The Gift Of Trauma.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
Mary Oliver

We often hear of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but we seldom hear of Post Traumatic Growth. What is post traumatic growth? Well, let me share the researchers’ definition:

Posttraumatic growth tends to occur in five general areas. Sometimes people who must face major life crises develop a sense that new opportunities have emerged from the struggle, opening up possibilities that were not present before. A second area is a change in relationships with others. Some people experience closer relationships with some specific people, and they can also experience an increased sense of connection to others who suffer. A third area of possible change is an increased sense of one’s own strength – “if I lived through that, I can face anything”. A fourth aspect of posttraumatic growth experienced by some people is a greater appreciation for life in general. The fifth area involves the spiritual or religious domain. Some individuals experience a deepening of their spiritual lives,however, this deepening can also involve a significant change in one’s belief system. – Post Traumatic Growth Research Center

What does this mean? It means that surviving trauma or great suffering may allow you to experience a deeper and richer appreciation for life. I suppose this makes sense, one cannot have the sweet without the sour. If you allow for it, for all the sour you’ve experienced in your life, you are allowed the potential for just as much (if not more) sweet.

For example, if you grew up poor, having resources and a safe home are not something you take for granted. If you grew up in an abusive home, living peacefully feels like heaven. If you survived an illness, you appreciate every breath you take and every morning you wake. You are able to truly enjoy the simple things that so many people take for granted.

If you allow yourself to moon over the little things (sunshine, puppies, laughter, friends, glass of wine, a peaceful day, a warm bath, time with loved ones) that make up the ever so important details of our lives, you will continuously feel overwhelmed with gratitude. If you pause to reflect on the amount of courage and resolve you demonstrated when you were faced with adversity, you will know that you are made stronger and adversity is genuinely a gift.

I don’t necessarily agree with people who claim to blessed or lucky for never having to struggle. The expression, “But for the grace of God” never made much sense to me. Often , these people are fearful because they haven’t been forced to survive the unsurvivable. They don’t know that they will be okay no matter what (and they will be). I would never wish a traumatic event on anyone but, if you survive, a certain kind of courage and resilience is born.

I believe resilience and courage can develop without trauma. I think that when a person steps out and is willing to live a life they love and risk upsetting some people in doing so, a certain kind of courage is cultivated. Don’t wait for trauma to have post-traumatic growth. Go out and be brave now. 

Life is a curious journey because I would have never chosen a path with so many winding turns and potholes. If given a choice, I would not have chosen to experience the pain and loss that my life has provided. But, I was not given a choice. I was given a choice as to what to do once the pain was in my lap. I can say from experience, traumatic events have the capacity to enhance your life in ways I never dreamed.

The darkness was indeed a gift. The wrapping paper sucked and I don’t know why some things happened the way they did (and will never know) but I’m here now, sipping coffee, looking out the window, filled with gratitude.

“Despite the real struggle associated with trauma recovery, there is often a simultaneous increase in a person’s capacity to enjoy the mundane. A blue sky, a delicate fragrance, a small act of compassion, the subtleties of nature, and the innocence of children and animals are often noted as having significance. Perhaps the sweetness of normalcy is illuminated when confronted with certain kinds of darkness.” The Unexpected Gifts of Trauma

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I Need A Few Vices.

“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” – Abraham Lincoln

As the year was winding down, I was listening to someone tell me that coffee was their last vice and they were in the process of giving it up. I thought to myself, “Why would you do that?” What is the purpose of living a life with no vices. I understand the importance of moderation (although struggle to moderate) but I don’t want a life with out coffee, cocktails, or television. Needless to say, her viceless life comment gave me a bit of anxiety. Naturally, I related her life goals to my own (as we always do when people assert themselves). I think Amy Poehler said it best when she said:

Good for her not for me.”

A life without vices stinks of perfectionism. And we all know the dangers of perfectionism. I also struggle to believe that someone can life a full life without a few vices. Where is the depth? What about experience? Really, what does a viceless life even look like? Is it possible?

I appreciate the fine line between a vice enhancing your life and a vice becoming an addiction. I think that many people struggle to walk that line. And, there may be a good reason you are giving up caffeine (maybe you’re pregnant or you don’t sleep well). However, if the goal is living a vice free life, I don’t know if I believe that is possible.

The term vice may connote bad behavior for some but it does not for me. In fact, I think it helps people better understand what kind of person I am. My vices currently involve craft beer (if you knew where I lived you’d understand), coffee/green tea, wine, and vinyl records. These parts of my life are not always the best choices financially or health wise but so be it. I’m not about to live in a straight jacket feeling guilty about indulging on things that make me happy.

