I used to be bad at crisis.
And when calamity occurred in multiples I was particularly inept at keeping my head above water, merely surviving.
Definitely not living.
At some point through the years I began to take notice of how others coped with disasters of health, heart, and home. Those who expected the worst usually got it. Those who looked for the silver lining were rewarded likewise.
This past few weeks, when doctors and hospitals were more a part of daily routine for my family than anticipated vacation time and summer fun, I again faced the choice of how to react.
The same fair weather friends and extended family members who generally bid us farewell at the first hint of trouble became distant. No surprise there. Others did their usual as well: “Oh, you’re all going to die. This isn’t fair—why you? How are you ever going to handle this?”
But those who I admire most issued words of support and encouragement: “We’re praying for you. You can do it. You’re strong. Hang in there. Think positive.”
I love these people.
They’re who I want to grow up to be like.
Because the fact is I know that they have even more heartache and tragedy in their lives than those who run and hide, or those who bemoan the fact that life isn’t fair. They chose to rise above their trials to lift others and to have the courage to face each day with optimism, knowing that while some facets of existence are painful and frightening there are myriad others, every second, in which to find joy.
They truly live life to the fullest.
And so, through this round of calamity--swine flu and whooping cough, a tumor and kidney stones that had be surgically removed, and bouts with asthma that became worrisome at the least convenient of times--I tried to make a concentrated effort to look for the joy.
The touch of my oldest daughter’s hand reminding me of cherished times we had when she was little. The robin’s egg blue of my husband’s eyes, the first thing I noticed about him when we met over twenty-five years ago. Freckles on my youngest that make her look so much like her brother when he was that age.
Smiles shared, burdens too.
I was guilty of grumbling--I found a good deal of fault with those who weren't helping the situations--but then I pulled back, knowing they didn't know how to do any better. My real concern was to do my best. And ultimately good memories were made, gems rising from the dust of what could have cultivated despair in my soul.
Had I allowed it to.