Throughout my life I have predominantly had a positive outlook. I have always lived with the understanding that everything happens for a reason.
I have trusted that there is a purpose to every experience….that we are all being led somewhere…being taught or shown what we need to learn in this life.
We can choose to see it that way – or not. I had always chosen to see.
To be fair, it seemed that not much ever happened to cause me any great distress. As my mother ruefully remarked recently, “We had a good run.” It is easy to have faith when there is nothing to really test it.
Then life got more complicated. I have worked at taking the long view.
For example, with regard to my girls’ father being transgender – I can choose to feel pain in anticipation of the challenges that he and my children may face at the hands of people who are cruel or discriminating. I can live in anger, fear or frustration that their lives may be more challenging because of this. Or, I can trust that my children will grow up to be compassionate defenders of humanity…that they have the potential to influence those around them with their open hearts and minds. That they will be strong, brave and vocal in the face of discrimination.
Of course, the more painful the experience, the harder it is to find meaning.
It can be incredibly difficult to look for the golden thread of meaning in the face of extreme illness (our own or that of our loved ones) or in the death of someone we love.
How can there ever be a purpose to such pain?
I think it is important to understand that no matter how much meaning you are able to ultimately derive, it will never make you grateful for this kind of pain. However, finding the lesson is a way to ease the pain – even just a little bit.
The interesting thing I have discovered is that sometimes the lessons are not even directly about those who are hurting.
Sometimes it is someone else’s pain that wakes us up, and in that way we can never truly know the ripple effects of our very existence.
We are all connected.
After my dad died, my friend Shane finally booked a long dreamed of trip, for he and his dad, to Ireland. I loved seeing pictures from this trip, and it was comforting to me to know that the loss of my father helped spur this on. Shane realized that time with his own father is not an infinite commodity.
I have always loved writing, but it was my father’s death that pushed me to finally do it – every day, and publicly.
My father’s death, my mother’s illness, adjusting to a transgender co-parent, divorce, unrequited love – all of these topics have inspired me to write. I see a future in writing for myself – which is something I had not seriously considered in a couple of decades.
My openness and vulnerability in this blog have inspired other people to write. It has also inspired others to be more direct, open and vulnerable in their own relationships.
That is a beautiful thing. I’m proud of that.
In the time since dad passed away, I have experienced deeper and more meaningful connections with my loved ones than ever before. I have reevaluated my relationships and really gotten to the root of what is important to me.
I have done an incredible amount of self reflecting, and I understand myself better than I ever dared to previously.
Would I trade all of these things to have my father back?
Of course I would, but…I am not given that choice.
So, I can choose to believe that my pain is for nothing, or I can see the ways in which these painful experiences have helped me to grow, and to live more fully.
I can notice how sharing them has helped other people to grow and live more fully, too.
Therein, I can find gratitude (and perhaps even inspiration) within my pain.