Its 45 years later and I have had an epiphany. ..
Why not change my outlook from why to what? What would happen if I took every bad, hurtful, or unpleasant situation in my life and instead of asking “why did this happen to me”, I ask ”what can I learn from it? What can I take from this unpleasantness and use in my life to make things better for me, for others, for living in general?”
What a radically different view point this is for me. What a difference it makes in how I cope; how I think; how I feel about life and the struggles that inevitably happen to us all (to some degree or another).
I know it is easy to wallow in self-pity and wonder why these bad things happen to us. And I’m certainly not going to pretend that it easier to look for a reason to get through rather than give up, but it is comforting to think of possible uses instead of it as a problem. In much the same way that it is easier to work at an unwanted task knowing that you will get paid off for it in the end, than suffering through the that task knowing that nothing will come of it. In other words it is easier to swallow bad tasting medicine if you know that it will make you better in the end.
I could write about seemingly endless unpleasantries that I have personally experienced, but I think my view point will be expressed just as well by summing up but a few of them:
As a child with no toys; no friends; and frequent physical punishments I could have grown up bitter and withdrawn and abusive to my own children, but instead I used it as a measurement of what not to do to my own children, and how to offer comfort to others who had been abused. In short, without even realizing it, I learned from that lesson and applied the answers to my own life as best as I could.
In my early adulthood I got involved with the wrong man, and after many years of a few wrong men (I can be a slow learner at times), I found myself with two children and no one who loved me for me. Bitterness was again an option, as was abandonment or self-medication with alcohol, but I chose instead to make wiser decisions about what I really wanted from a relationship (and it was much more than nice words and good intentions). I also focused on the blessings I had been given with the arrival of two beautiful children and how much I loved them and wanted to do good things for them. By doing these things I can happily say that today I have a good marriage; and an additional son; and no regrets about what I gave up in order to raise a family.
More recently, I was suddenly struck with an unexplainable inability to walk, and as I was laying there in great physical pain and emotional turmoil, I thought of it as a force that made me slow down and take a really good look at what was important to me, and what I could still do with what I had. Like many of us, there are many demands in everyday life, but most of them just aren’t as important as we pretend they are and this situation made me refocus on what mattered most to me – helping, loving and being the kind of friend, wife and mother that I would like to have in my life. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not now and probably never will be perfect, but I am much less independent and task oriented than I used to be. (What I can do; how it will help me; and how much more there is still to do.) At times these qualities prevented me from really sharing and caring and physically being there for others, and today I am thankful for that period of forced stoppage. As I am physically, healing over time, I am thankful for the ability to walk, but even more precious to me are all those things I put on the back burner while I was trying to get ahead; get done; and get appreciated.
I am sure that many of you have had, or are going through many different (and some similar) trials, but I urge you to take a look at these times with a new approach and find peace about them and what good they have really done for you.