Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lessons from the past three years

I've thought a lot about what I wanted to say today, feeling that I often repeat myself in my posts, even when that recycled emotion or thought feels brand new.  I went back to my posts from the first and second anniversary and watched the fire/rebuild video.  I don't know if I could express my feelings about this day any better than I did last year.  So instead I wanted to share some life lessons I've learned over the past three years, both in recovering from the loss and trauma of the fire and in dealing with an unexpected chronic illness.

1. Sometimes life sucks.

2. We live in a culture that expects us to always find the silver lining.  This has been interesting for me to observe, now that I'm not so irritated by uninformed responses (like "it's just stuff").  When bad things happen, it seems like the world around us expects us to stand up, dust ourselves off and talk about all the "blessings" that came out of said bad experience without giving us the space to grieve.  I believe this is unhealthy, and I encourage people to give others the space to explore their difficult emotions rather than just expressing some platitude that ultimately hurts more than helps.

3. Sometimes there is no silver lining, merely experience.  Sometimes life just sucks.  We don't have to find good in every situation.  That doesn't make us pessimistic, merely products of experience.

4. Good luck trying to convince others of that.

5. It's ok to NOT "get over" a traumatic experience.  It's a part of your story, and the idea that we can forget and move on is a false belief.  I carry the fire, the Bell's Palsy, the Lyme with me.  It informs so much of my life, day to day, for better or worse.  I don't expect to wake up one day and suddenly have that stuff not matter.  In some cases, the anxiety has eased up, which I find comforting.  But the reality is that I lost my home in a fire, and fearing that happening again is not irrational because I know that it *can* happen.  I try not to be consumed by it, but I don't believe I'll ever "get over it."

6. Respect your boundaries.

7. Or set them.  I didn't recognize boundaries all that much before the fire.  I wanted to be in control, and I thought I could do everything for everyone and make them better people.  But with the fire and being very sick I was unable to do for anyone, much less myself.  I realized though that respecting boundaries, setting boundaries, allowed everyone more freedom to be successful.  It has certainly upset a few relationships in the short-term, but it improves them in the long-run.

8. Own your thoughts and emotions.  And don't apologize for them.  Those who have not been through a similar experience have a hard time relating, and as I stated above, they think that encouraging you to look for the positive they are helping.  It's ok to say, "I'm sad, and that's ok."

9. Share your story, even if it makes others uncomfortable.  There are several people in my family who are uncomfortable with how open I've been about my experience.  Too bad.  This is my story, and by sharing it I have opened myself up to a community, given voice to those who are yet unable to share.  And that's important to me.

10. Believe that others are listening, even if it seems like you are surrounded in silence.  I didn't start this blog for anyone but myself and to keep my family and friends informed.  But in sharing my story, I've found that I am not alone.  And that shared experience helps carry me through, especially on days like today, when I remember what we lost and how much my life has changed in the last three years.

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