I’ve been thinking lately about the things in my life that I threw my fists to the sky about and yelled: It’s just not fair! Why? Why me? Why my family?
I have been thinking about those things, and maybe because I am about to enter the age my father was when he died, or maybe simply because enough time has passed, but I have started to find the gifts in those things.
Oh, for the love of cliche, I can hear you say.
Ok, not always do I see the gifts as they happen. Not all the time. Maybe 78% of the time. Maybe 67%? Maybe 20%?
Look. I am a human being. Flesh and blood and moody and partially deaf. I still get angry sometimes when I think of my dad dying so young and I definitely miss him. I miss the idea of him all the time. Every day. That never goes away. I get annoyed that I can’t hear someone call my name. Yea. I do. Daily. But I have been able to recognize the gifts in the things in my life that I once looked upon as curses or faults.
I posed this question on my Facebook about an hour ago:
Has anything happened in your life that at the time you pereceived as “bad” “sad” “shitty” “unfair” etc which you now look at as a gift? Love to hear. Post below.
and to my delight I got such inspiring answers I felt I had to share in a blog. People being so vulnerable and open and wise. That’s the thing. The wisdom. How wise we get with time.
Does that mean the pain goes away?
But it softens around the edges and becomes bearable and eventually becomes a sigh or a nod but mostly it becomes a part of us and that part is who we are today. Right now. In this moment.
Here are some of the responses to my question on Facebook:
Has anything happened in your life that at the time you pereceived as “bad” “sad” “shitty” “unfair” etc which you now look at as a gift? Love to hear. Post below.
Alanna Jane: Becoming disabled 3.5 years ago!
Staci Pribush Job loss 2 years ago brought me to the most amazing new path!
Becky Stuto Cervical cancer. I had a hysterectomy at the age of 31 followed by divorce. This was the best thing in my life. It inspired me to live for myself, go to back to school, I remarried the love of my life, and pursue a master’s degree. I’m kicking ass.
Nicole Anderson Getting laid off in 2009 when the economy tanked. Tough time, but I grew and learned a LOT from it and would not be on the amazing path I am today had it not happened. It was a blessing in disguise!
Rachelle Smith Stokes My job right now. I see it as “Bad” but when I have time to reflect and when I am reminded, it does have some positive things I am learning from it.
Marilyn McClintic Kriz Absolutely…my marriage – I was considerable unhappy for much of it. But I received many gifts from it….the first being, of course, my children. But as far as ‘lessons learned’ gifts and personal growth, I learned about the addiction to people and relationships and how to recognize the signs and not go down that road again. I learned to follow my heart, my intuition instead of my fears when it comes to my relationships. I learned about the importance of being myself instead of who somebody else wanted me to be. I learned about the importance of communication. I learned how to end a relationship (marriage) in a constructive way. I could go on and on
Zoe Weldon Divorce and job loss lead to me living in my friend’s backyard in a tent at 33…that lead me to the most empowered, juicy, divine life. I now live near the beach, developed a gentle spiritual practice and have just started my own business. Best lessons ever.
Martha Meyer Barantovich Sexual abuse which was indeed very shitty led to bad and shitty decisions/events, but eventually taught me the meaning of strength and how to be empowered. I still learn from my life’s lessons regularly, but with power and strength!
Rachel Michelson I’m 37 and was dx with stage IV colon cancer back in Jan. I’ll be fine. As a result, i’m so much closer to my dad–he flies from the east coast to the west coast every TWO WEEKS, so he can be here when i have chemo. and while, i don’t feel it all the time, i know this experience has made me stronger and much braver. 🙂
Fiona Williams Finally facing up to my mental health issues a couple of years ago. Still running, still hiding, but have slowed down and am *trying* to work with myself, not against myself.
Jessica Trowbridge My own parents divorced 5 times between the two of them, and my divorce was finalized just over a year ago. I have gotten to know myself SO much more than I would have without these experiences….I see people jumping from relationship to relationship (this is what my parents and ex did) without taking the time to know who they are by themselves. I realize this is easier said than done, but wouldn’t trade my self-discovery for anything! Still learning and, if I decide to enter into another relationship, I feel confident that I will be a much healthier, whole person in that coupling. Thank God.