Isn’t anything in excess a vice? Even “healthy” things can be vices? 

I surround myself with a strong support system that has no problem calling me out when my vices become problematic and my self-awareness fails me. My partner and friends made mention when my box of wine a week habit became unhealthy. Begrudgingly, I heeded their advice and my migraines diminished (thanks, folks). I feel I am able to provide them the same feedback and this is how we keep each other accountable.

I wonder why we all try to figure out where we fit in relation to one another? Why did her comment related to eliminating caffeine cause me to reflect on my own habits? In fact, it inspired a post about my need for vices.

Perhaps viceless living is goal worthy for some people but I don’t think it’s feasible for me. As I enter the new year, I will gladly carry on with a few habits that may not be the healthiest. It might just be semantics and vices to some are indulgences to others. To each their own, right?

“I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices whatsoever.”
Mark Twain, Stories

Okay, Maybe I’m Embarrassing Myself A Little.

“So many female friends of mine feel like they have to be overly gracious and nice to compensate for their ambitions, because there’s this sense of having to swap one form of femininity for another. And honestly? Not every woman is warm. Not every woman is friendly. And they don’t have to be. Some women are reserved, some are biting, and some are mean. Humans are weird creatures. There are a whole lot of different personalities.” – Maddy Foley, 6 Backhanded Compliments Every Ambitious Woman Is Tired Of Hearing

In the last week, I received some interesting feedback related to my reactions about Donald Trump being elected President. I’ve heard things like I’m overreacting, I’m embarrassing myself and I’m not operating at my best. These comments are coming from people that clearly do not know me very well or know me at all. If you do know me, you would know that social justice runs in my veins. It also runs in my family. My grandmother is an avid fighter for social justice and my grandfather had planned to go into politics before my biological grandmother fell ill.

I’m a woman and women are allowed to be angry, pissed, frustrated, rage filled. We are also allowed to say fuck. If this makes you uncomfortable – it makes you uncomfortable but I will not compromise my values or shrink to fit into some mold.

That being said, I am also in love with my life. I am hosting a Thanksgiving Celebration with friends and family this weekend. One of my best friends is driving in to spend time with us. I plan on seeing some Harry Potter movie that I know nothing about. ESPN will be doing Game Day here on Saturday and I can’t wait for my brother to get to participate in that.

You see, I can be a fighter for social justice and go to work and love my friends and family and laugh and cry because I’m fearful for the people I love. It’s just all so complicated being a human.

What follows was the original post which I think captures this complicated woman stuff in a little more detail.

A few days ago I was reading an article about backhanded compliments made towards women and I encountered the above quote. I think it is perfectly written and it captures an experience that I have long struggled to articulate. I don’t have to be nice. I don’t have to smile. I don’t have to be friendly. If you can accept that I’m a complex person and not a Stepford Wife, I think you can get what I’m talking about.

Let me back up a bit. I believe being kind and compassionate are healthy ways of interacting within the world. In fact, pages of research support living a compassionate life. And, it simply feels better for me to go through the world with as much kindness and compassion as possible. However, there are days and situations where I just can’t be kind and kindness is not indicated.

If I were able to adapt Foley’s incredible string of words to better fit me, I would add: all the time. I think that I try my best to be good, nice, kind, warm, and compassionate. Be that as it may, it is impossible (and ridiculous) to set the expectation to be that way all the time. There have been times and there will be times when I am reserved, cold, and biting. It is part of being a complex human being. 

I’ve been in a number of  situations where I needed to be “biting” to get what I needed, or what a family member needed, or what a friend needed, or what a client needed. In those instances some people had no trouble calling me a bitch. I don’t believe I’m a bitch. I believe that saying that, is a way of trying to shut me down or shut me up. Frankly, if you do feel like I’m being a bitch, I’m not too concerned. I don’t know a woman that hasn’t been called a bitch, so I’m in good company. 

I really struggle with the sweet and quiet aspect of femininity. I identify as a woman, and feel it is absolutely impossible for me to be sweet and quiet on a regular basis. I would explode and, more importantly, it would mean living dishonestly. For this aspect of my personality, I’ve paid social consequences (e.g., been called a bitch, told to be quiet, asked to shut up, been threatened by men, been called butch, told I don’t know what I’m talking about, and openly mocked). I find it extremely hard not to be resentful of people that want me to “be quiet“. It feels like you are trimming away at parts of who I am. At this point in my life, I have much less trouble distancing myself from people that don’t appreciate these unique and integral parts of me.

