Monday, November 16, 2009


Are you a glass half full, or glass half empty person?

Awhile ago I was on Twitter, and I encountered someone who was coming across as hugely bitter and negative in their 140 character space. Bad partner, bad job, crappy home; life was, according to them, BAD.

Lord help you if you complained at all either because yours just wouldn't compare and then you'd be labeled as "whiny".

I've been told that I'm a pretty positive person, but I admit that there have been a lot of times where I haven't felt that way. In a lot of ways, I have been lucky, but years ago we went through a time where the world seemed to just be falling apart for us. Check this out (all happened in a span of 4 years):

-I took on a hugely stressful job because it was more hours and we needed the money. It turned out to be the hardest job I've ever done as a special ed para and after only 1 month I was injured. I tore everything from my neck and shoulder blade to my spine, and hurt my rotater cuff. It took years to heal.

-Finances were rocky and things weren't going well with Hub's job.

-Jake's learning disabilities were really beginning to show. We had him tested. Trouble with school began.

-Jake's gr. 2 teacher dumped a hugely expensive, overnight field trip to a city 3 hours away on us by building it up the kids first and then telling the parents. We were 1 of the only families that couldn't afford to send him. The field trip became the focus of teaching for the next few months while we madly tried to scrape the cash together. In the end, he went but the stress over it was ridiculous.

-Hubs caught Cryptoccocal Gatti disease and almost died. (Took him a full year to recover and he has lasting damage from it)

-2 weeks later he was laid off. Can you say financial stress to the MAX? (Took us YEARS to get back on our feet)

-we had to sell our beautiful 2200 square foot home and move to a crappy rental townhouse complex and a 1200 sq foot (that's what they said-I think it was more like 800) space where there were crazy parents who harassed us, and kids who bullied Jake mercilessly.

-one kid put a rope around Jake's neck and yanked it, leaving a huge mark. Another punched him almost daily. They roamed in packs and Jake couldn't play outside without supervision. I was too afraid he'd get beat up by a kid or screamed and cussed at by a nutcase adult.

-Hubs was back in school going to university by computer. We were barely surviving on my tiny wage. He spent nine hours a day pecking out his essays on a computer and then I would come home and stay up until midnight proofreading them. If you wonder why this might be hard, my Hubs is dyslexic and writing is excruciating for him, so writing essays is no cake walk. He plowed through it, and got an A on every single paper. We were so proud!

-Jake's new school...well...let's just sum it up by saying all freaking Hell broke loose. (He's STILL dealing with the after affects of that one)

-my own workplace became a political and social minefield. I was called cheap for not being able to afford to fork out money when collections were taken up for gifts for staff, humiliated, and then told to pay because it's what people do no matter what their circumstances. It's part of the job, they said. I was deeply hurt because I had invested so much of my own time and energy, going way above and beyond what was required of my job, and all they appeared to care about was a measly $10.

So you know, if I wanted to, I could have been bitter and angry about the whole situation. There was plenty to be angry at and wallow in my own pity party over. Some days I did, until the universe decided to give me a quick slap upside the head.

The day had been like any other and I was on my way home, driving along a long stretch of open highway. On a sunny day, the highway wasn't bad but some days, you really had to be careful. Logging trucks would leave bits of wood behind, there was pieces of tires, and even roadkill to be avoided. On a stormy day, the road could be down right treacherous. Is it any wonder they used it to film the opening of Final Destination 2?

On this particular day, the rain was coming down in sheets, whipping sideways by the wind and making it impossible to see much of anything in front of me.

Suddenly it loomed out of nowhere; a giant, black, tractor tire, completely intact, sitting smack in front of me on the road. If I hit it at 120 km/hr, I'd surely have lost control of my little car.

Losing control of a car going 120 km/hour (75 m/hr) on a rain soaked highway doesn't bode well for anyone. Ever.

There was no time to think, only to react; swerving like a madwoman, I somehow made it around that tire in driving rain, on a slick road. It was like instinct had taken over, and for some odd reason, I had known exactly what to do. The car responded perfectly, there had been no traffic beside me, and what could have been a really horrific accident was completely avoided.

When it was safe, I pulled over and began to cry as the sobering realization washed over me that while I had thought life was bad, it could be SO much WORSE. I could have just flipped the car and be horribly injured, or even dead. We could be eating from the Food Bank. Hubs could've died in the ICU that day. Our marriage could be in tatters. The house could burn down and we'd be homeless.

In that very moment, I knew that I could let the hardships that we were experiencing swallow me whole, or I could choose a different path. I could choose to quit complaining about it and actually get off my ass to do something. In the hurricane of things that were completely outside of my control, I could find the things that I could control and focus on them.

Damn it, no matter how bad things seemed, I could choose to believe that things would work out and in that moment, that's exactly what I chose to do.

Life isn't a pissing contest. There are all kinds of people who have faced horrific circumstances and who are coming out stronger, amazing, people because they are choosing to. They have chosen not to wallow in self pity and allow those circumstances make them bitter and angry but instead to rise above them. The holidays are hard for a lot of people, but really when it comes down to it, we all have a choice.

I, for one, chose to believe with everything in me, that things would get better. Call me Pollyanna, I didn't care. I needed to believe. If I didn't, it would be too easy to let self pity and anger swallow me whole. Once I chose that path, I literally clung to that belief like a life raft in the middle of a raging storm.

Bit by bit, and then day by day, year by year, in tiny baby steps we crawled back to life as normal. We celebrated small victories, and then big ones, and before we knew it, life wasn't just better. Suddenly Hubs was offered not just one, but three different jobs and a fellowship at University of Victoria to do his Masters. I easily landed a great job, we found Jake a great school that completely turned him around, he was finally diagnosed, and we found a brand new, beautiful little house to live in with a view of the ocean. Those days are now nothing but a distant memory, but the lesson remains.

Life isn't just better. It's amazing.

PS.(edited to add how things turned out in the!)

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