Hardships and Gratitude

No life is without hardships. We all have to face our own birth and death and do it on our own. However, in between birth and death is this thing called life. And we are all in it together.

I have never felt like a strong person. I am not competitive in any way. I want everyone to win. If there were a race with 100 people, I would be rooting for a 100-way tie. (How awesome would that be?) I cry easily. I feel like giving up sometimes when things get hard in my life. There have been many times I have not felt good enough, smart enough or worthy of the beautiful people in my life. So, “strong” is not a word I have ever used to describe myself.

I have had hardships. I think quite a few of them. It feels like I’m always struggling personally, either with my health, finances, relationships or my career.

Things have happened in my life that have caused me to trust less and to be more skeptical, to not be as open and loving as I once was. It is very difficult for me to accept help from anyone or even tell anyone my problems. I hate feeling vulnerable because when I have opened myself up in the past, people took advantage of me. They used things against me in a hurtful way. Instead of blaming them for being self-centered and cruel, I blamed myself for being open, honest and trusting. Now I see that was wrong-thinking.

The one area I have always felt the strongest in is nursing. I’m a good nurse. I am the kind of nurse that I would want to have for myself or my family members. But where I feel I am strongest is advocating for my patients who can’t advocate for themselves. It’s gotten me in hot water with jobs in the past but I never cared about any repercussions for myself. I honestly don’t know where this strength comes from because I’m not this way in any other area of my life. At least I haven’t been until recently.

Recently, my husband and I have fallen on hard times. Well, we are “maybe” finally on the upswing but still have a long way to go. You see, my husband is an art teacher who has had a lot of difficulty finding work since we moved to Colorado. We underestimated how much it would cost to live here and how competitive the job market would be.

We would have been ok, however, my nursing job with one of my patients ended abruptly during the same time that my husband was unemployed as a teacher. We were just trying to make do with whatever he could earn as an Uber driver but very quickly realized that our world was collapsing around us.

The bills were all past due and we didn’t have enough money to pay them. We had some utilities shut off, bank overdrafts and even an eviction notice. It got bad VERY quickly. Within a month or two our world was falling apart. It got to the point that I had no choice but to tell people about my problems. Worse (or so I thought), I had to ask for help. My worst nightmare was coming true. Talk about feeling vulnerable.

I could always give help but didn’t want to receive it. When I’ve received help in the past there had always been a catch to it. Have you ever met people who were “generous” but never let you forget it? That’s why I learned (or wrongly thought) it’s not good to ask for help. Then there seems to be people who are just waiting for you to fail or worse, make you feel like a total loser because surely it must be your fault. At least that’s been my experience in the past (not with everyone, but it happened enough to make me feel awful for ever needing assistance of any kind).

I have received help recently though, because I had no other choice. I received free food from the community and help from family and friends. We have had to humble ourselves and ask people that we owe money to if they would accept smaller payments for now.

What this situation has done for me is to not only humble me, but it helped me to see who my true friends are (which in itself can be a painful process but very necessary). It has also allowed me to see and appreciate the grace and generosity of strangers. It has helped me to know what it’s like to feel you’re at the end of the rope when someone lovingly reaches out a strong hand. For that I am grateful.

This past year has made me stronger. I’m not more competitive and still cry easily, but it gave me strength to fight even harder for my patients because I know what it is like first hand to need someone’s strong hand lifting you up when you’ve given all you’ve got and don’t have any more strength of your own. It is a beautiful thing to receive and to give in those circumstances. It gave me bravery to write this blog post. It gave me immense appreciation for those helpers and we didn’t end up on the street or left hungry. It restored my faith in humanity by witnessing people give freely without judgment or asking for anything in return and without even expecting recognition.

I could feel sorry for myself. It would be easy to do. After all, it’s not easy to to start all over financially. It’s been embarrassing at times to be in the situation we’ve been in. It’s a bit embarrassing to write this in a blog for anyone to see, especially since I want to start a business. Not to mention it is incredibly stressful and difficult.

But you know what? I do feel strong in this moment because I’m not afraid to tell my truth. We didn’t do anything wrong. Hard times can happen to anyone. Your hardships may look different than my hardships but we all have them. You can pretend that you don’t or even believe that you don’t if you want to live the a fake world of social media but I’ve been around long enough to know that not one person on this earth is better than another, even if some people haven’t learned that truth yet.

If anything good can come out of this besides the good things I have already mentioned that are happening for me, it is worth being vulnerable in this post.

I want to say to anyone that may be having a hard time right now to do what Mr. Rogers’ mom used to tell him, “If you ever get in trouble, look for the helpers. There are always helpers.”

Not everyone is out to get you. Not everyone will relish in your hardships or use them against you. If they do, that’s when you know they are not your true friends. And who needs friends like that anyway? What mean people do is on them. Don’t take it personally.

It is ok to ask for help when you need it. When you’re doing ok, you can be the helper.

You can get through any obstacle you may be facing with the help of friends, family or even strangers. And when you come out on the other side, you will be stronger in ways you never thought you could be. You don’t have to suffer alone in silence. You can get through anything, no matter what your hardship may be and come out a better person because of it. There’s no reason to be ashamed. No one is perfect. We all have something to learn from each other.

Trust me.

This post is dedicated to Heidi. Thank you, Friend. You truly are an earth angel.