Does every cloud have a silver lining?
Reflections on a tough year and impending holiday. Not the blog I wanted or expected to write.
“Every cloud has a silver lining.” What does that mean, I wondered as a friend said those words in an attempt to comfort my heavy heart? Where did that phrase come from? While I get the spirit of it — there’s a bright side to every situation — it made me wonder if I really believed it.
Sometimes it feels impossible to imagine that even the worst situations have some positive aspect — especially when you are in the throws of it. Like when your heart is heavy and your spirit broken. When things seem so bleak that you can’t find your way out. When you’re in physical and/or emotional pain that feels unbearable. When it seems as if the world is swirling out of control around you. Or, when something bad has happened to someone (or a whole bunch of someones) you love, and you can’t fix it.
And when this happens at the holidays, it feels even worse because there is so much anticipation and expectation around this time of year. For me, and many that I love, this is how we are feeling as we enter the holidays of 2016.
Yet as I process through it in writing this blog, I realize that as incredibly tough as this past year and the impending holidays seem right now, I have not lost heart or hope. I just feel sad. My heart is heavy.
(Stick with me, it gets better, I promise!)
I don’t know for certain what advice my favorite author and researcher, Brene Brown, would give on this topic and I don’t have the energy to look it up. But I think she might say what I’m personally thinking and feeling right now.
Sometimes situations just suck! Bad stuff happens that is out of our control (damn, still working on this one!). We lose people. We grieve a future that is different than we had hoped or imagined. We fear our future or the future for those we love.
It doesn’t matter exactly what the situation is — it’s just hard, sad or bad and most of it out of our immediate control. To make it even more difficult, we don’t understand why, and it’s easy to get stuck in trying to understand or make sense of it.
I’ve finally learned that allowing myself to process the emotion of it all is the first important step in being able to move on and get back up off the ground after a major setback. Eventually, I know I’ll rise strong — and I pray so will those that I love. But, getting there means first really experiencing it and allowing yourself to feel the emotion. To skip the emotional part, or to get stuck there forever, doesn’t work out very well. At least not for me.
So, today, I’m quite certain that I need to feel it. To be “in” it and allow myself and others involved to grieve, to get angry, and to try not to control but just “be.” Then, and only then, can I/we begin to accept the new reality — a reality we didn’t chose and we may not like. The biggest lesson, for me, has been that the ONLY thing I can really change or control is how I view the struggle, hold it, and live “in” it, in the moment. One moment. One day at a time.
That, and of course, I can control whether I eventually get my butt back up off the ground with the new reality to fight another day. For me, that’s now a given. I have the benefit of knowing I CAN and I WILL! But I don’t just bounce right back up immediately and I certainly don’t get there without feeling and processing the negative feelings. It hurts. It sucks, actually! Right now, this is where I need to be.
Why such a gloomy start to what is normally my cheerful, upbeat happy holidays blog? Is there a silver lining? Yes! Wait for it. There’s even a big lesson. But I’m in the muck right now processing it.
This year has been tough. The toughest since I put myself in the equation and found my healthiest, happiest self more than five years ago. It’s the toughest since I learned to live a WHOLE life. WHOLE is hard and messy sometimes. The truth is, when you open yourself up to everything and go 100% all in, it can be fun, big and glorious at times — and other times not. Other times you get your ass kicked in the arena and you wonder why the heck you went all in!
The alternative though — living small and safe, trying to control your world to protect yourself — is not fun either and didn’t work out so well for me as I ballooned to 381 lbs and gave up big chunks of my life, living as a “victim” of my circumstances. (It’s a myth, of course, that you can control your world but some of used to make ourselves pretty unhappy trying!)
So here’s my 2016 short story & my silver lining…
(The key is to fill in YOUR story and find YOUR silver lining, if you can relate. And if you can’t relate, you’ve probably stopped reading, but if you’re still here I hope you can show love and compassion this season for those who are in this tough place.)
This quote came across my email this week and I realized in it lies my silver lining. Thank you Jodi Hills for these beautiful words:
“Peace, joy, happiness, success, love…
none are born out of perfection
but blossom through the growth.
Clouds hover, the ground gets wet,
muddy petals reach to an opening sky,
and oh, the bloom…
the beautiful, messy, struggling, stretching,
courageous, glorious bloom of our imperfect lives.