Michelle Anderson-Weierbach I got pregnant with my 1st child at age 17. At the time I thought it was the worst thing on earth that could have happened to me. When she was born she was a sickly little rag doll, who needed tons of help and care. She was diagnosed with PWS when she was 3. All of this has been a gift and lessons in disguise for me and my family.
Lynn Marie Lost a job I had had for 18 years and loved (I was devastated), met some wonderful people at a volunteer job, time off led to new job, brought my family back together, was re-introduced to the love of my life! Life is so much better now! But if you had told me back then? I never would’ve believed it. So now, right now, I am looking at another job loss/financial desperation…but I am holding on to the knowledge of my last experience when I was in this position, and all the wonderful things that I NEVER could’ve imagined for myself….I am anxiously awaiting whatever good things life has in store for me!!!
Kristin Olson I didn’t get into top choices for college, grad school or my grad internship. Looking back though, the places I went were definitely the best choice for me but I couldn’t see it at the time. Thank you universe!
Ruthie Goldman Van Wijk Omg yes. My previous marriage falling apart horribly. And now I so happy, I teach yoga, am happily remarried, and run a yoga non-profit in Palestine!!! Wooo hoo!
Kathleen Quinn I worked for company that had layoff about 4 years ago. They had a committee that picked the people who would be laid off. They told me I was one of people they picked. At time I was surprised, upset a little bitter. I later realized that they did the right thing because I could not, in good conscience convince providers to accept their one sided contracts.
Abby Merin There’s many things I could say… but for me it’s in the past and unfortunately we can’t change what has already happened. However, what we can do is learn from our experiences, and use what we’ve learned to better our future. I’ve come out of my “storm of life” a little more stronger, a little more wiser, a little more empathetic, a little more insightful, a little more appreciative towards life (actually I would have to say A LOT more appreciative) a little more compassionate, a little more caring, a little more understanding, a little less disappointed, a little more passionate, a little more thankful, a little more loving, a little more confident, a little less selfish, a little less scared, and every little bit of what I have gained from my experience has made me who I am today. I’m making sure that I create a better version of myself…a better Abby. As my favorite lady Kelly Clarkson has said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” =)
Nicole Anderson Thanks so much for posing the question, Jennifer. It’s SO important for us to reflect on the meaning behind the challenges we face in life vs stay in a negative mindspace. We may get handed lemons, but it’s us to find the lemonade and gratitude in those experiences. You inspired and reminded many of us to be grateful for past adversities tonight, so thank you! You = ROCKSTAR!
MovingOn Cancer was the shittiest, most valuable “gift” I’ve received.
Leslie Jampolsky I thought g-d hated me when I was diagnosed with M.S. And that I could not return to work. At the time my children were 1 week old and 1 year old. When they became school aged I realized what a blessing it was to be a stay at home mom, where I could volunteer in school and be home for them when they got home from school. That I could help with their homework, cook dinners, make a warm breakfast, etc…… That is when I realized that I was truly blessed.
Andrea Rossetto Mom has kidney cancer right now, that has metastisized. She is very ill and has been hospitalized for nearly 2 weeks. This is about as horrible as it gets, feels tremendously unfair. To see her so ill is the most painful thing I have ever endured. This has been going on for 5 months. I am not grateful for a thing in this moment. Can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel right now, feel very alone and unsupported. I hope one day I can understand why this is happening. It is excruciating and paralyzing.
That last one. That last one.
What I want to say to Andrea is this: I know it sucks. And it does. And it is painful and unfair and I do not know if I buy into the bullshit ( yes, I said that) that everything happens for a reason. And yes, I am really sorry that you and mom are suffering. I am no stranger to this. What I know is this: there will be a gift eventually. Whether it comes in the form of you comforting another. Whether it comes in some art you make from it, because your pain is so deep, and that, my love, is what happens to pain transformed. It becomes art. if you let it.
Do not try and be grateful now.
