As 2018 is coming to a close, I find myself reflecting on the roller coaster year my husband and I have had. In hindsight, we matter-of-factly faced each challenge as it came up; collectively, though, the sum of difficult events now seems more substantial. Between us, we endured a broken shoulder, three surgeries, a biopsy, and a lost job, in addition to the unexpected complications of still being in the sandwich generation.
It should be pretty obvious that I’m anxiously anticipating the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve. At least there is the plausibility that next year will be less tumultuous. A little smoothness would certainly be welcomed! On the bright side, though, there are always lessons to be learned and personal growth to accomplish during those troublesome times. In fact, there can truly only be real growth with some amount of discomfort. Having experienced a year that was riddled with challenges, I had ample opportunity to expand and to learn…
Be careful what you wish for.
It may sound like just some saying that was randomly coined for those who believe in metaphysics. But I can honestly say that this thought process held true for us this year. Case in point: I had been lamenting the fact that I hadn’t had time off to rest in ages when, BOOM, I slipped on the ice and fractured my shoulder (giving me plenty of time off, though definitely not the way I had hoped.) And then, after my husband complained frequently about his dissatisfaction with his job, that job was stamped out (again, not exactly in alignment with our plans.) These, and the other adverse events we encountered, may have had nothing to do with our subliminal and conscious wishes, but it still seems likely that we somehow influenced those circumstances with our thoughts. I’ll try to be more aware in the future.
Extend reciprocal courtesy
My husband has always supported my decisions regarding work. When our kids were growing up, I worked part-time with a flexible schedule so I could be available to them as much as possible. I also worked on straight commission for a number of years as an Interior Designer, so my income could never be counted on for budgeting. When he recently lost his job, only a few short years away from retirement, we both had strong feelings of anxiety about how things would turn out. There were times when a distressed comment was on the tip of my tongue, but I managed to act with grace, knowing that I had always been gifted with the same.
Perspective is important during crises
The past 10 years have been the most difficult of our 35-year marriage, due to the struggles and threatened well-being of a family member. There have been some periods of time that were so frightening and dark that I didn’t think we’d make it. Surviving those traumatic times has made things like lost jobs, broken bones, and benign biopsies feel like child’s play. We will all experience varying degrees of adversity in our lives. The way we choose to respond depends largely on our ability to keep things in proper perspective. Sometimes we have to hit that proverbial “rock bottom” to understand what is and is not bearable.
Stay strong and positive
I don’t want to beat a dead horse here. We’ve all heard, ad nauseum, about the benefits of seeing the glass as half full. But in really challenging times it’s tempting to succumb to self pity and fear. When we allow ourselves to indulge in those emotions, it’s easy to get stuck there. From personal experience, I know that wallowing in negativity has absolutely no constructive outcome. It really only generates more of the same and creates inertia. (Do not, however, confuse true depression with circumstantial sadness. It’s important to seek help if we are genuinely unable to redirect our thoughts.) For many of us, though, a purposeful decision to flip the switch from doom and gloom to capability and affirmation will get us out of a slump. Sometimes the physical act of getting up and doing something deliberate can change our mindset for the better and begin a positive domino effect. We are almost always stronger than we think.
If there is one piece of advice I want to share, it is this – don’t put your life on hold waiting for circumstances to change. Of course, there are exceptions when we must set our priorities accordingly for a period of time. But most often it doesn’t serve us to give up our goals and dreams while we wait for someone or something to change. If I could recover all of the hours, days, months, and years that I spent worrying and obsessing over things that I ultimately had little to no control over, I could have moved ahead with my life and used my gifts to contribute more. Maybe I had to go through the process exactly as I did to get to where I am now. But the takeaway is this: we each only get one chance at life, and to waste even part of it is truly regretful.