Welcome to the garden.”
For me, 2016 has been a dichotomy of peace, joy and love on the one hand — and clouds, muck and mud on the other. As the quote says, the gift — the silver lining — is the GROWTH and the BLOOM. A gift for which I continue to be grateful, even when it’s really hard.
In Feb. of this year, my beautiful 51-year old sister had a massive stroke. Many crises since have had her in hospitals and nursing homes for much of the year. She’s endured and fought through five major surgeries with setbacks, paralysis and learning to walk again, then has been faced with doing it AGAIN! The emotional and mental challenges too countless and persistent to tally and, honestly, even harder to navigate. Her immediate family (and our entire family) has spent the year trying to make sense in the aftermath. My sister wants to be home for Christmas more than anything and she likely won’t. (Prayers and positive thoughts are totally needed and welcome!)
So yep, that part really sucks — and thus the sad intro to this blog.
In the love, joy and happiness column, there is a lot if you look hard enough. My youngest sister got married in a beautiful beach ceremony and is starting an exciting new chapter in her life. I got to travel to some pretty awesome places in 2016 and climb mountains — my fav thing to do. I became a certified health and wellness coach and officially launched my new passion-based business In the Equation, LLC, to pay it forward and help others with life-changing transformation. And, the first beautiful group of women graduated from the In the Equation Pilot Coaching program experiencing their own personal transformation inside and out (can’t stop smiling). These women are each in their own way now on a journey to live healthy, happy and whole lives. They are blooming and growing right before my eyes and now they are paying it forward! (A future blog on this for sure!)
There is so much for which to be grateful. And I am. Since I put myself in the equation and got healthy inside and out — that gratitude is what grounds me. The silver lining of this year — my own personal growth and bloom! Living through the pain, discomfort, heartache, struggle and all around “bad” stuff without turning to my old self-destructive path of work and food for comfort — and anger and victimhood. That’s the WIN and the BLOOM! I’ve remained “in my equation,” practicing self-care (whatever that looked like at the time) and learning to sort through what I can control and what I can’t. Now, trust me, it has NOT always been pretty. There have been more tears, more tantrums, more sadness than in the first four years of my new life, BUT there has been tremendous, muddy, mucky growth and bloom. #gratefulgirl
So I enter the holidays this week uncertain of what to expect, but knowing that I am stronger and a better human being because of that growth. I am more patient with myself and others (I hope) who are stuck in the feelings. My goal is to be there for my family and those who need me emotionally, while taking care of myself. My holiday will be about expressing love, compassion, and caring for my peeps AND for me.
Am I the only one struggling with the holidays or searching for the silver lining?
Nope. I don’t think so. I have many, many close friends and family who have lost loved ones and have a tough time at the holidays. I think it’s important to remember them even and especially when we have a lot to celebrate. Two of my closest friends just lost parents this week. And, of course, we know that too many people struggle to just meet their basic needs — like food and shelter.
So my commitment to myself is that I will carry each and every person who is struggling in my heart and prayers. I wish for not only safety, peace, comfort and a more promising new year, but also for bloom and growth in the garden.
Wherever you are emotionally and spiritually this holiday. Wherever you are on the path to healthy, happy and whole, may you find love, joy and peace in the season and lots of bloom in 2017. If you made it to the end of this blog, I thank you for being here! For being part of the In the Equation community. And for being part of my story and sharing yours.
May the love and compassion of the season prevail. And may the bloom — individually and collectively – be the most beautiful we’ve ever seen!
Check out these other holiday related blogs:
- Managing holiday expectations. The Healthy Holiday Action Plan. (Nov. 2016)
- There’s hustle and bustle. Where are you? (Dec. 2015)
- Six tips for self care during the holidays (Nov. 2014)
- Yep. A healthy, happy holiday is possible (Nov. 2015)
- There’s hustle and bustle. Where are you? (Dec. 2015)
- Self-compassion is not selfish (Oct. 2015)
- Tis the season (Dec. 2014)
- 30 ways to pamper yourself without food (April 2014)
- Learning to feed the soul without food (Feb. 2013)
- My list of holiday awesome (Dec. 2012)
- Helping others with self-care & stress reduction (Nov. 2012)