Three times yesterday. Three different conversations. Three separate people.
“How can you always be in such a good mood? Even with your car accident and now the job thing, it seems like you just have no worries.”
“I’m not sure I believe you. I can’t tell when you are feeling down at all. It seems like you are always happy.”
“How are you always so positive? It seems like nothing ever goes wrong in your life.”
These are people who KNOW me. Not my closest of friends, but definitely people that I have spent time with, hours upon hours over a period of years.
I had a conversation with some girlfriends a few months ago and we were describing how we would reference the others if they weren’t there. They labeled me “The Girl Who Smiles.”
The truth is, I am not always positive. I am not always happy. Sometimes life is painful. Sometimes it’s really hard to get out of bed in the morning. Still. Even after all the shit I’ve been through.
I thought that my encounter with death last year would mean that I always appreciated everything. I thought I would easily see the good in every single day and every moment. I thought there would be no more hard times because I would be so grateful to be alive.
Tomorrow marks one year since that first hospital stay. One year since they told me they weren’t sure if I would make it out of there. One year since my mortality confronted me in a very scary, very challenging way. Thirty-six days in and out of the hospital, organs struggling to function, doctors confused as to why. Twenty-some days believing that I was on my death bed.
I had spent all of 2018 preparing my will and writing letters to my kids for all the big events in their lives. Their thirteenth, sixteenth, twenty-first birthdays. Their first car. High school graduation. College graduation. Their wedding day. Their first child. I had prepared them for life without me. I was ready to go.
And then it all changed.
My incredible doctor came into the picture and decided that nothing I had been told was accurate and I needed to go a different route. She went rounds with the “specialists”, insisting that the medications I was taking were killing me faster than my condition.
When I left that hospital, I just knew that I would never perceive life the same way. After all, I had just beaten death. There was no way that I COULD have an ungrateful or out-of-sorts day after that, right?
Life can be challenging and ugly and hard.
There are little annoying things that happen on repeat.
My kids have days where they don’t stop fighting. I often spill coffee on my shirt or trip in front of other people. I wake up late or get back later from the gym, rush around, attempting to get everything together and out the door on time. Sometimes I put my foot in my mouth. Other people say hurtful things. I make mistakes.
There are plenty of days where I feel overwhelmed.
I recently wrecked my car, and if you’ve ever experienced that, insurance and attorneys and physical therapy and repairs can add a lot to an already full plate.
I am in the process of a career change. I don’t know if timing is right or if my future holds something better, but I knew it was time to move on. Again, overwhelming.
This summer I experienced a betrayal that hit me harder than anything I had ever experienced (be careful placing people on pedestals). I spent three days in bed, crying almost the entire time.
Then, when I finally picked myself up, I realized that certain people I thought were my close friends were only out for themselves and I didn’t really matter in their world at all. That was a painful lesson that brought more tears than I care to admit.
Life is not all paint and food and dancing (I would say sunshine and rainbows, but I like paint, food and dancing better).
I am no different than you. I do struggle and my life is not easy all the time. But I spent years using a smile to hide pain and sometimes old habits die hard. I don’t want you to have some watered down, unemotional, happy-all-the-time picture of me. Because that isn’t real. And there is nothing in the world that I value more than authenticity.
But even when life sucks… and life can REALLY suck sometimes… we aren’t stuck there. Two things help me remember that.
1. Everything is cyclical.
I have a tattoo of a tree on my back and it’s very meaningful because it is a reminder that no matter how hard the winter, spring still comes. It’s always darkest before the dawn (or something like that).
When I get down, THAT is the most important thing that I remind myself. Nothing lasts forever. Good or bad. It’s all temporary and this moment is all we actually have.
And… Yes, I do try to remember where I came from. I am no longer destitute, no longer abused, no longer dying.
2. I am grateful. I choose to be grateful.
Even when it’s hard. I make a list every single day to remind myself. Sometimes that list looks like “waking up” and “my kids”, but some days I master it and I realize that the feeling in my fingertips is a gift.
But friend, if you are going through things right now, don’t hide. Don’t be ashamed of where you are. And please know that it will get better. You just have to make it to the other side.
If you are struggling, I am here. Always.