well said and we all definitely need to hear this truth; enjoy life! It’s the only one you get!

  18. One of the hardest things to overcome in life is the idea that one had failed. It can shake one to the core as it destabilizes the person’s ability to correctly asses situations in life. If I failed at this, what else was I wrong about? It can lead to second guess ever move one makes or even lead to fear of making any decisions.
    Having experience this deep profound failure, I found that two things were very therapeutic. The first is allowing it to be okay that to fail…not an easy thing to do but when it is done honestly the next part is fairly easy.

    The second is move on and create a new game, life, job, etc. I personally found it was helpful to move to a town where no one knew me…a brand new start. The people there had no preconceived ideas about me. They didn’t know my history. I could be the new kid in town, I could create my own new identity…simply pick which character I wanted to be and play that part…very liberating and rather fun to do!

    And since you didn’t mention people in their fifties, they are the ones who still think like their twenties, creak like their forties and say, heck…I’ve got another 30 or so years left…let’s get ready to rumble! 🙂

  19. Life is like the ocean. It can be calm and still or rough and rigid but in the end, it is always beautiful.
    Not everyone takes the opportunities of life and loses the benefits of it.
    “Ghost” diddo.. Lol one of my favorite movie, but I’d like to mention “The Count of Monte Cristo” justice and true love, never give up life till life gives up on you.
    Got to be careful : can’t live positive life with a negative mind.
    Great thoughts, as usual. Back to my hot tea in this chilli day.

  20. Your post today reminded me of this unknown quote. “Two things define you. Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.” When I think of this lady you are mentioning, I think that these are the people that need to know about God’s love. Maybe then they won’t be so disappointed.

  21. AMAZING! What a great post Kenneth. Thanks for touching on the “finding identity” thing. I’m really big on not finding your identity in what you do, or how you look, or what you have, etc. I used to run after my identity in what I can do, or what I do. Not anymore though. I’ve been all over the world, seen some pretty amazing things, experienced various cultures, danced, sung, acted, preached, and the like. Now I’m a stay-at-home mom with a blog, while my husband is going all out with the Brazilian cinema scene, trying to make a difference and share Kingdom values, traveling here there and everywhere. And all this with no set income. Thank you God. Never been more content.

    • Thank you stacilys,

      And great thoughts as usual……I’m a bit jealous of u guys down in brazil working on your film, seems rather romantic in all sorts of ways 🙂

    • “seems rather romantic in all sorts of ways.”
      HAHAHAHAHA! I can see how that could seem romantic, however that’s just not the case. Reality, hard work and faith comes into play.
      Besides, I could say the same about you. Seems romantic to me to travel to different places, go to various different coffee shops and listen to the stories of others. I even told my hubby about you and suggested that we drive from Vancouver, Canada all the way south to the tip of South America, documenting it all (that’s actually been a dream of ours for a few years now). Him with film and me with writing. Hahahahaha. Who knows, God willing maybe some day.
      Blessings =)

    • Stacilys,

      I’ve read three articles by different couples who have driven from new York to the bottom of south America….they are really interesting reads. I’ve thought about doing something similar but it gets a bit tricky going through parts of Mexico and Columbia because you have to pay off so many people in order to make the trip…….maybe one day……

      as to what I’m doing….it doesn’t sound romantic to me at all! the next leg of my journeys begins march 1st and it seems like a ton of work!

  22. Thank you. I like who I am. I just want to show all of me. Real life is better than any movie. Almost. 😉

    (I’m leaving this as is, but because of you I’ve found myself worrying that this comes off with a sexual overtone. One that I wasn’t intending on, mind you .) LOL 🙂

  23. i’m not a crier. i experience pain and disappointment alot, but i seem to have this ability to just suck it up. I’m not hard and im not unfeeling, just… more controlled? i dont quite know how to put that. I tend to hold on to my emotions really tightly. And because i am that strong, the other side of the coin doesn’t read well. Because i cope so well with the hardships of life, because i dont let go easily, i expect others to do the same and i have little patience for tears and woes. But for the most part, i have also learnt to not say a word if i cant say something nice or encouraging

  24. ” Meet Joe Black” – one of my faves. Right, Kenneth after 20 years of study I know nothing 🙂 though I am always ready to get skilled in another field. Here we have a saying ” the need teaches you” which works fine on me. It’s all about adaptability!

  25. It seems like elderly people can either grow up to be such amazing people-or can be SO crazy and out of touch! I personally believe joy is such an important part of life. But your right, life rarely turns out how we want it to which is ironic considering how much insane effort younger generations are putting into “what they want to do with their lives.” Not that planning is bad or unwise, but just as importantly we have to learn (somehow) to keep life in perspective and find joy even in the most messed up times. Viktor Frankl writes about this a bit in Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning. It’s about people who were prisoners in Auschwitz during WWII and how some were still able to find the strength to keep going and even find joy while others simply gave up. Joy is important. Thanks for the reminder today!


