There are times in life when it’s hard to believe that things are going to get better. When your life starts to go a bit ‘pear-shaped’ it’s easy to get bogged down in negative feelings and to feel completely overwhelmed. Don’t give up.
At times like this, we so desperately want to know it is going to be okay; that we are going to make it through. Sometimes it is hard to find that hope, that belief in our ability to be strong and resilient. I know this because I have been on the other side of happiness, health and hope myself.
Six years ago my life was unrecognisable.
Six years ago I lost my health, and with it my job, my independence and my sense of self. While I was optimistic about life, I wasn’t sure I would recover. Without recovery I feared I might not achieve the things in my life I so desperately wanted to.
After finding there was no cure for my illness, or any treatments that helped me, I had to accept that I might never work fulltime, travel overseas, dance or exercise again, get married or have children. This was certainly not the life I had envisaged for myself, yet this was the path I was on.
Despite what was happening to me, I was determined not to let illness rob me of my happiness and my chance to live a life I was proud of. So I made the hard decision to accept my reality…to let go of my monkey grip on my ‘pre-planned’ dreams.
Instead, I looked at my life from a new perspective. Based on the ‘new me,’ I looked at what capacity I still had, what I could still do to live a good life. I also understood the preciousness of life, and began doing more things that brought me joy and happiness.
What I didn’t know at the time was how this decision to shift my mindset would transform my life in so many wonderful ways. What I didn’t know was that life was going to get much better and that I didn’t need to wait for a cure to start living well.
Six years since my diagnosis, my life is again unrecognisable…but this time in a good way.
While I haven’t recovered fully, in the last few years I have been able to re-enter the workforce (although still not full time), I started salsa dancing where I met a lovely man who has been my boyfriend for the past two years. With this supportive and loving man I have been able to travel to some fantastic countries around the world.
I really couldn’t have pictured any of this happening six years ago. I never imagined that I would be standing under the Eiffel Tower, but in 2012 that was exactly what I did. Last week I celebrated my 29th birthday, and like all birthdays, it became an opportunity for reflection.
I am humbled by the life I am now living; I feel so much happiness and gratitude. I still have significant limitations, only this weekend I was back in bed feeling quite sick because I did too much during the week. But that’s okay because I have accepted that this is part of my life.
You see when you lose so much, anything you gain you feel so profoundly. The first time I put sneakers on to go for a walk I almost cried. It felt so great to be able to do something I hadn’t for years; something I wasn’t sure I would ever get to do again.
No one is immune to hardship, be it from illness or a whole gamut of other life issues. If we want to live well amidst our hardships, though, we must choose how we will respond to our life. German writer, Walter Anderson says it well;
“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.”
Is it easy? No. At times it feels nothing short of horrendous. It can seem unfathomable that you will feel good again, but you will. It can feel impossible that one day you might wake up and not experience dread, fear, anxiety or sadness the second your eyes are open, but you will.
It’s not time to give up your hopes and dreams. Now is the time to commit to living as well as you can in the moment that you are in. Now is the time to “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can,” as Arthur Ashe an American tennis player so wisely said.
Hang on tight, it gets easier. Great things can come from some of the worst situations in our lives…happiness can break through.
Xxx Jess xxx