Resiliency + Hope
I recently listened to an episode of the On Being podcast that had Brene Brown on as a guest. It was a fabulous episode, but the part that really stuck in my mind was listening to her talk about resilience, struggle and hope. I remember I was driving. I was on the highway, and when she started talking about how the more struggles and hardships people endure throughout their lives, the faster they can get to hope.
My whole world changed in that moment. Because my whole life, I've been loved and supported and have faced absolutely no hardships. My parents were good, hard working parents who made my life pretty darn easy. School wasn't hard for me. My parents spoiled me and bought me darn near everything I could have ever wanted. I never had to work hard for much in my life. That's not to say I didn't work hard, because I trained hard and put in the work when it came to sports, but that was pretty much it on the working hard front for me. After I moved out and in with Jenny, we always had enough money to do the things we wanted to do... travel, go out on dates, buy music and books, etc. Again, I worked hard at my job, but there was never any struggle. No student loans to pay off. Jenny is a fabulous money manager so I didn't have to worry about that. Life was just... easy.
Even after we had kids, life stayed easy for me. Yes, there was some transition periods adjusting to life with a little one, and then another little one, and then yet another little one, but there was never much struggle. We started our photography business somewhere in all that, and just took a lot of pictures, treated people with respect and got really good at documenting weddings in a time when the wedding industry was booming. It was a good mix of luck, timing and skill. All that mixed together to bless our family really well. We've been able to see most of this country, gone to Disney World a few times, and pretty much live a life of love and adventure that we never thought possible.
I tell this story because my life was, like I said before... pretty dang easy. Then Jenny + I made the decision to pull back from weddings to pursue other ways of supporting our family. And they failed to bring in any money. This was the first time I've ever encountered failure. I use failure lightly, because the community we've built, the people we've met and the lessons I've learned have definitely helped get me to where I am today. But they failed to make us any money we could use to keep living the life we sought after.
So I started to get depressed. I was questioning what my purpose was in life. Jenny and I were fighting more than we ever had in the past and life just kind of sucked. I was surrounded by so much negative energy... most of it brought on myself. And then Max got sick. Really, really sick. Over the course of two years, no doctor could help our son get well. He had no energy, a bad cough. He lost so much weight. And I hurt even more. I just wanted life to be like it was back before when it was fun. Back when we had some money and our kids were healthy. But Max never got well until the Cystic Fibrosis diagnosis and we got him on proper treatments.
And I remember how ANGRY I was at God for giving my kid this life threatening disease. Why my son? Max is brilliant and he's going to change the world I remember screaming at the top of my lungs in the car coming home from Lowe's one day back when it was all so new and I was confused. I still remember it. I was so angry, and nothing was going right and the only thing I could control was fixing the electrical outlets in our new home. I could control that. And I was angry for weeks. At this point, I had pulled out of my depression and was finally feeling somewhat ok about life and then we got that CF diagnosis. And then we got another CF diagnosis for Ava. 2 kids with a life threatening respiratory disease that has no cure. Life was not easy anymore.
Now you might be wondering what all this has to do with Brene Brown and resilience… Well, when I heard her speak about people who've lived through struggles and hardships and that those who have move into hope and out of despair faster it all clicked for me. I simply had not had any major struggles in my life. I had no hardships that I’d survived. I never struggled until I was 32 years old. My life was easy up to that point. And I didn’t know how to handle the struggle. To me, it was the end of the world because I never learned how to move through struggle and into hope for a brighter day. I had lost my faith in everything I thought I knew about life.
And then something beautiful happened. One day, I woke up and was back to being my positive and encouraging self. I don’t want to say it was a miracle, because I don’t believe it was. I just kept telling myself that nothing will ever be like it was before. How could it be? 2 kids with life threatening diseases and still no businesses that are paying the bills without a ton of hustle doing odd jobs that are definitely not within the lines of our passions. But one day, I decided to ‘roll away the stone’ as Isaac Anderson puts it. I decided to live my life from a place of love. And that life isn’t supposed to be perfect. Life isn’t supposed to be easy. Life is what it is. And I can’t control much at all, but I can always choose love. And once I started making the choice to live from love a habit, everything changed.
Today, right now, both of my kids are still sick. The Hello Happiness Card Co is picking up for us and bringing in some income. I started a podcast with some other amazing dads called the Discovering Dad Podcast that was recently featured in the iTunes New & Noteworthy section. We have just enough photography work coming in to cover most of our bills and eliminate all the stress that’s been hanging over Jenny + I for so long.
Today, I can write… I am happy, and mean it. I’m happy with the path my life is on right now. Since the CF diagnosis’ both Max and Ava have done really well on the treatments. Max has put on over 20 pounds and hasn’t had any bad coughing fits or illnesses in months. His energy is back. I feel like I've got my son back.
Looking back over the last few years and the journey I’ve been on I’ve realized that life is pretty darn good and I’m so grateful for the struggle that’s been thrown my way. It’s helped me see how resilient we as humans are. And that I can never ever control what gets thrown my way, or how others react, but I can always control how I react. And if I choose love, then things will work out more often than not. And I’ve learned that life is supposed to be fun, and even though stuff kind of sucks from time to time, there’s always moments where I can choose to have fun and bring some joy into the world around me. To put it another way, we can let the crap win or we can make life fun… and I think fun is way more fulfilling than choosing the crap.
I want to end on a quote that’s helped me quite often over the past year. My friend Grace, who has not had the easiest of lives herself, sent me a message one day with these words…
Other people are rooting for you.
Other people believe in you.
Other people are there for you when you just can’t get up again.
Other people have the hope, when you don’t have the hope yourself.
Knowing others have my back helps me build a bit of resilience. I can move forward in life knowing I don't have to do everything myself. And having folks pick me up when I'm down gives me hope that the world will be just fun if we all continue to love one another.