“The most beautiful peonies I ever saw… were grown in almost pure cat excrement” ~Paul Proteus, Player Piano
Is it just me, or have you noticed that whenever something truly awful happens in your life, and you think to yourself, “There is no way I’m going to survive this;” you not only end up surviving the dreadful circumstance, you ultimately bloom and flourish, because of it?
The horrible thing still happened, you still had to deal with it, and you had to fight like hell to make your way through to the other side, but at some point down the line, you realise… that if that god-awful thing had not happened, you would not have;
- learned that invaluable lesson
- had that epiphany
- made that life changing decision
- met that amazing person
- had that/those incredible experience(s)
Here’s an example… I was stuck in an unhappy marriage. (Well, to be honest, it wasn’t the first time.. but that’s another story!) It was my second time around and now I had two children! I was miserable, but there was no way I was going to get divorced (again) and put my children through that! They needed a Mother, a Father and a “real family,” regardless of how miserable we all were! (Yes, I hear it now… but, believe me at the time, it made perfect sense!)
I was in my mid thirties and I believed I could hold this facade together for the next 14-15 years; and then once the kids were grown and gone… well, you get it.
So this one day, I received a call from my Dad (which thinking about it now, some 28 years later, was odd, because Dad never called!). He called to tell me my Mom had been to the doctor and there was a “spot on her lung.” They were pretty sure “it was cancer” and the next step was to speak with an “Oncology Surgeon.”
In those few minutes, my entire world… everything I had ever believed in and trusted, came crashing down around on top of me. There was no way I (or probably Mom, for that matter) would survive this.
To make a long story, less long…. Mom had surgery; we were told they “got it all.” They hadn’t. Three months later it turned up in her brain and another surgery was scheduled. Several months after she had recuperated from brain surgery, it showed up again in another part of her brain… we scheduled another surgery.
How many surgeries can we ask this woman to undergo?
In the 20+ months from my Mom’s diagnoses to her death, she and I became closer than we had ever been. And being her only daughter (and obviously her favourite) we were pretty close to begin with!
When I visited with Mom, we had “quality time together; shopping, talking, eating cakes and drinking tea, laughing, me painting her finger and toe nails… we talked about anything and everything. Neither of us, holding anything back (Well, to be honest, I did hold some things back. I had to or she would have died of a heart attack right there and then!)
So this one day, as we’re taking about my unhappy marriage… and she tells me, straight out that she does “not like my husband” and that actually… she has not liked him since “day one!”
My Mom had always been absolutely lovely to my husband. Kind, generous, polite. I didn’t have a clue that she felt this way! As she spoke she used words like, “don’t trust him,” “something wrong there,” “never liked him.”
WOW! Who knew?
I told her my plan to stick it out until the girls were grown and she was visibly displeased.
Right there and then, from her death-bed, she gave me a at least 101 reasons for NOT STICKING IT OUT! She said I needed listen to my heart and do what was best for “ME.” She explained that my girls would be fine as long as I was happy and at peace with myself. She insisted they would adjust, they’d adapt and they’d be fine.
She further explained (and quite poignantly I might add) that “life is short,” and none of us are “guaranteed anything.” She talked about her life and some of her regrets… and as I sat there, listening to this amazing, 69-year-old woman, siting in her death-bed, bestowing all this wisdom and honesty on me… I had that epiphany!
I realised she was 100% right!
Life was to freakin short and my kids would be fine! It hit me like a ton of bricks, that living the next 14-15 years, miserably (and supposedly “for the sake of my kids”) was not a viable option! It was stupid! It wasn’t good for them and it wasn’t good for me.
We buried her… and within a few months I found my voice and told my husband it was over and asked him to move out!
I have NEVER looked back.
The point is that in those 20+ months, of living hell, I died a thousand deaths. I did not think I would survive the loss of my Mom. Not mentally, emotionally, or physically, but I did.
Truth is, not only did I survive, I actually came out the other side stronger, tougher and more independent than I ever had been (albeit motherless), but if I could survive that… hell, divorce was going to be a piece of cake!
Out of something horrific, came something awesome.
It happened again when my brother Charlie was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. I was so distraught by his illness and undeniable upcoming death, I had what can only be described as a mini nervous break down. I suffered from “complex grief” and pretty much lost control of my life. After a few years of “coming apart at the seams,” it finally hit me… again!
Life is too fucking short!
I needed to get off my ass and live the life Charlie would have lived, if he had been given that opportunity; because he sure in hell wouldn’t be sitting around feeling sorry for himself! He’s be living life!
I told work I would not be able to take on that all important, gazillion dollar, global project, that I knew would ultimately “kill me.” My husband and I decided we needed BIG changes in our life; so we picked up all of our crap and we moved to England!
Hey, when only about 64% of American’s even have a passport, picking up and moving to a foreign country (even if it is an English-speaking country) was pretty freaking fierce! Charlie would have been proud!
It was the best decision I ever made… well after that divorce decision actually. Ummm, the second divorce…. well the first divorce was a good decision too. Oh, never mind!
In the last 8 years my husband and I have travelled throughout Europe, taken wonderful road trips across England, met some fabulous people (who have become good friends), seen sights I never (in a million years) expected to see and I have realised, that my life is so much richer and fuller than it ever would have been, had we stayed in South Florida.
Again, out of something bad…
It’s happened again and again, throughout my life.
More recently, I’ve been plagued with these two dreadful auto-immune diseases and they’re kicking my ass!
They are unbearable, atrocious, insufferable, oppressive and so much MORE! .. BUT (and as you see that’s a BIG BUT!) in the last 4 months, since being diagnosed I have:
- started to understand that I need to love and take care of myself, first,
- learned that I have a “creative” side,
- discovered that I may have a panache for writing (something I LOVE to do),
- learned to rest and relax
- felt unconditional love from family and friends,
- virtually, met MANY amazing, knowledgable, informed people, who are in the “same boat” as me,
- discovered that some people think I’m entertaining and dare I say “funny,”
- found a voice inside me that has NOTHING to do with Project Management!
- learned that it’s okay to say “no” and not give a reason,
- found the strength to speak my mind (okay I may have had that one!)
- slowed down enough to really “hear” another person’s story
The list could go on and on.
So now, I’m in a quandary… do the benefits, that I’ve gained from having these detestable diseases… possibly outweigh (or at least equal) the disadvantages I have experienced from having them?
I know it sounds radical, absurd, ridiculous, really!
….but wouldn’t it be dishonest of me not to, at least, ask the question?