Let me preface this post with a caveat: I’m writing about positivity, loss, pain, redemption, lessons, and the like. It’s important that I tell you that I’ve lived a charmed life. I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve never lost my home or my parents or siblings to war or terrorism. No one I know has ever gotten ebola or river blindness. I have multiple changes of clean, dry clothes, a car that runs, a girlfriend that loves me, and a dog that thinks I am a giant biped dog with whom he gets to live.
That being said, I’ve had plenty of bullshit happen to me (and I’ve happened to me even more than that). Through DNA or God or luck, I am really freaking introspective and exceedingly literate. Nothing happens to me for long that doesn’t get processed and turned into distilled wisdom. The bad news is, I am bound to the continuum of time (for now), so I only learn these lessons as I go.
Nonetheless, here’s some wisdom for ya.
For those of you who’ve read a bit of my writing, or hung out with me, you know that I tout the virtues of remaining positive in the face of adversity. Whether it’s about lowering your stress or proactively getting your hopes up, “positivity” is one of my centering principles. It guides my choices; it is my set point.
It’s a life centering principle; literally, positivity is a principle upon which I center my life. It’s something internal. It protects me from getting too far off track by the things over which I have no control. Rather than get tossed around like a rowboat at sea, paddling furiously against waves and currents to no avail, I’ve chosen to be like a buoy. I rise and fall with the flow, but neither the rise nor the fall are going to move me further than my own anchor will let me move.
Does that mean I’m insulated from the storm? Not even close. I get battered by life just like everyone else does. My paint gets chipped by uncertainty in my job. Barnacles of illness weigh me down. Hell, the seagulls of life crap on me, just like they do on everyone else.
But I repaint, I clean, and I’m good as new – and I still haven’t been moved.
When I lose a job, get broken up with, or get shingles, it hurts me deeply. It stings. It makes me want to give up. Just like it does for anyone else.
And for the longest time, it would totally derail me. It led to self-medicating. It led to turning my brain off. And then, at inopportune moments, when stress or traffic or a snide comment would hit, the festering sore I’d pretended wasn’t there would make its presence known.
A scrape, unattended, turned to sepsis.
And maybe worse: that scrape, unattended and avoided and ignored, was a painful crack in my skin where even the obvious lesson wouldn’t make its way in.
I went through one particularly painful loss several years ago, and I made a fortuitous decision: I was not going to drink, gamble, play video games, or any other form of avoidance from the pain of that loss.
Instead, I stood in and took it. I felt every torturous minute of it. I cried, I lay awake all night, I drove around aimlessly for hours at a time, I punched walls, I screamed, I wrote long letters to no one. I processed. A lot.
The pain morphed into experience and wisdom – and it did so more quickly than I’d ever “gotten over” anything in the past.
I left the cut open, I let the pain happen, and I accidentally gave the universe the chance to teach me things I would have never learned otherwise.
I center my life on positivity. I make my decisions based on it. I seek to return to it anytime I feel myself pulling to the right or left.
I center my life on positivity because I can’t control the outside world. But when life presents me with the opportunity to feel something other than love and joy and unicorns and rainbows, I stand in and recognize the pain for what it is.
Pain is how wisdom gets in.