The idea that women must be kind and warm all the time is absurd. No one is warm and kind all the time. Even more, some women are never sweet and kind. It is how they are put together. This does not make them bitches or bad people. If I’m being completely honest, I think “mean women” (aka, strong women) can be wonderfully intimidating. Sometimes, I am jealous of their ability to speak up and speak out about things without the (noticeable) incessant worrying related to perception.

So, Maddy Foley, thank you for your words. You gave voice to thoughts I’ve had for a long time.

Love.

A Enormous Bucket of Thanks.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you (so much) to the people that took the time last week to write a guest post for Sissy Beard. Each post, like each writer, received distinct feedback, shares, and likes. I feel incredibly privileged to have people in my life that are willing to contribute to this community. Moreover, each contributor had a unique perspective and articulated their ideas beautifully. I am lucky to know and share time with such exceptional people. 

The joy of including guest bloggers has me planning for the next round of contributors. It is so much more fun to share this platform than to do it alone. With that, I also appreciate the thoughts, suggestions, and ideas related to how I can make this blog better. Please keep the messages and comments coming. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend filled with good food, good love, and good laughter.

It is now time to gear up for more holiday time and I am reminded of The Muppet Christmas Carol, “It’s true, where ever you find love, it feels like Christmas.”

Thank you.

So Much. Love.

What’s Up With That Kid?

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Once upon a time, I worked with at-risk youth and their families. Before this experience, I was naïve to the suffering of children in my own community. Working with these incredibly resilient families tore me from my ignorance and thrust me into the daily trenches.

This is not an explicit call to action but if you feel persuaded to support at risk families in your community, I encourage you do so.

I want to address the attitude some adults hold regarding children that demonstrate “poor social skills.” If you remember, Tell Me About Your Mother, we talked about how children will do whatever it takes to get the attention of their parents because they need to do so to survive.

Kids need their parents to regulate their emotions. The developing brain renders children incapable of saying “Hey I need your attention to thrive and make sense of my world.” They are only capable of communicating their needs by demanding your attention through their behavior. They do this with the hopes that you will comfort them or at the least acknowledge them.

Let Me Provide You An Example

I would like you to imagine, for a moment, that a young girl lives in a home with an overworked and exhausted mother (or father). The young girl goes to her mother for affection and attention and is brushed aside. The mother is exhausted from trying to manage on limited finances and maintain a household. She does not have the attention to give.

The young girl still needs attention and now tries a different strategy. Maybe the young girl remembers that the last time she made a mess or cried she was able to get her mother’s attention. “Aha” the young girl thinks. The young girl starts to cry and the mother comes to her. Maybe after awhile the mother learns that her daughter is “just dramatic” and does not need attention every time she cries. The young child still needing attention and affection now has to try a different strategy. Maybe the young girl throws a tantrum and is inconsolable (remember she needs a parent to regulate her emotions). Maybe mom responds negatively but negative attention is still acknowledgement.

Imagine it goes on this way for years. 

Now imagine that the same young girl goes to school. The young girl learned through interactions at home that if I cry, scream, and tantrum I will get attention. The young girl may use these learned skills in the school environment.

Is this child acting out? No, this child has adapted to her environment to get her basic human needs met. The child does not know that she does not need to act that way with all adults. How could she know? Some children learn that they do not need to act that way in school or with every adult (or peer). This usually happens by way of a compassionate and patient teacher or school counselor. Other children may not adapt as quickly and as easily in the academic environment. Imagine how confusing this is for the child.

The mother in this story is not a villain. She is overworked and exhausted. She is spread too thin with too little support. The teacher in this story is not a villain if she loses her patience and struggles with compassion. She is also overworked with thirty kids that have thirty different needs staring at her every day.

What is the solution: Support, Education, Patience, and Compassion.

Is the situation hopeless? No, although it feels that way. We can do better. We must be patient and compassionate with ourselves. We need to do a better job of supporting all families.

This example does not attempt to capture children struggling with developmental disabilities or any other social impairments/challenges.

Parents and their children can benefit greatly from professional support (e.g., therapist, psychologist, school social worker, pediatrician, occupational therapist) to learn healthier interpersonal skills. This does not mean you are a bad parent, it just means you need support. 

Love.

“Every child deserves to be born wanted and loved”

Dear Trump Supporters.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” ― Rumi

Love is the number one value on my list. The biggest barrier to living a life I love is fear. I attempt to choose love over fear every time I am faced with a decision. I literally pause and think, “Am I choosing Love or Fear right now?” I think I am getting better about choosing love. I suppose it is my life’s work.

