“Each difficult moment has the potential to open my eyes and open my heart.” – Myla Kabat-Zinn
I am waiting for a ride after a long day of teaching with a colleague who remarked as we parted, “If you didn’t have bad luck you’d have no luck at all.”
She was commenting on my complicated life situation and more specifically about the breakdown of my used car that morning, as I drove my young children to daycare before heading to school.
This was early in my separation and our children were five, four, and two. When my ex and I separated, I was optimistic that we, the parents, would find love again and model healthy relationships for our children. I don’t think either of us anticipated the animosity that would ensue nor the years spent entangled in legal arguments and court appearances. The impact of that simple yet powerful statement my colleague uttered that day did not register until many years later. Little did I know it was to be a prophetic statement of truth.
In the beginning, the challenge was scheduling extracurricular activities around visitation weekends and once a week after school visits. It was an emotional and chaotic separation and it was punctuated with frequent court appearances necessary to create a separation agreement that addressed our children’s interests and safety. It was heartbreaking and sobering the day I realized that someone who once loved me had found someone else to love as I struggled with the daily grind of single parenthood and working full time.
By definition, we face adversity when we feel circumstances or situations are working against us. I certainly believed that after fifteen long years of single parenting, alone and struggling financially as my children completed post-secondary education that I was facing adverse conditions. What if in fact, those very same experiences were real opportunities for my growth; my soul’s evolution and therefore the universe was conspiring for my good? It’s the lens through which we see our life’s experiences that determine our perception and makes meaning of those circumstances. I could choose to change the lens and change my life.
Change always comes bearing gifts. ~Price Pritchett
The turning point was in my surrender and acceptance of the situation. I chose optimism instead of hopelessness. In counseling, I finally assumed responsibility for my choice in a partner and my part in the breakup of our marriage. I forgave myself. I sent my ex a heartfelt, honest letter that forgave him the substantial financial debt. I genuinely wished him well, sent his family love and truly meant it. I thanked him for the remarkable opportunity of raising our children and shared with him how resilient they are and their successes. I recognized the ‘gift’ within the pain of my past and celebrated my courage and contribution to my children’s growth and lives. I chose to see it differently.
My life struggles are not unique: heartbreak, separation, divorce, financial struggles, and the death of a parent. What is unique is the way we approach those universal challenges. By believing I would get through times of adversity and trust in my own inner strength, I gave up the struggle. While I did what I could, focusing on what I wanted, I also accepted where I was. I gained strength and inspiration in books and speakers and accepted the help and support from others. I was pleasantly surprised when I finally grasped the meaning underlying the struggles and was able to see the gifts in the experiences. Now, I am grateful for those opportunities that I once considered times of adversity as I move forward in my life knowing I can conquer any adversity.
That, which does not kill us, does make us stronger. Be the hero in your life and through your actions inspire others to do the same.
Gillian Stevens recently retired from her job as a secondary school guidance counselor, where she empowered at-risk youth to overcome barriers to success. She has now pursued her dream of becoming an author, and her upcoming book, Explore, Transform, Flourish: Support and Hope for Those Who Help Others (How Professionals Keep It Together) is a practical guide which motivates and supports individuals through a process with strategies, tools, and resources to achieve not only work-life balance, but also invites to create their best life yet! Visit her website at http://www.gillianstevens.ca/.
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