Monday, 12 October 2009

We all have our cross to bear

Five years ago, my husband, my soul mate, the love of my life had an affair. Despite a year apart, we are still together.

It never leaves me – what he did and what we went through consequently. Every day some little reminder prods and pokes at the old scab to see whether it has healed. There were times during my troubles that I was overwhelmed by anger – not at him, but an incredulity that I’d had more than my fair share of grief and hard times over the years. ‘Him up there’ has thrown most things at me at some stage or another; being abandoned by my mother and father as a small child; numerous miscarriages; being diagnosed with Behcets disease in my twenties and losing my job as a result; my eldest child being very, very sick. I won’t go on. There is a lot more.

I used to wonder how it was that some people seem to have all that life can throw at them and some remain untouched, leading seemingly blessed lives. Over the years, I realise that is not the case. Everyone has his or her cross to bear. Adversity can strike with or without notice. It can hit a relationship, a loved one, your business, your health or your financial status. No matter where or when it hits it will leave the same emotions and feelings in its wake; anxiety, stress, frustration, disappointment, fear, sadness and almost always, a sense of hopelessness and/or despair. How cruel life can be. But we all know that life’s not fair and what is it they say – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

Adversity has an incredible power over our emotions, feelings and responses. Yet it always amazes me how strong the human spirit can be to endure such pain and hard times and still battle and come through the other end. From what I’ve gleaned so far, it is how we deal with adversity that separates those who come out at the other end better and wiser from those who are broken by the experience or end up bitter and ruined. Indeed, how we see life determines our interpretation of whether it is an adversity or not. When adversity rocks a comfortable secure life, fear takes over. We all wonder, ‘how will I survive alone?’ ‘Can I ever get over this?’ ‘Will I ever get a new job or career?’ However, if ten people faced the same adverse event, I guarantee that some will see it as negative, some positive and some devastated by it.
We have a choice as to which way we see it. One of the best illustrations I can give is for you to think about Neville and Doreen, the parents of Steven Lawrence or, Sarah Payne, mother of little Sarah who was abducted and murdered by a paedophile. There can be no event more terrible to endure than the death of a child. For some people, a tragedy gives their life purpose.

I should be a resilience coach. Over the years, I’ve perfected it to a fine art. Every knock back is a learning experience. How many times have I told myself that, ‘It must have happened for a reason’ or ‘some good has to come from it.’ Perhaps I’m kidding myself and wrapping it up to make it easier to accept. But hey, if that’s my coping mechanism at least I can say that the challenges in life have made me better, not bitter. It depends how strong your survival instinct is. For me it has always been the need to keep going and never give in. If we’re trying to climb a mountain, it isn’t the mountain that we conquer, it is ourselves. Edmund Hillary said that after he climbed Mount Everest.

I’m not for one moment suggesting that I’m always strong and positive, focussed and proactive in the face of disorder. I can fall apart like the next person and how we cope at the time of the event is a completely different matter and a separate blog. I am talking about resilience, because after I’ve wallowed and hit the bottom, something kicks in and I always, ALWAYS manage to bounce back up and fight. Here’s what I’ve learnt from adversity:-
1 To fight not flight – It’s far better to face the reality of the situation rather than run or shirk it.
2 Accept support from family and friends - The saying, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ is so true. It’s also true that the tough times are when you find who your friends are. People who care deeply for you will be there when adversity strikes. When my world crashed around my ears five years ago, my friends carried me through. But even total strangers reached out to me to give their support and encouraged me to keep trying hard to get my life back. Women in particular - ‘sisters’ - there is nothing like the support of another woman. Men rarely have the same support network.
3 Focus on what you have, and what you can do – This doesn’t mean money and material things. People, especially you, are far more important to treasure than possessions.
4 Learn from it and re-build – Adversity can be a tool, just like any other emotional tool for positive change. You have to be self aware to see the opportunity. You have to be patient with yourself – not beat yourself up thinking things like, “I’m such an idiot.” Adversity often brings with it knocks to confidence, loss of security, crippling lack of self-esteem. If you can dig deep into your resolves and strive to where or who we want to be rather than who we are or who we used to be, you will have to have learned to love yourself enough.

Learning to love yourself is the most crucial key to coming through adversity and being stronger and better as a result.

Walt Disney once said:- “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” A resilient person is able to withstand life’s battles, survive them, and come out triumphant. If you are currently smack in the middle of a rotten situation, take a step back and think of another occasion when you (or someone you know) went through a trauma, tragedy or horrible experience. You see, you survived (or they) survived. We are here to tell the tale. Surviving such experiences should give us confidence and belief in our ability to get on with it when the unthinkable happens. Life isn’t fair and you may be battled scarred and weary but at least you will be able to look at the scars and know the hurt is over and the wound is closed because you have that gift of an amazing and indomitable human spirit.

Until another day

Bye for now