There is a concept in therapy called “parts work.” It helps people understand their feelings by separating them into different parts. When asked to describe the part of me that embodies Love, I visualize a relaxed woman wearing a comfortable cotton dress. When I visualize Fear, she is an anxious, frazzled, chain smoker, sitting in a dark corner looking suspiciously at passersby.

This past week has been fraught with images and messages of fear. In some ways this fear is justified. Horrible things are happening all over the world all the time. However, I refuse to live a life guided by fear. Even in the darkest times, I aspire for a life motivated by love. I firmly believe that love is the most powerful force in the universe. For today’s post, I felt compelled to do my best to distinguish between love and fear.

“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Love Versus Fear

Love is contagious.

Fear is contagious. 

Love is you can.

Fear is you can’t.

Love is open

Fear restricts.

Love is vulnerable.

Fear is guarded.

Love is amazed.

Fear is unimpressed.

Love is satisfied.

Fear is ashamed.

Love is peace.

Fear is war.

Love is hopeful.

Fear is disgusted. 

Love moves forward.

Fear screams stop.

Fear is jealous.

Love is trusting.

Fear is resentful.

Love is forgiving. 

Fear is suspicious.

Love is honest.

Fear is deceitful.

Love is courageous.

Fear is panicked.

Love is inspired.

Fear says it is not worth the risk.

Love is excited.

Fear is exhausted.

Love is grateful.

Fear is entitled. 

Love is listening. 

Fear is arguing.

Love is flexible.

Fear is certain. 

Love says, “You’ve got a lot to learn”

Fear says, “You know it all.”

Love is interested.

Fear asks us to hate what we do not understand.

Love is adventurous.

Fear tells you to hide.

Love encourages you to show the world who you are.

Fear is unimaginative.

Love is creative.

Fear says if you try you might fail.

Love says if you fail, try again. 

Love encourages you to try new things and talk to different people.

Fear tries to protect you from things that are not dangerous.

Love is the acceptance of human imperfection.

Fear is righteous indignation.

Love is curious compassion.

Fear says it is best to leave words unsaid.

Love says I want you to know how much you mean to me.

And The Winner Is

Love is always worth it and love always wins. Fear never even leaves the gate.

Love pulls the reins from the frazzled chain smoking lady in the corner and says “It’s okay, I got this.”

Love. 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
Lao Tzu

I Hope You Don’t Take This Personally.

“The same way that you are the main character of your story, you are only a secondary character in everybody else’s story” – don Miguel Ruiz

“2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” – don Miguel Ruiz “The Four Agreements”

The first time I read The Four Agreements I thought it was complete new age garbage. I spent a few more years doing my job and living my life. And then I happened upon the book again. The second pass differed from the first. The concepts Ruiz spells out in the agreements resonated with me this time and now I frequently refer to the text. I encourage you to read the book.

The four agreements are as follows:

    1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
    2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
    3. Don’t Make Assumptions
    4. Always Do Your Best

All the points he makes are relevant and applicable in our lives, but Don’t Take Anything Personally transformed my life. He proposes that what people say or do to you has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you. Each person goes through life on his or her own path shaped by their values, history, perceptions, faith, expectations, health, and etcetera.

I encourage you to spend one day just listening to people around you. You will find that people will talk about politics, faith, family, work, money, stress, hopes, and dreams. Some will be cynical and some will be hopeful. The people around you will show you who they are if you pay attention.

Maybe during this exercise one of the people in your world will give you advice or feedback. You have options when this happens: believe them entirely, believe some of what they say, or believe none of what they say. Take a moment to decide if the feedback they are providing is useful to you or not. If not, politely let it go. This applies to the feedback we receive from the people we love the most.

This agreement requires us to trust ourselves. However, when consistently told to listen to our parents, our teachers, our pastors, and our supervisors, trusting ourselves can be challenging. This is your life and only you know the best way to live it consistent with who you want to be.

I think when I am feeling my best I am able to step back and see how this agreement works. The internet is a faceless bully factory and some people feel the need to spread their misery around. When I am at my best, I know that mean people are usually the ones scared and suffering. I think it’s hard to not take it personally when people are unable to be happy for me when I do well or when they say “I told you so” when I struggle.

The times that I have acted cruelly were times when I was not happy in my life. I know that when I treat people poorly, it is because I am not taking care of myself. When I feel compelled to convince someone that “I’m right” or I get defensive about a topic, I am not trusting myself and my life experiences enough not to need their validation.