  26. I’ve made the journey to material wealth and back. I found out it wasn’t all that.

    Most people need to live a bit before their values adapt. Life might seem shitty at times, but that’s just in contrast to the times when it’s utterly brilliant.

    So pursue the dream house, job, car, relationship. Go ahead and hope they will transform you. Be ready to settle for just being yourself.

  27. Dear KJ. This may be my brain not working, and if so my apologies. It’s just I have read this three different times now, and I still don’t “get it” today. Confused?

  28. I don’t know that I know of a single person whose life has turned out exactly the way they thought. The future is a mystery to us, with limitless possibilities. It is our limited vision that keeps us from seeing what we have accomplished, different as it may be from what we thought we wanted. I won’t deny that those with a strong support system often find themselves closer to their dream life than those without, but ultimately your life is what you make of it. Even in adversity you can choose to grow, learn and change or you can choose to cry, whine and lament. Excellent post as always, thank you.

  29. It is a great difficulty to know how to understand and to really help those that are depressed (like some very close family members of mine). It’s hard for me to go through a day without being thankful for so many things and enjoying simple things like a great rock, or animal tracks in the snow out back, the hug of a kindergartener or the way the dog smiles back at me. So the inability to share those things without a what-more-do-you-really-need attitude is a sadness, a tug at my generally unrelenting optimism.

  30. In this case, I think Hollywood might be showing us some good. Your interpretation is that Hollywood makes us think that bad things can’t stop us from our dreams. I say they tell us our misfortunes can’t stop our success. If we keep on trying, if we do what we can to look on the bright side, we can find something good about where we are in life.

    In terms of what we can expect from life… I often feel people plan too much. When I was 10 (I’m actually very much the planner) I had a list of goals. Go to college, move to a large city, write. That was it. When I was looking for a job, I had ideal careers, but I really didn’t care what I did so long as I was writing. And here I am, graduated, living in an urban area and writing. I got everything I ever wanted and I feel contentment with life. If I had made my goals more specific, however, I’d bet I’d feel a little disappointment. I’m no muckraking journalist, after all.

    • “If I had made my goals more specific”

      Now that is an interesting point TK and one I’ll have to meditate on for awhile……so perhaps some times it is better to have less clearly defined goals

  31. Interesting blog you’ve got going here, Kenneth. Thanks for checking out mine. Peace and best, John

  32. I’ve seen the first two films you mentioned, Kenneth, but not “Meeting Joe Black” (yet).

    Cimmorene, my wife, introduced me to “Regarding Henry”. I admit it’s probably a film I would have skipped over otherwise, but it’s an incredible movie.

    I will mention another one– “The Family Man,” with Nicolas Cage and Téa Leoni. It was a movie my sister got me for Christmas. It may have been one she got from the bargain bin, especially as it was in VHS format. It was also a movie I probably wouldn’t have watched otherwise. But the message of the plot really hit home for me, although I was in the opposite scenario. I had a wonderful marriage and a beautiful child (my son wasn’t along yet), but I had taken a long slide down from university down into disability. I definitely re-examined my own life, especially thinking that my sister didn’t have all these things at the time (but she does now). It was as she was telling me, “You did good in spite of everything.”

  33. It is not the situation that causes you grief, misery, stress, etc. It is your reaction to the situation that causes the problem or not. Happiness comes from within.

  34. I have a friend who after many years of several uni degrees and raising three children decided to put her skills and psychology studies into voluntary community counselling. After a while she suddenly realised that she’d had enough of listening to other people’s problems and really wanted to deal with her own and her family’s. Now she and her newly retired husband have joined a bushwalking club and travel around (here, interstate & overseas) doing all the wilderness exploring and hiking they’ve grown to love.

    I don’t think you talk about Hollywood stuff very much at all, Kenneth. Isn’t it interesting how different readers have different interpretations of your words. I interpret more thoughts & feelings of your past (as well as of those people you meet in coffee shops).

    I did sense that in recent posts, (before you set off travelling), you were revealing more and more of your dissatisfaction with life and the old religious conservatism and strict views on life. Reading between the lines, you were also revealing more & more of your inner thoughts – Really ! Makes me wonder if you realised that. I think you used to feel stifled by the religious conservative community of your past. It sounded like you felt shackled to your old life (to some degree).

    You needed to ‘Break Free’.

    Taking a year off and travelling is the best thing you ever did. You really needed a break (from counselling). I think all Psychologists and Psychiatrists need regular breaks.

    Beside, too much coffee is bad for the liver! I hope you keep up the fresh water consumption to re-hydrate.

  35. without misery . . . how would one know joy?

  36. Great post, and interesting points of view from your readers too. I find that as I have gotten older, hopefully wiser, I have become more comfortable in my own skin and with my life and relationships. Still insecure about my writing, but generally more comfortable. 😉

    It’s much less about things or *success* as society defines it, and more about experiences and leaving nothing to regret, within reason, of course!

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