I have recently been reminded how lucky I am. It is pretty easy for me to say that – I have food on the table, a roof over my head, a healthy family and good friends … and many, many blessings. Yet, sometimes, I feel sorry for myself when things don’t go the way I planned, when my feelings are hurt or some obstacle seems to be in my way.
It is ok to focus on our problems – however large or small – and to be sad about them. It is also possible to feel guilty about that sadness when our problems are so small compared to the “Third World Problems” or bigger issues faced by others we know and love. This begins a spiral of sadness – the original problem, combined with the sadness from judging ourselves for feeling sad!
My kids like to remind me that I need to let them feel sad. Our natural instinct is to try to cheer people up when they are sad – to “look at the bright side.” This is a caring and helpful response. But it is also OK to feel sad, as long as the goal is to eventually work through the sadness to reach a point of acceptance and to focus on the positives.
My friend Lynn has faced multiple tragedies in the past year. Last February, she was struck by a car while riding her bicycle. She narrowly escaped death, and spent 5 months in the hospital and rehab, only to end up having her leg amputated below the knee when an infection would not heal. For Lynn, this was devastating. She does not drive a car, and the focus of her life was cycling. Yet, she returned home determined to walk with arm crutches and began practicing walking with them on a nearby field, wearing her bicycle helmet to protect her if she fell!
Her outlook on life was not always cheery, but she was determined to recover and get back on her bike, wearing a prosthetic limb when her leg wounds were healed. Then, a few months later, Lynn was diagnosed with advanced rectal cancer. How much could this woman take? Apparently a lot. It has been amazing to see her find a “bright side” to her situation in her periodic updates on Caring Bridge. Her amazing ability to find positives – blessings – when things seem almost unbearable is an inspiration.
As Easter approaches, we might reflect on sadness and loss, but it is more importantly a time to consider all the blessings in our lives.