Tag Archive | a positive attitude

Tragedy Gives You A Choice

writingThis week I gave my class a writing assignment which asked them to discuss an instance how a personal tragedy turned into a strength. Most of them were having trouble with the writing assignment because they couldn’t come up with an example. They’re too young to have “hit the wall,” and worst of all, they have no idea how they will act when personal tragedy strikes.

If I had to write this assignment, I would tell the story of “Barbie and Ken” in middle age. I’d walk my reader through how we’ve worked together with the help of friends and family to face a few “biggies” with a smile.

When Ken’s health turned bad in 2000, neither of us cried. Instead, we looked at his cancer diagnosis as a project that needed to be managed. He faced the pain and suffering of the disease, as I stood by his bedside as his advocate, making sure good decisions were made for his care. Our friends stood by both of us with support and visits. One woman in our church group arranged a committee to take transportation issues off of my shoulders. She helped get Ken to his intensive chemotherapy. His infusions went on for five days, lasting about four hours everyday. This course of treatment was done every third week for four months.

After his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, I was told his memory loss was worse than many Alzheimer’s patients, and for the first time in our life together, I cried. Somehow, I got through the cancer without tears, but this load was too heavy. Once again my dear husband had to face a tough battle, but the effects of this war would endure forever. But somehow, we both got it together as the diagnosis set in, and once again we reshaped our lives to deal with the cards we were dealt. He had to learn how to be alone all day, while I went to work. He decided to handle the household chores, so we could have our weekends together to do some fun things. I had to assume the outside duties of grass cutting and weed pulling.

It wasn’t until 2009 that things got really tough. I lost my job, and little did I know this was the beginning of my “retirement.” I was too young in years to really retire with parties and fond farewells. Instead, I faded into oblivion. The economy was in the tank, and nobody wanted or needed a person my age around any  more. But once again, Ken and I pulled together with the help of our supportive friends and family, and somehow we saw our way through three years without enough money, creditors calling, and days filled with each other 24/7.

Now as his MS progresses,  he needs me home all of the time. Am I ready for this? Probably not, but I’m making the necessary changes.  I’ve decided to stop teaching to become his caretaker–both jobs are too much.

Yesterday was our first experience with this group called “Harmony Club.” Ken was the youngest guy in the group and probably the most handicapped of all of them, but everyone welcomed him with open arms, and I could leave him, knowing he was in good hands. I went to one of my favorite breakfast places and enjoyed an omelet, while enjoyed watching people go about their daily business downtown.

I guess the point of this discussion is to say no matter what happens in life, everyone has a choice. You can whine about how the world has done you wrong, or you can look at what has happened and be creative. Finding new ways of doing things can be fun. Discovering new abilities is exciting. I finally had a chance to let out my creative side through producing novels, paintings, and jewelry–all of which people tell me they enjoy. Perhaps my novels won’t make the best seller list, and my paintings are not museum quality, but all of these endeavors is an outlet for my many emotions.

It takes strength and creativity to face disappointments in life with a smile, and if you’re lucky you’ll have a support system to carry you when you think you can’t go on. If you  must have a pity party, make it a short one. Then go and defy the disappointment bully and punch him/her in the hose. You’ll feel better for it!

Weathering the Storm

Ships-in-a-Storm-on-the-Dutch-Coast-1854-xx-Andreas-AchenbachI am no longer afraid of the storm, for I am learning to sail my ship. — Louisa May Alcott

I came across this quote in a caregiver’s newsletter this week. It really resonated with me because to understand its full impact, a person has to have weathered storms in life.

Like most people, I’ve experienced my share of life’s disappointments, sometimes bordering on tragedy. My father became seriously ill when I was 13. I broke my leg and lost the lead of the 9th grade musical and was marooned at home for five months. I miscarried between my daughters. I divorced after 40 and lived alone for the first time in my life. Ken was diagnosed with cancer 13 years ago and MS 7 years ago. I was fired or laid off a half dozen times. I’ve had to shop in thrift stores, live on food stamps and saw my 800 credit rating plummet into the 500s. Through all of these things, I’ve learned it’s not what happens to you; it’s how you deal with it.

I found out who I was and how strong I could be by facing the tragedies with humor and a positive attitude. It didn’t come naturally, but I soon learned nobody wants to be around a complainer. I looked for the positive elements of a situation and concentrate on them. It’s not that I’m brave or special; it’s just that it’s so much easier to go with the flow.

When you choose to live a thankful life and find the positive things in dire situations, the bad doesn’t seem as bad. Best of all, a positive outlook makes the sadness of the tragedy easier for everyone around you. Friends come forward to help. Family steps in, too. In fact, our doctors have gone so far to tell both Ken and I that we inspired them. I don’t know about you, but that was exciting.

So, when Ken is so weak he can hardly sit in a chair, we stay at home and are thankful we can experience a quiet day. We laugh at the goofy game shows, play on our computers, and just are thankful we have a comfortable place to do both. Before we know it, the day has passed and it’s time to cuddle in bed and thank God for a good day.

When he’s feeling strong, we have a day like yesterday–bumming around accomplishing errands, visiting friends, while laughing together, and having a date for lunch–just the two of us.

Our ship is on a steady course. We realize the storms will come, and when they do, we either strap ourselves to the mast and hang on to each other, or we point our ship into the wind and wait for calmer winds and sunshine.  Either way, we get through the crappy times together and rejoice when we can sail again through calm seas.

It takes a lot of living to understand how to weather the storms, but experience has shown finding the smallest positive detail — and there always is a nugget of something good in the worst possible situation — you’ll come through the bad weather with a calm you never dreamed was possible.Sailboat in Sunset