I’ve been thinking lately about things in my life that made me throw my fists into the air and yell: It’s just not fair! Why? Why me? Why my family?
I've started to find the gifts in those things.
Do I see the gifts as they happen? Not all of the time. Maybe 78% of the time. Maybe 67%? Maybe 20%? Sometimes not at all.
I'm a human being. Flesh and blood and moody and partially deaf. I get annoyed that I can’t hear someone call my name. 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. That never goes away.
But I've been able to recognize the gifts in the things in my life that I once looked upon as curses or faults.
Has anything happened in your life that, at the time, you perceived as “bad,” “sad,” “crappy,” “unfair,” etc. and which you now look at as a gift? The answers people posted were so inspiring that I had to write about it.
Does that mean the pain goes away?
But it softens around the edges and becomes bearable, and eventually becomes a sigh or a nod. Mostly, though, 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:
Alanna: Becoming disabled 3.5 years ago!
Staci: Job loss 2 years ago brought me to the most amazing new path!
Becky: 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, to go back to school, I remarried the love of my life, and pursued 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!
Zoe: Divorce and job loss led to me living in my friend’s backyard in a tent at 33… that led 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: Sexual abuse, which was indeed very sh*tty, 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: I’m 37 and was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer back in January. 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.
Michelle: I got pregnant with my first 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: 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 reintroduced 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!
Lenora: 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.
Caroline: 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!
MovingOn: Cancer was the shittiest, most valuable “gift” I’ve received.
Leslie Jampolsky: I thought g-d hated me when I was diagnosed with MS and 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 metastasized. 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.
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.
Don't try to be grateful now. Not yet.
Go through what you need to go through and then begin to heal, but meanwhile, read all of 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 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 crappy things I thought had happened to me. Father dying, hearing loss, stepfather dying, family losing everything, nephew diagnosed with a rare disorder. I wanted to throw all of it in a sack and bury it in a dirty river, but it's 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!
Photo Credit: Simple Reminders