2015-06-03 Posted By Jenna
We all have something - you’re not alone. We all struggle - cut yourself some slack. Whether it’s obvious like being in a wheelchair, or invisible like depression - life isn’t going to let you off scot-free! But you know what, the tough times in life - they’re what make it interesting; they’re what make us stronger!
Did you just roll your eyes? Uh huh, thought so. Well then, try to humour me just a little bit longer because I want to go a little bit further.
When I think about all of this (and if I’m being honest with myself), I actually think that facing adversity is the cause of resilience, which, I think, is one of the best qualities a person can have. It’s the thing that says to you when you feel like you can’t go on, “Well, you’re still alive so what are you going to do for the rest of your life, hide in a corner? Are you going to do this or are you going to DO this?”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in there being times when life knocks the wind right out of us and we need to be able to go off and lick our wounds without judgement (and just to be clear, I believe that suffering is pretty much relative, there’s no reason to put ourselves or others down because we think one is suffering more - or less - than the other; talk about adding insult to injury!). And then there are times when we really need to grieve - come on, life can be hard! I actually saw a quotation once that read, “Don’t take life too seriously…no one makes it out alive.” (I don’t know if that’s really comforting, now that I think about it, but you get the jist…). But that’s the beauty of resilience - whether we’ve sustained a paper cut or lost the person we love most - life goes on, and we still have an opportunity to make an impact.
How? We validate our strengths (give yourself some credit), accept where we need support (not my favourite thing to do), and we vow to move on the best way we know how. What? I didn’t say it was easy!
But why am I telling you this?
Well, as you’ve probably guessed it, all this stuff i.e. navigating life gracefully - it’s all easier said than done! We can face the most daunting and catastrophic of circumstances and the actual thing that stands in the way of us and surviving is…drumroll, please…ourselves. And get this -joy and fulfillment can literally be banging on the door of our souls - no tricks or tests - and we won’t open the door.
Whether you have noticed it or not, I have been a little more quiet than usual despite Phoenix Attitude’s BIGGEST week EVER. In the span of a week and a half: we were invited to ConnecTra’s Abilities Expo, we met and fell in love with our new spokespuppy (Little Miss Phoenix), I delivered my TEDx talk at St. John’s School (YouTube link coming soon!), and the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards saga came to a close. But here’s the kicker, have I been celebrating? Nope. Basking in a sense of accomplishment? Nope. To be honest, I know I should be proud of myself for getting all this done, and the good work Phoenix Attitude is doing for others. And yet, I’ve been spending much of my time going back and forth between wondering if I just got lucky and charmed a few people into taking a chance on me. I (always) feel like I could’ve done better, worked harder - made more of an umph - to make the most of these opportunities. So either I didn’t deserve all of these opportunities, or I could’ve executed them better. Who needs roller coasters when you can live inside my brain, eh?!
I feel guilty. Guilty that I feel like I’m wasting these opportunities by not being able to embrace them and relishing in the adventures they’re taking me on. Guilty that not many people have the same opportunities as I’ve been given. Guilty that I find it hard to have the same faith in me as the people who have helped me get to this place. How dare I have the nerve not to be pop-a-wheeling for joy and thanking my lucky stars?!
None of this is easy to admit. Trust me, my ego is yelling at me for even putting these words to paper/screen for public consumption. But, I struggle. If you had told me 5 years ago that this is where I’d be now and what I could accomplish, I would have (half-jokingly) asked, “I died on the operating table, didn’t I?” This has been the wild ride that I always wanted, but never thought I’d make it on.
Why is this where my head goes when I should be over the moon? Your guess is as good as mine. Sometimes I wonder if it has to do with living the majority of my life feeling like I needed to fight, fight: for the ability to be taken seriously, to be considered a contributing member of society, to really be seen underneath a distracting exterior or labels that don’t even make a dent in what I see as my potential; and then something changes and I’m being accepted the way that I am - it’s trippy!
Am I making excuses? Not on purpose.
I’ve been shocked and I’ve been ecstatic and I’ve been wondering what in the world just happened?! And then the conversation in my head gets a little deeper, “How did I get from that person a minute ago, who fought tooth and nail to be seen and appreciated for her unique insight and abilities, to this girl now, who is being offered phenomenal opportunities to make a difference? Is this a trick? Have I really made it?” And as time goes on, and Ashton Kutcher hasn’t come around the corner to tell me I’ve been Punk’d, I quietly start to hope, “Can I really start to explore my true potential rather than fight for others to see in me what I think they want to see? Can I really start to use the adversity I’ve faced and turn it into something amazing, instead of letting it make me feel like a victim?!”
So, with still no Ashton sightings, I’m beginning a long process. I’m starting to take down the walls I’ve spent decades building to keep me safe from the words, assumptions and rejection I’ve experienced firsthand because of the person I was and might become. Brick by brick the walls are coming down because: either I’ve become more and more confident in who I am and what I can and will do (despite what others may think); or society is putting on its evolving boots and people are willing to see deeper into each other’s souls and recognizing this other person may not be who they’re used to; they can see a spark in them and I want to learn from them and their unique experiences. Can I get a “HALLELUJAH”????!
It will take me some time to go through what I need to go through to be more sure and proud of myself; there’s a little fight going on inside of me that I need to referee for the time being. But I’m ready! I grew up a fighter - literally and figuratively. I rose the ranks of Shotokan Karate to earn my 2nd degree black belt. I fought for my life despite dismal odds. I fought for my mental health when it felt like my life was caving in on me, because I am still deep down that little kid who wheezes and snorts when something is really funny - an embarrassingly amazing feeling (that is worth the fight)!
But you know what I’m realizing the most annoying feeling is? Feeling like I’ve been fighting the wrong fight for too long. That I’ve wasted all this time, energy, hope and dreams to fit into other people’s moulds. No more (fingers crossed)! Let me give you some advice (for those of you kind enough to trust my ability to speak with any authority on this) - try not to fall down that rabbit hole (if you can). You don’t know anyone else’s journey, and they don’t know yours. Nobody knows how another person can take the most dismal circumstances and use them to build a life of happiness for themselves, or maybe even the world around them! That’s for you to know, and to do in the way that resonates best with you!
Even if our journey doesn’t end up looking the way we intended, we should at least try to get excited about another opportunity to learn from what didn't go as planned and use that knowledge as a staircase/ramp/elevator/being lifted up like Cleopatra to new levels of our personal best for next time.
So bear with me for now, as I continue to come into myself. And above all, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to my family who have become my friends, and my friends who have become my family. I want to thank the people, who have become mentors and who have taken the time, the energy and the patience into helping me on my journey with the faith I won’t let you down.
And if none of this made sense, Ashton Kutcher and Angelina Jolie did a pretty good job of getting very similar points across to help others feel stronger while they wade through failure, success, sorrow, happiness and who they can be - take a look!