Charles Dickens wrote in Great Expectations, "...suffering has been stronger than all other teaching...I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape." While I would give anything to return to the less improved, ignorant, but non-widowed version of myself, I take this moment to salute the sorrier, more broken, but slightly wiser me.
Today, I am more satisfied with the elements that make up my life. I no longer beat myself up about finding purpose or not somehow being "enough". Reading a good book under my warm covers. Replacing my furnace and installing new heating ducts...I mean, a warm home is really something that makes me happy. Volunteering my time to a good cause. Speaking my truth in the hope that it can help another. My yoga class. Dinner with my kids. Raking. Sitting at a swim meet all day long. Going to my college reunion. Walking around town and always bumping into someone I know. Feeling bad and getting over it. Trying hard. Contributing where I can. Laughing with friends. A phone call with my sister or brother. Dreaming. This is happiness. I get it. I'm lucky just to be here. So many people aren't anymore. My favorite person isn't here anymore.
Today, I worry so much less about the future. The apocalypse already came and went for me, and here I am. Bad things WILL happen, never fear, just brace yourself, and enjoy it all the more when there's nothing much to report. Peace and happiness lie in the everyday moments when crisis is either so far behind you that you can't really feel it anymore, or so far in front of you that you can't even imagine what it might be made of next time.
Today I know that even though I was tremendously unlucky to lose Ken so soon in our married life together, I was also incredibly lucky to have spent 15 years of my life with him. Incredibly lucky. Fifteen years is a long time. For 29 years I lived without him, and when we met, it was as though finally I had found the person who understood me and who I understood in a complete way that felt just right in all the most important aspects. I'm tough. I managed without him all those years, and here I am again without him, but this time, I have everything he gave me, including our two children and his family, where pieces of him reside. I'll never be as alone again as I was before he came along.
Today I am more compassionate. While I might not win any contest for being the kindest, sweetest, least confrontational woman you know, I do understand better now that we are all flawed, we are imperfect, we are bundles of impulses, chemicals, circuitry, conditioned responses. We try, we fail, we succeed, we screw up badly, our bodies or minds get sick, we are angels, we hurt and we rise again and again until we are silenced. We're all dying, but we all get to live for a time. It's short, even when it's long, it's just a moment, but somehow, against all odds, we're here.
Today I know beyond a doubt, and after watching my late husband suffer from cancer, good health is precious. If you feel good, don't just do it, revel in it, honor it, and do what you can to sustain it. Start small if that's all you can manage...drink more water, take a few more steps each day, keep on searching for your own path to better health.
So that's my short list of goodness arising from my loss. Greater general satisfaction. Less worry. A sense of being lucky. Greater compassion. Gratitude and great appreciation for good health.
"...suffering has been stronger than all other teaching...I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape."
What has suffering taught you? What have you gained from your most difficult experiences? Make a list. Write about it. Find your gratitude.