By Susan Keats, Contributor & Seize-the-Day Propagandist
It was a dark and stormy night.
No it wasn’t. It was a fine night as far as the weather goes, but as we sat our two daughters down in the living room to tell them that I had breast cancer, the storm raging inside my brain was pretty harrowing. I attempted a brave face while my husband told the girls what was happening with me and I watched their faces fall and shock cloud their eyes. And then he said it….through the turbulent whirlwind of anxiety in my head, I heard my husband say it. “Girls, mom may be too sick to do the laundry or clean the house, so we will really need your help to pitch in. You will need to start doing your own laundry.”
What? I might be too sick to clean and do laundry? Really? AWESOME!! YIPPEE!!!!! Yes, that is exactly where my mind went. You know, there’s that part of your brain that we usually tell to hush up, or simmer down? Well, my little unedited thought bubble was doing a gleeful dance and telling it like it is. I didn’t realize it at that moment, but in this particular ordeal, this was my first of many silver linings.
They are always there, those silver linings. You just have to be paying attention. So consider this your heads up. No matter what bad stuff happens in your life, there is always one to find. A friend of mine, who has also struggled with cancer, told me that the only good she could figure that came from her experience was that she now wants to be there to support anyone else who is going through the same thing.
Another friend recently lost her husband in a vehicle accident. He did not die, but his injuries were such that his entire personality changed once he finally recovered and he became prone to violence. She was forced to divorce him to keep herself and her children safe. Through her ordeal, she also lost her home, her job, too much weight, and if you can even stand to think of it, many of her friends. She told me “The journey we took was made all the more dynamic with me finding out who my friends really are.” It is through sheer strength and determination that she is rebuilding her life and has discovered a power from within that she previously didn’t know was there. That’s a pretty good silver lining.
A fellow I knew with a very sick mother once said to me, “I fail to see how any of this can be misconstrued as anything positive.” I think of what he said often because it reinforces all the more that you have to extract from all experiences something that you can use to better yourself or someone else. The alternative is hopelessness, and I’m really not up for that.
For me, the best silver lining I have discovered is the one that has turned illness into the great clarifier. When your life is on the line, you can see without any struggle what is important and what is not. Holding grudges? What a waste of energy. Worried about what other people think? Argh! Who cares? I have to say, it’s much easier for me to make decisions these days without all of that other noise crowding my mind.
Look, I know that there are circumstances too unbearable to even contemplate. I know you want to take what I said above and scream, what about this thing that happened to my friend, or that thing that happened in the news? How are you going to turn THAT into a supposed “silver lining?” But silver linings are not how to make something horrible into something good. A silver lining is a very personal and individual realization. It’s about what gleaming smidge of hope or lesson can you discover that would not have otherwise shown itself to you when all was hunky-dory.
So, believe it or not, I have to go throw a load of laundry into the machine. Yea, I got better and my kids stopped doing their laundry. But, they will do it if I ask and they can also vacuum, dust, and scrub all that needs scrubbing. Now that’s one small bright and gleaming accomplishment.
I’m very interested to know what silver linings you have discovered in your own life following a traumatic or difficult event? Will you please share your experiences with me in the comments section below?