Go through what you need to go through and then begin to heal but meanwhile read all the above comments. I hope they provide you with a small sense of hope, even a glimmer, the size of a dime or a truck. Whatever it may be, let them instill in you the hope that you will come out on the other side and most likely a better version of yourself. We get better if we let ourselves. I know I have. And a lot of that getting better has been because of the shitty (sorry, in a cursing mood) things I thought had happened to me. Father dying, hearing loss, stepfather dying, family losing everything, nephew diagnosed with rare disorder. All of it that I wanted so badly to bury in a sack and throw in a dirty river have created the very woman who is writing to you now and sending you a big fat hug and an invitation to scream and yell and cry and write as much as you want to me.
The rest of you: Bravo.
And to me: Bravo.
I am a better person than I used to be.
**Add yours below!!!
The morning I got the call that my brother had passed away. It was so painful and very difficult to walk through but i did it. My life has opened up in so many ways and ive met people that I love. Thank You Steve!
Now I am bawling. I . Love. You. Sister. Thank you Steve.
Absolutely everything that has happened to me has turned out to be a gift. My mother died of cancer at age 44, when I was 5. Even that is a gift – I have learned to be independent and resilient and disciplined because I HAD to be. And being without a mother has made me a better mother – because I want my son to have everything I never had. Of course losing my mother has had so many negative effects, but at least there are some gifts to be found, and for that I am grateful.
Wow and definitely Bravo, Jennifer. I sit here as one of the contributors of the positive comments above, and yet have also felt pain similar to what you and Andrea have felt. Last year I lost someone very dear to me (a true “angel” on earth) to cancer. It was fast, it was sudden, it was senseless. At the time all I felt was deep pain, anger, a loss of faith, and could see no “gift” from the experience, until this moment. The pain fueled action, in the form of getting even more involved in the cancer charities and events I already volunteered for. By being a part of the solution and the cure, I feel empowered, and know that in my actions, I am helping save other lives even though I couldn’t save my aunt’s. And it also allows me to honor her memory and continue her legacy of altruism. I never considered it to be “art” as you described, but that sentiment makes my heart beam with pride, that something so ugly could be turned into something so beautiful. Thank you so much for putting such a wonderful perspective on it.
Andrea, I cannot promise that your pain will ever go away. But, as I look at my father, a two-time cancer survivor (one of which was kidney like your mother), I can tell you to never lose hope, and to stay strong and keep the fight in you and for your mother. Do not focus on the “why” of what’s happening, but focus on how you respond to it. And it is in your actions where you will find comfort, heal, and as our wise guru Jennifer says here, find the gift from it all. That gift may very well be you changing the world. Jennifer is our example of the potential for that.
Almost drinking myself to death….spending time in jail…being driven to treatment by my Father and his best friend…..humiliating…the lowest low….that was almost 27 years ago…..what a gift that ALL was!!!!
I love you Caroline. I can’t wait for maui. Come if you are gonna. It is almost full. and. don’t . back. out.
love u xoxox
Wow. I no longer feel sorry for myself about stupid stuff after reading these. Beautiful. My experience: having a baby diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. What an incredible path that put us on. None of us would have been the same without it.
For those of you hesitating writing something consider the following:
Don’t focus on “what” happened to you. Many times we compare what physically happened to us and compare that to others. “Oh, I’m not going to bitch about that time Mom shamed me because so-and-so was physically abused”. Consider that it’s not WHAT happens to you but HOW it impacted you. Too often we mitigate our feelings by comparing the acts instead of focusing on the impact of them.
Your pain and trauma is legitimate regardless of what actually took place.
Having said that, I’ll leave my two cents by saying that I found myself in a place where i was literally on the verge of losing my job, my wife, and my children. At the time I had no idea that this was quite possibly the best thing that could have ever happened to all of us. The gift it gave me was that I was able to peel away the layers of trauma from almost 40 years of life to reveal my authentic inherent nature. I have since found my purpose in life and am on my way to manifesting this very intention.
