Imagine, your spouse is battling anxiety and hates his job, so he quits. You’ve lost a third of your income. Your teenager is being a teenager – testing all of the limits. Your company is struggling and you’ve lost half of the value of your stock account because of it. Your Dad has just lost his 5 year battle with cancer. Sounds awful doesn’t it?
Welcome to my wonderful life. I’m sure you read that with sarcasm, but don’t. It really IS a wonderful life. I can imagine what you’re thinking, this woman is delusional, or doing drugs, or both. Really, I’m not. I’m just a woman whose life has given me the secret to staying positive when it feels like the world is crumbling around me.
That secret? It’s surprisingly simple… it’s the gift of perspective. It didn’t feel like much of a gift when it was given to me. Nearly 17 years ago, I sat on the edge of a hospital bed and watched my husband, my middle son’s Dad, lose his battle with cancer and take his final breath. In that moment, my life changed forever. There I was, a 27-year old widow with a 17-month old child. A child who couldn’t begin to comprehend the enormity of what had just transpired. A child who just started walking, who barely spoke and needed his Momma, a Momma who was herself completely broken. Talk about the world crumbling around us.
But we got through it. We got up each and every day and got on, kept at it. Every single day, we kept at it. We planned a funeral. We greeted the guests. We hosted the lunch. We wrote the thank you notes. We had thousands of awkward conversations with people. We patiently answered “no” when people asked if he had died in the Twin Towers. We filed for Social Security. We cleaned out his closet. We went back to work. We went back to school. We went out with his friends. We went on vacation. And we kept on. And we kept keeping on. And we keep keeping on.
While I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy, while I wouldn’t have chosen it as my life, I also wouldn’t want it any other way.
Fast forward to today… I’m remarried, that 17-month old is a senior in high school and a big brother… and we’re okay. In fact, we’re pretty darn good. But we are different. The people around me now, some of them know my story, but many of them don’t. When I share, it’s still an awkward conversation, but one thing always happens, they marvel at my positive attitude. An attitude some find inexplicable, but really, it’s not. It’s actually quite simple. It’s all about perspective.
When I look at my life today, even with all of the craziness in it, I recognize it’s really not all that bad. Sure, there is craziness, but who doesn’t have that. I’m healthy. My kids are healthy. My spouse is healthy. Does anything else matter? Not really.
Has it been a tough road? Of course. At times it’s been hell, but frankly, I am the woman, the wife, the mom, the friend, and the person I am today because of that tough road, because of that hell. As tough as my road was, it could have been worse. I wasn’t the young Dad whose wife was diagnosed with cancer when she was pregnant and sacrificed both her health and her life to give birth to their son.
I wasn’t the parents of the toddler in the next room who passed away that very same night as my first husband.
I wasn’t the mom of three young kids diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.
But I was the Mom of that 17-month old, so despite my personal hell… I kept on.
It seems like a lifetime ago – and in many ways it was. The other day, a friend of mine was sharing the devastating news about a friend of hers who had lost her spouse. She was telling me how she was sharing with the new widow about a friend who had also lost a spouse and I didn’t even realize for a minute that she was talking about me.
The death of a loved one, especially one whose life is cut so short is something you never get over. But you do get on. And for that, I’ll be forever thankful. And if you are lucky, if you are willing to shove aside some of the grief, if you are willing to look for something good in the middle of hell, you can find a gift.
It truly is the eternal gift that has made me the person I am today. The gift that allows me to not sweat the small stuff. The gift that allows me to just stop and hug my kids. The gift that has allowed me to keep on keeping on when it feels like the whole world is conspiring to break me. The gift that helps me pause and realize that some of this stuff just doesn’t matter. In fact, most of it just doesn’t matter.
So, on those days when it feels like the world is crumbling around me, I take a deep breath, look at my life, and put things in perspective. Without fail, every time, I realize it could be worse, much worse. And when I look at it that way, I find the strength to face whatever life is dealing me in that moment and I keep on keeping on.