Several months ago I read a beautiful article that briefly described a mom who drove up to a grassy area to drop her oldest daughter off for soccer practice. The field directly across the street was literally covered in thousands of dandelions. The mom looked at the field and thought to herself, wow, there are so many weeds, this field needs landscaping! As she was looking at the field with disgust, her youngest daughter shouts from the back of the minivan, "Oh, mommy, look at all of those wishes, that's sooo beautiful!" To see the field through the eyes of a child, the beauty, wonderment and promise that the field of wishes held, the mom paused for thought. With age we become hardened, life is something we try to control, it may even be difficult to find joy in simple pleasures.........I keep reminding myself life is full of wishes OR weeds, it is MY choice how I view it.
I am working very hard on my perspective. The past 6 months have been the absolute hardest of my life, which is saying a lot considering I haven't led the easiest of lives. Shortly after moving to our new house, I started to become angry. Eventually I was in a state of all-consuming, super-saturated anger. For 3 days I walked around with so much anger in my heart and on my mind that I was unable to emotionally connect with anyone or anything. I kept telling my husband "something is wrong, I'm not sure what it is, but I need to figure this out." I then went into a 7 day period of "quiet", I'm sure I looked catatonic from an outsider's perspective, but I was literally figuring my life out and how I wanted to approach it. Each day my husband would arrive home from work and for those 5 days + weekend I'd go upstairs for a long bath (sorry about the water bill, babe!). The solitude of being in the bath was exactly what I needed to just be deep in thought, no distractions, just thoughts. Kind of symbolic that I was cleansing my heart, mind, soul.....and body as well. I came to many amazing conclusions during that week! Life is hard and terrible things will more than likely keep happening, and it is my job to find the silver lining in each of those situations....the wishes, if you will. I also realized that I was not angry at one particular person, situation or event, nope, I was angry from all that life had dumped on me, but I was only looking at the negative aspects of these 'things'. From each of these events and situations, I grew immensely as a person and ultimately strengthened my character, but I was failing to recognize this.
Something else.....NOBODY is responsible for your happiness, but on the other hand, NOBODY can rob you of joy....this concept is so liberating to me! I had heard this old adage a million times, but I grew to appreciate it more and more during that week. Nobody, or any external factor for that matter, is in charge of my happiness. On the other hand, I give nobody permission to make me feel bad about myself; they are entitled to their opinions, but what I do with negative opinions and remarks is up to me. Hallelujah! My only job in life is to be loving, patient and kind to others, beyond that, anybody's negative actions and beliefs will not penetrate what I know about myself, I will not allow it to. In the past, I allowed others to dictate how I felt about myself, that is not their fault, I was the one allowing this....I was also doing this with a multitude of external factors. For instance, in college, a mediocre grade on a test that I thought I had done well on could leave me upset for a week or 2. I'd question my intelligence, my studying abilities, what did my future hold if I couldn't even get a great grade on a test. Parking ticket? This would result in me questioning how the meter ran out, how stupid could I be, I should have rushed to get back to my car! Negative thoughts were permeating my brain all of the time. It was this type of critical and negative thinking for most of my life that led me to the feeling of deep anger on those 3 days. Between my own self-loathing and the hardships that life had dumped on me which resulted in self-pity, something needed to change. At a crossroads in my life, I chose the most positive path that I could see, the one lined with wishes.
Situation #1: Connor's Diabetes Diagnosis at 3 years old:
Perspective 1: This disease causes an endless amount of stress everyday; I am always so worried about his health and don't sleep well; this disease is so expensive, it's costing us about $100.00/month.
Perspective 2: Thank God we caught this disease before he died, many other children have died; thank God that this is a manageable disease and we have a way of keeping him alive with insulin, other parents aren't so lucky, and have children afflicted with cancer; thank goodness we have the money to afford all of the supplies to keep him healthy.
Situation #2: My husband lost his second job (income we heavily relied upon) just 5 days before closing on our house:
Perspective 1: Oh no! We don't have enough money to pay for our monthly expenses, we have no savings and are putting a lot of money on our credit card right now; our cars are each 8 years old and we cannot afford to get newer cars and they both need repairs.
Perspective 2: We have enough money to pay for our mortgage, to put healthy food on the table and to pay for Connor's diabetes expenses; I get to spend more time with my husband and have him here to help out more now that he's not working a 2nd job. Thank goodness our cars have lasted this long, let's hope they last for another 8 years!
Moving away from a self-pitying, 'woe is me' outlook to a positive 'look at the bright side' perspective affects my mood and overall happiness. Now, perspective 1 in both scenarios is certainly true, but if I keep repeating those negative thoughts in my head, you know what, I'm unhappy! Knowing that I am solely responsible for my own happiness, I'm challenged to find actions/things/people/perspective that make me happy everyday. For everything that comes my way, I'm searching for the silver lining (I sometimes have to search very hard), so I am essentially reprogramming the way that I think. We have to make choices everyday of how we are going to view daily events, I'm concluding at 32 years old (it's taken me this long) that taking a more positive stance will improve my overall quality of life. Lastly, if something is making you unhappy, fix it! Allowing things to linger and not making a plan of action of fixing it will leave you in a constant state of distress.
For most of us, the hardships that we've faced have made us so much stronger, and we probably haven't realized it. It's not until we are faced with similar hardships later in life that we say, "you know what, I know how to handle this with poise and grace and it's not going to bring me to my knees this time!" Also, due to difficult experiences, most of us have become more compassionate and empathetic people and have the ability to relate to others that may be in similar situations. Possessing the ability to say just the right words to heal others' hearts, to connect on a deeper level, what a gift! My Endometriosis diagnosis and eventual IVF journey has led me to connect with dozens of amazing women who have gone through similar journeys. Would I have ever connected with these women or developed a really meaningful friendship with them without enduring those very difficult years, probably not. I try to remind myself everyday: don't let life make your heart hard, we are here on this earth for a brief period, it's important that we continue to learn, enjoy life and love each other! Look at the wishes!
I LOVE this quote from one of my favorite books, just like wishes or weeds, our perspective changes how we approach life. I'd like to think that after enduring hardships and eventual growth, our souls are beautiful by the end of their journeys here on earth.......
“One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree. I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight. Mom frowned at me. "You'd be destroying what makes it special," she said. "It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it its beauty.”
- The Glass Castle
How will you approach life & hardship, will it be weeds or wishes? I hope that we all eventually see that field as wishes.........