Lets face it. Truth be told. Life is not easy.
Life throws us things at the most inopportune times. When we aren’t prepared and don’t have the time or the patience to deal with it. That is how it always works.
Sometimes we are paralyzed by our circumstance. We get upset, angry and take out our frustrations on those closest to us. We feel trapped and get “stuck in the muck”. We let the event take control of us, define us and believe we have few choices. But we do. We all have choices.
The cards have been dealt, that part we may not have a choice about. What we do have control over his how we choose to proceed.
I have had my own share of challenges and certainly inopportune moments. A cancer diagnosis 3 days after returning from my honeymoon and at the same time starting a new job. A second cancer diagnosis, 8 years later after moving on and starting a family (now two toddlers in tow) and starting another new job. Through the years there were many other examples of when things did not go as I had envisioned. My time was not always my own. Situations arose that were unexpected and caused stress. I am sure we can all relate.
25 years ago, I learned, at a much earlier point in my life than most, about uncertainty. It is not that my life was necessarily more uncertain than any one elses. It was that I was now fully aware of it.
Over the last few months, a handful of people close to me have been struggling with their own challenging situations. Facing the type of events that can “stop you in your tracks”. It has run the gamut from employment challenges, early and late stage cancer diagnoses, changes in family situations, elder issues, child rearing challenges, drug and alcohol problems, you name it, I know someone going through difficult times.
We all cope differently but I do believe we each have the strength, whether we know it or not to handle what we face. It is a matter of whether and how we tap into that strength. I have met and been inspired by some amazing people in my life. Many who I would describe as “warriors” because they have taken such bad situations and forged ahead in such positive and inspiring ways. Exploring every avenue for themselves and those around them. When you have been faced with a life threatening illness you understand the fragility of life and quickly understand how to make the best and most of each day and that you do have choices about how you do that.
How do want to live your day, despite your circumstances, illness, disability? What is important to you? What are the things in life that make you most happy? What do you need to do to achieve this? How do you make changes so your circumstances do not consume you?
Here are some things I have learned:
It is ok to feel what you are feeling. Be angry. Grieve what you have lost. It is normal to feel resentment that this has happened to you, your spouse, child, parent. There is a time and a place for those feelings. Give yourself permission to feel but not let it consume you.
We always hear “you must have a positive attitude.” What does that really mean? To me, a positive attitude is not about smiling all the time and acting like nothing is wrong. It is not about denial and pretending your problem doesn’t exist. It is about your overall mental state regarding how you approach your situation and you move forward in a constructive way.
Many people play the waiting game. I am miserable now and I am going to stay this way until my situation changes. “I hate my job and I am going to be miserable until I get another one”. “I’ll relax when I retire.” “I’ll go on vacation when my kids move out on their own.” I’ll ______ when I _____. The list goes on and on.
You have two choices. One, you stay miserable and make everyone around you miserable for some indefinite amount of time. Or two, you can accept the fact that your job or whatever situation is awful, you are going to take some specific actions to find a new job or change your situation and in the meantime, find ways to make the days more tolerable.
What will you change to make your interactions with your family and friends more pleasurable? How can you carve out time in your day to make it more gratifying for you? Big or small you can make changes that improve the quality of your life. Try scheduling time outside of work where you can enjoy a sport, a hobby, take a yoga or exercise class, listen to music, read a book. Do something that gives you pleasure outside of your challenging situation.
Actions don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be time consuming. Whatever works for you to help you gain your strength and set a better mindset.
Waiting until everything is perfect may let you down. Not one of us knows what lies ahead tomorrow. Life is uncertain and not always fair. There are no guarantees. Our time on this earth is often beyond our control no matter how hard we try to control it. That is why it is so important to focus how we choose to live today. Make decisions that you will look back on without regrets.
The longer we live, the more we see. As we move into our later years we deal with our own health issues and those around us. At the prime of our lives we are faced with our parents and relatives aging and are faced with supporting our loved ones in many areas. At the same time maybe things aren’t going well at work or we have financial pressures or relationships are breaking down. But still we need to survive. How we do it is the true test of our character. It is what truly defines us. It is what we are made of.