I try to remember that we are mirrors reflecting our own hopelessness or hopefulness onto the world around us. It is my favorite agreement and the one I struggle with the most.

Love.

“If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”
Miguel Ruiz

 

 

 

 

I Can Predict Divorce.

“Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. By this I mean a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company.” – John Gottman

“The four horsemen are symbolic descriptions of different events which will take place in the end times.” – Got Questions Ministries

For over thirty years, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have researched couple/marital relationships. The researchers established a Love Lab where they observed couple interactions for over twenty years. With the information gained from the Love Lab and various other studies the Gottmans are able to predict in five minutes, with over 90% accuracy, if a couple will stay married or get divorced (or stay miserably married).

One of the ways they are able to determine if a couple will make it or not is by observing how a couple communicates. John and Julie Gottman term the types of communication that predict divorce, The Four Horsemen.

The Four Horsemen

Criticism: This is when you verbally attack your partner. The attacks are often personal critiques. This type of communication draws attention to deficits and aims to cut the other person down. Criticism slowly erodes away at the trust and intimacy in the relationship. The partner using criticism has unmet needs and/or feels dismissed/unappreciated.

Examples of criticism:

  • You never help
  • You never pick up after yourself
  • Why do you wear that shirt
  • We never do what I want
  • You don’t care about me
  • You never listen
  • You always put yourself first

Contempt: This involves name-calling, eye rolling, public shaming, and verbal humiliation. Contempt is used by a partner that typically reports not feeling loved, supported, and understood. Contempt is a form of lashing out and the most detrimental of all the horsemen.

Examples of contempt:

  • You’re an idiot
  • Are you dumb?
  • You’re fat
  • You’re lazy
  • I hate you
  • Why did I marry you
  • You’re a bad parent
  • Can’t you make more money
  • Thanks for being a great provider (sarcasm)
  • A mother actually watches her kids (sarcasm)

If you are using contempt, please stop now. This one characteristic destroys relationships.

Defensiveness: This is not taking responsibility for the role you play in the relationship. People get defensive when they feel badly or they feel attacked. I see defensiveness frequently and it tends to show up before contempt.

Examples of defensiveness:

  • You never asked me to do that!
  • I did not mean it that way
  • I’m sorry but it’s not my fault
  • You’re too sensitive
  • This is your fault, not mine
  • Why is this always my fault?
  • I heard you the first time! Stop nagging!

Stonewalling: This is when people shut down and stop communicating. People stonewall when they feel it’s hopeless to keep going or they are flooded.

Examples of stonewalling:

  • Turning away from your partner
  • Walking away
  • Actively ignoring
  • Putting your hand up
  • Shutting down

If you feel like you are engaging in any of the above types of communication with your partner all hope is not lost. Please share this information with your partner. It might be time to find a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or a therapist trained to work with couples that can help provide you with healthier styles of communication. These communication styles only lead to divorce and misery if they are left unchecked. Now, consider yourself checked.

What You Can Start Doing Now

Refer to my previous post related to filters.

Slow down and breathe when you are communicating with your partner (it tells your brain that you are safe and do not have to be so reactive).

Pause, to really listen and try to understand your partner.

Ask questions using kind curiosity not defensiveness.

Refer to my post on validation

Refer to my post on the importance of apologizing 

Tell your partner that you love them and appreciate them all day every day. The goal is not to avoid conflict or never fight but to learn the skills to engage in conflict in healthy ways. If you engage in active listening and patient compassion you will see remarkable improvements in your relationship. People in relationships that go the distance understand that they will never see things the same way because they are different people with different perspectives.

Love.

“Once you understand this, you will be ready to accept one of the most surprising truths about marriage: Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind—but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.”
John M. Gottman,

 

 

 

 

I’m Doing The Best I Can.

“Other key themes discussed are how perfectionistic self-presentation and self-concealment can lead to suicides that occur without warning, and how perfectionists often come up with thorough and precise suicide plans.” – Dr. Gordon Flett

Perfectionism might kill you.

There is no such thing as perfect. There are no perfect relationships. There are no perfect children. There are no perfect jobs. There are no perfect lives.

Can we stop trying for perfect and settle on doing the best we can?

Culturally we revere perfectionism. We encourage people to aim to be perfect despite the impossibility of ever reaching such a place. In job interviews, we claim perfectionism as our best quality and others think that is an admirable confession.

My best quality is that I am never content or satisfied with my life. Really? That is not praiseworthy, it’s delusional.

