I have so many reasons to be grateful for the life, love, and support I have around me every day. I try to always make it a point to remember, even on my hardest, most overwhelming days, how fortunate and blessed my life is.
But this wasn’t always the case. Perhaps one of the things that helps me look at life differently now is the unhappiness I let myself live with for so long.
At age 18, I was in a relationship with someone whom I cared about very much, but in no way had any future plans with, or anyone really. I was figuring myself out, and what I wanted out of life, as we expect most 18-year olds to do.
Six months after I left high school, I was faced with a positive pregnancy test. I was raised in a Christian home, and couldn’t see around my self-inflicted guilt. I felt that the right thing to do was marry the young man who said he loved me and would take care of us.
Eight months after having my first son, I was pregnant again. At the age of 20, I had two babies in diapers and a fragile marriage due to the stress of being a young mom. I had never fully accepted my choices and I was living with the worst enemy of all – regret.
I began to fall into my new life, in a way that can only be described as going through the motions. Even though I was slowly letting go of the past, and trying to forgive myself, it was a long and sad journey. I wasn’t living in the moment. I wasn’t enjoying my two beautiful boys. I was too busy focusing on my past and often lamenting feeling like I didn’t have a future. I wasn’t living MY life and enjoying all that it was offering.
Last week I attended a Landmark seminar for self-improvement. A woman stood up before the seminar and gave a testimony about how the courses she took through Landmark have taught her to handle adversity and see life differently. She explained that a few years back, her doctor gave her the news that she could never have children. She and her husband were devastated; they had been trying for years. It took a few days for her to get over the shock and reality of that news, but as she so eloquently put it: “I chose to see this situation from a place of possibility.”
She wasn’t sure what that opportunity or possibility would become, but she made sure it wasn’t going to be a detour leading down a road of, “what-ifs and if-onlys.”
What an amazing thing to say and do!
At that moment I thought about the fact that we all have three options when we are faced with life-changing news:
1) We can bury ourselves under our shame, guilt, grief, or whatever emotion we face and become non-functioning or barely functioning.
2) We can let time heal our wounds and limp along until we get over it, as I did for many years.
3) We can look at it as an opportunity! What doors can be opened because of a setback? What might we encounter because our life had to go down a different path than the one we planned? What amazing parts of life will we now experience that we might have missed if this hand hadn’t been dealt to us?
I can successfully say that I’ve been through all of those options in my life, and I’m so happy to be where I am, at option three, today. At first, I chose road number one. Road one eventually led to road number two, a journey on which I spent 12 years of my life not really living, not enjoying what I had, and not recognizing the people I had in my life that loved me.
If I wanted a negative cycle to continue, I could spend time regretting how long I stayed on road number two. But I’ve chosen to move on to number three, and I write this because I hope all of you can find the strength to do the same.
None of us should live with regret, resentfulness, bitterness or anger. It’s the easier road and often human-nature to focus on what we could have had or don’t have because of this or that – _______________ (you fill in the blank).
When we place all or even some of our energy into things that are not supportive of our goals, dreams, and loved ones, we end up living in a world of mediocrity and unfulfilled purpose.
Every day is a new day. Every day is a chance to do something a little or a lot better than the day before. Don’t let it slip by without noticing something amazing about the world around you and how you contributed to that world. Start a journal, and every night write down three things you are thankful for and three things you did well that day. This is what works for me, but find what works for you and make sure to truly celebrate the positivity and accomplishments you have in your life. Recognize who you are, who you strive to be, the positive impact you want to have on others, and what you are doing about it.