The people I admire most, and find the most fascinating are those who have experienced hard knocks in life and do not let the yucky stuff keep them down. Their tragedy is not their story.
People often tell me I am “the most positive” person they know. I get it, not much keeps me down for long, but this is my choice. I look at life through rose-colored glasses, but I did not always feel this way. So how did I become my happy self?
We all have our tragedies like death of a loved one, chronic pain or illness, anxiety, depression, infertility, cancer, not enough money, a job you feel is killing you, difficult relationships with your partner/spouse, family, or friends… the list goes on and on. We ALL experience SOMETHING unpleasant. Life throws sh*t at me and I do not let it define who I am, or who I will become. I’m not one to whine or complain, so people guess I have lived a charmed life. Crappy stuff has definitely happened to me, but I will not let the crap keep me down. The tough stuff has helped define who I am, but it is not who I am. In my opinion, the happiest people are the most resilient. I made the choice to rise above the muck.
I guess the first time I experienced serious adversity was when I was 12 years old and my father abandoned my family. Without going into too much detail, life was obviously not awesome, and my two-parent household quickly became the home of a single mom and it was really hard to make the adjustment. I have to give major credit to my mom for being an incredibly strong single parent. She did everything in her power to make sure our lives were not rattled by the divorce. Still, it was a really tough time.
There are a lot of reasons why I could still be upset about this, but I look at my life and think of how this shaped me. The divorce gave me an incredibly strong female role-model in my mom. I also learned to become incredibly independent. I wanted to figure a lot of stuff out on my own (handy-man style) because I didn’t have a dad to call for help (this was most apparent in college and young adulthood when my friends were trying to fix stuff in our dorms and I just did it myself). Conversely, I learned not to be afraid. The worst thing I could imagine in my young life had already happened. My parents split and I survived, so nothing else thrown at me could be “that bad.” Lastly, I learned how to let my heart heal after the foundation I relied upon was shattered.
This chaotic and difficult time in my life (ages 12-18) is so far back in my emotional history I don’t really think about it much (writing this now is the most thought I have given to it in what feels like forever). I do not talk about my dad much because he’s not a part of my life now, so it just doesn’t occur to me to bring him up in conversation or preface anything with, “Oh my dad left my family when I was 12 years old… proceed with the conversation.” Most people who meet me now assume I don’t talk about my father because they think he has passed away. Honestly, he might be dead; I have no idea. I’m not saying this to get a pity party; it’s just the facts of my life. (Don’t get me wrong, I went to therapy in college to deal with my “daddy issues” and get to a good place.)
The unexpected outcome has been finding a way to live my life without anger or hatred towards my father for leaving (which I had plenty of in my angst-filled teen years). I don’t know why he left and the “why” question plagued me for a long time until I realized I don’t need a reason why. He wasn’t happy and he wanted to leave. That’s the only reason I can imagine anyone does anything, because they want to (I guess unless you have a gun to your head). I’ve made my peace with this hardship because I truly believe everyone wants to do the best they can. However, there are instances where you don’t have the internal reserves or external resources required to do your best. Nobody is perfect.
My husband on the other hand is NOT the slightest bit OK with my father (whom he’s never met. He has heard my stories and only seen a picture or two of my father). My husband is coming from a very different perspective. We are married, we are best friends and we are solid team raising our family of three little girls together. He cannot fathom abandoning me and our girls. Especially since my little ladies are pretty much tiny clones of myself… my husband is mighty pissed with my father’s actions knowing he could never leave me and his mini-Michelle daughters. He thinks, “How could your dad ever leave?!” and he’s pissed. This just means I married the right man for me! I understand what my husband is saying. He’s coming from a protective place and I love him even more for his reaction. Still, I’m not going to harbor anger for the rest of my life. Instead I have decided to grow from the terrible situations and circumstances presented to me in life. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
So take a look at the tragedies you have experienced and may still be experiencing. Don’t let them stop you in your tracks. Let them push you towards the awesomeness you are destined for. Let the tragedy be your way to persevere and be the person you really want to become. I believe in you.