Perfectionism is, and always will be, unattainable. This means that when you make your goal to be perfect at anything, you make the goal impossible. This will always leave you feeling like a failure.

The bottom line is that we all want to be loved, and some of us believe that we are only lovable when we are perfect. I have heard people say “I will date when I lose weight” or “I will apply for that job when I’ve had more training.” This is ludicrous logic.

I suggest we change the goal to: I’m doing the best I can.

Sometimes doing the best I can means I get up early, I get some laundry going, I pick up around the house, go to work, see several clients, go to the gym, walk both dogs, help with dinner, and do some writing. Some days the best I can do is drag myself out of bed and maybe complete one of the aforementioned tasks.

I understand that if you have children this means you have other lives for which you are responsible. But still, you have to give yourself permission to do the best you can as a parent. Some days you will be a super parent and feel like you’ve conquered the world. Some days you will war with your children and your partner and burn dinner. It is possible, and likely, that you are doing the best you can in both situations. 

Your children are paying close attention to your perfectionism, so I encourage you to demonstrate “doing the best you can.” Once, I was at a birthday party coloring with a five year old girl. She was coloring a dinosaur and went outside the lines a bit. She proceeded to berate herself for making such a mistake, crumpled up the picture, and threw it away. I tried to convince her that the picture was beautiful. She would not even look at me.

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
Brené Brown

We have to make peace with the idea that most of us are doing the best we can, with what we have, where we are, and sometimes it’s a mess.

Love.

I’m A Good Person, I Don’t Deserve This.

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Perhaps one of the hardest things for the human mind to comprehend is that bad things happen to good people. In fact, more often than not, bad things happen to good people. I believe this, because I believe most of us are good people and eventually bad things will happen to all of us (to varying degrees).

I listen to people protest, “I’m a good person why is this happening to me?” My usual response is a compassionate shrug followed by, “I don’t know.” Truthfully, I almost did not write this post because all I know about why bad things happen to good people is, “I don’t know.”

Life is not a simple math problem: being a good person does not equal a good life.

I don’t know why people die tragically or why people develop crippling illnesses. I don’t have any idea why sudden infant death syndrome exists. I don’t know why some relationships stop working. I don’t know why love fades over time for one person but not the other. I don’t know why your loved one abuses substances. If you watch the news tonight, you will see that lots of good people were going about their day and something terrible happened to them. I don’t know why.

I also don’t like when people try and explain why bad things happen. If you are a person of faith, Harold Kushner wrote and excellent book titled, When Bad Things Happen To Good People. I hate to spoil the ending but he basically deduces that even as a man of faith, he feels that man has no answer to this question. 

“The purpose in life is not to win. The purpose in life is to grow and to share. When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought into other people’s lives than you will from the times that you outdid and defeated them.”
Harold S. Kushner

Then there is the notion of karma. This idea has been confused. The true meaning of karma is that life will consistently present you with circumstances where you have the option to open and love (or close and hate). The situation usually involves suffering because that is when our hearts are able to soften and open the most. It is technically not, “what goes around comes around.” It feels a bit vengeful when people find comfort in the idea that karma will get someone. I don’t think it is healthy to wish pain on even our worst enemies.

It is healthy and necessary to take a moment after a bad thing happens and have some time to reflect. After that, gather your thoughts and emotions, dust yourself off and try to find your next step. It is of no benefit to spend much time trying to figure out why things happen the way they do. I suggest having a conversation with your support system on how to move forward instead of trying to figure out why it happened or how things should be different.

Sometimes we make bad choices and are faced with consequences. In that event, please do pause to consider how you can make better choices moving forward. But again, all you can do is move forward. If you get stuck focusing on how your bad choice led you to a bad place you will be unable to get out of that bad place.

When something bad happens, it challenges our understanding of ourselves. When something bad happens to you, it does not mean you are a bad person or that you have done something to deserve what happened. It simply means, something bad happened to you. Even if you made a mistake, it does not mean you are a bad person. Good people make bad choices. Good people learn from their bad choices.

There are some bad people in the world that intentionally inflict pain. The media does a fantastic job leading us to believe there are more bad people than there really are. Most of us are not bad people.

I do know that being a good person does not prevent bad things from happening to you or the people you love. I also know that we should be good people anyway. I think the only response that makes any sense is: I don’t know why this happened, but I am sorry and sad that it did.

“People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That’s not the idea at all. The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn’t understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you’re given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further.”

– Pema Chodron, Buddhist Nun