How a family funeral and a wedding in the same week reminded me of the constant duality all around us

I look like neither of the people in this picture

Last week I had my own Four Weddings and a Funeral moment* (well, sort of but it actually only involved one wedding and one funeral).

As I previously wrote, my family received some terrible news a few weeks back with the death of a close aunt. As circumstance would have it, her funeral was held last week over in Dallas so I made a dash over the Atlantic for a few days to attend and spend time with one side of my family.

I could only stay 3 days as I was also due to attend a cousin (from the other side of the family)’s wedding the following weekend.

I found it fascinating that, encapsulated in that short space of time, there were principally two family gatherings but full of quite contrasting emotions — I was deeply moved by both I should add.

I don’t need to go into the raft of emotions I felt at each event but having them in close proximity really brought home the fine lines between happiness and sadness even when many of the fundamental components are almost exactly the same (large amounts of family, formal events, excessive amounts of food and drink, music, etc). [Yes, I realise this is a bit of a simplistic comparison but you get my drift]

It is these fine lines that can often determine so much about our experience of life. Take two individuals who are given the same inputs and yet they can experience quite different outcomes, often because of circumstance but also to some degree because of how they look at the hands that are dealt them.

Alongside the funeral-wedding situation, another poignant example of this came about during my trip to the US and it came courtesy of the two Ubers I got to and from the airport in Dallas [regular readers will see a theme as this isn’t the first time I’ve written about cab journeys].

Tell us about these Uber journeys

The journey to and from the airport was 40 minutes in length. Maybe because of my mindset and/or the circumstances, whilst I often use long cab journeys to sort out emails or such, this time I chose to chat at length to both the drivers for the full 40 minutes.

Here’s a summary of the conversations:

Driver #1 — a Zimbabwean who had immigrated to the US 7 years ago because his best friend had moved there 10 years before him and had sent him back money every month over the 10 years. He had saved this up to pay for a college place in the US to study accountancy, then qualified, got an accountancy job, started a family and drove an uber on his evenings and weekends to supplement his income. Despite working 7 days a week, he was grateful and had a perpetual smile throughout the journey fascinated to learn all about me and my family.

Driver #2 — a Texan born and raised who chose to use the 40 minutes telling me all about his extended family, why I should believe in Jesus, why there were too many immigrants in America and why we should all own guns. Not once did he ask me any questions but he did reveal that the main reasons he was an uber driver was to get his wife off his back ever since he’d been made redundant. That said he hated it and despised having to ferry people around (perhaps not the best thing to admit to a customer).

On the face of it, the two journeys covered the same distance, earned the same fee and had the same opportunity but definitely one was much more pleasant than the other [I’ll let you work out which was which].

Not only did that get reflected in how large a tip I wanted to give each driver but it really got me thinking about how mindset, set up and outlook are crucial factors when facing any situation.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that we should all be positive 100% of the time but certainly when you are able it doesn’t hurt to look for positive elements.

For example, whilst my aunt’s death was incredibly sad, it was lovely how it led to family reconnecting; fond memories being shared and a chance to take stock of one’s own life. It was also important that I tried my best not to take the sadness into the wedding a few days later so being able to flip mindsets was doubly important.

For me personally, it may be a while before I can think about my aunt without feeling sad but certainly Uber Driver #1 reminded me that there is often good even in tough situations and I was able to celebrate my cousin’s wedding as the joyous event it was.

Let’s hope I can be equally philosophical about other duality situations that will invariably come my way soon enough.

*Younger readers you may need to google this 90s movie

Faris is the CEO and Founder of Shiageto Consulting, an innovative consultancy that helps firms and individuals sharpen their effectiveness.

Success = IQ x EQ x FQ

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Faris Aranki

Strategist, Facilitator, Emotional Intelligence(ist) with a passion for sorting out the people issues that stop great ideas from being successfully delivered