My string of unsuccessful and empty relationships that kept pushing me to dig deeper into myself until it finally lead me to the point of now. I am soul searching and finding my spirituality and way. It’s not always easy, but I think it’s a cliche, nothing easy was ever worth it. The amount of spiritual growth I have gone through in just this past month is astonishing. I wouldn’t trade any of it. I am happy with where I am at. I know great things are coming =)
Several close relationships silently abandoned me when I needed them, which was followed by multiple organ “failure”. I nearly died. Facing death I found I wasn’t afraid and it freed me tremendously. I have always tried to glean value out of what happens,and I shifted to seeing everything that happens to *everyone* brings them greater evolvment, just as it has for me. I look at the world differently now, with a true sense of we are all one. Judgement, blame, etc have nearly gone. Life has become full of joy and peace. I’m still working on the last traces, and moments that begin to arise, but life is an incredible adventure! There is so much more I’ve gained through this and other exoeriences, all so very valuable. “Thank You for this Experience” has become a foundation for me.
My son started having seizures at 8. The next two years where hell. Dr’s,meds, and different hospitals. All while he had uncontrollable seizures. When he was 10 he had two brain operations. The first one they removed part of his skull cap and he had a stroke. We almost lost him. The second one they removed the scar tissue and repaired his skull. He’s now a 16 year old normal seizure free and medicine free. He’s completely normal and healty. He’s my miracle child. I didn’t think I could survive everything and making decisions no parent should make. Them after two children. I was pregnant and lost a set of twins. Then I had another miscarriage. I didn’t think I could survive this kind of loss. I’m now pregnant with a baby boy due January 27th. We found out I have blood clotting issues. I know when this precious little boy is born I will never let him go. I love being a mommy and all the struggles are worth my children!!!
I struggle through a marriage that at times feels loveless, but mostly always hard. Lack of cherising, companionship and support. It is something I am still working through, to stay or to go. What it has brought me is the most special child I could ever hope for, great friends who reach out to me from the strangest places and share their experiences to help me feel less alone. It reinforces to me that people are wonderful, there are so many people who you don’t even realise who care.
My mother is a very manipulative and abusive (both physically and verbally) person. I joined the Marine Corps to get away from that house, but still have to get involved with family fights in order to defend my older sister who is now the scapegoat for all the anger and hatred that eats away at our mother. The gift is that I see that I have a choice. I can choose to let my past destroy my present (she is just like her parents who also abused her) and repeat the cycle, or I can choose to be happy by breaking the cycle and leaving the past in the past (where it cannot hurt me). I choose to seek counseling to help me understand the emotions from my upbringing and the military, so they don’t control me, but rather I can accept them. I choose to go out and live life to it’s fullest, rather than choose depression and self-pity about how unfair life has been/is to me. One of my mother’s most famous moves is to use the threat of suicide to get everyone to do what she tells them to do – now it has no effect on me, because I know that is her choice and that death is not something to be feared if you live every day as if it were your last. My mother doesn’t talk to me, says horrible things to my siblings about how I’ve abandoned the family and am selfish – I don’t let it bother me. I know that I’m one of the most giving and loving people in this world because I know giving to the world is more fulfilling than taking. My actions speak louder than her words and the greatest gift she gave to me is the choice not to live like that.
I watch my siblings fight a battle: to give into hate, unfairness and rage like they were taught or to fight for happiness, love, and fulfillment. I try to live by example and remind them that these are choices, that this past can be a gift if we choose to accept it as a gift rather than a burden. One sister recently told me that she’s “done with me.” I wrote her back and said, “that’s your choice, but I will never stop fighting for you. I will never give up trying to show you there’s a different way to live and the choice is always ours.”
A year ago, I started reading this blog and was able to go to one of Jenn’s yoga classes. Jenn, your positive influence on my life has also been a gift – one that I’m so thankful for. You opened my eyes to so much and now I see that everything in life is a gift if we choose to learn and grow from it.
I am a better person for having gone through what I have. It is a miracle that I can say that and even more a miracle that I believe it NOW. Certainly could not say that for most of my life. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect the first twenty years of my life set me up with a life time of issues that tried to crush my spirit.
But with help and hard work and belief in myself I rose above and love the person I have become finally.