I knew about abuse in every shape there was by the time I was five years old. I’d seen physical and mental and emotional abuse, experienced sexual abuse and seen what substance abuse and various mental illnesses were all about. I have reason to believe that I had a form of PTSD as a side effect, with the start of a stomach ulcer at that early age from the stress.
By my early twenties I had a full grasp of all of the ugly in the world. . . I had fallen victim to the mental, emotional and physical abuse instead of having just witnessed it. At thirty I had lost both of my parents due to myraid of these ugly things, had lost friends and family to overdoses and suicides. . . I knew about poverty, I knew about broken down cars and shut off notices and where to go if you needed food and had no money. I knew about not sleeping for crying all night, I had seen and smelled death, I had come so close to a mental breakdown that I could taste it. . .
I knew about so much of the bad parts of life.
I know ugly. I know sadness. I know hurt to the core of my soul. I know about loneliness and hopelessness. I am very well aquainted with so much that is bad and wrong in our world.
I also know about perseverance though, and strength. I know about smiling in the face of adversity, and making shit happen when it seems damn near impossible. I know that giving up isn’t an option.
I have been asked how I remain so optimistic, can still see the good through all the bad. People have asked how I handle it all.
The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. . . That’s the best analogy I can come up with.
The ugly made me appreciate and love the good. It made me search for the good to counter the bad. To look for the rainbow in the storm clouds.
It made me able to look at another struggling human and be able to show compassion – because I know all too well what they may be going through.
And the thing of it is, I know that while I have been through some shit and seen so much ugly and felt sadness so deep it made me collapse. . . I know that what I’ve experienced isn’t the worst hand of cards that life could have dealt me. I haven’t had an addiction of my own beyond nicotine and caffeine. While I’ve come pretty fucking close to homelessness, I never actually have been. I’ve never been hospitalized from the abuses I’ve experienced. I was always able to pull myself out of the holes I’ve fallen into, I’ve always had people to go to should I need the help. And truth be told, the hardships have made me better able to handle each curve ball life has thrown me. I couldn’t be all that I am without having been through what I have been.
And it’s these realizations. . . Knowing it could be worse. . . Knowing I am a better person for all of it. . . That has kept my head up and my back straight.
Seeing my children happy and healthy and not wanting for anything, knowing I have been able to do for them what my parents couldn’t do for my brother and me. Knowing I kept them from all of that ugly I experienced. . .
I can’t tell you how I kept my sanity through it all, and how I remain unmedicated. Because I know there are people who have experienced similar lives to mine who can’t say the same. Maybe it’s because despite my parents various afflictions they still showed me love. Maybe it’s because I can write, I can find solace in music, because of my children and brother. . . Lord knows they saved my life more than once. I don’t know. I don’t have a cure for the ugly in the world, or a definite way to keep it at bay, but I can tell you that if you always look for the good instead of concentrating on the bad, you’ll keep seeing more good and the bad won’t matter as much. I can tell you that despite all of the ugly in this world, there’s a fuckton of good. Children’s laughter and sunshine and flowers and amazing music. The smell of fresh cut grass and people who love you for you. Good food and good friends, jokes that make you laugh til your sides ache and beautiful sunsets. There are people who make it their mission in life to better the world. Somewhere someone is falling in love still, despite impending wars and raging fires. A baby is being born to someone who thought they’d never have children, a child who has known ugly all their life is being adopted into a loving family, a little boy is getting his very own puppy and giggling with delight. . . Good God, there’s so much good in this world.
Having known both sides of this world, I’ve made a conscious decision to contribute to the good. It’s as simple as that. I compliment strangers on their hair, dress, shoes. I offer an ear or a shoulder to those who need it. I give money to the homeless on corners and throw change into jars on counters in gas stations. I smile at strangers and hold doors. And very, very rarely do I dwell on the bad. Because really, in the big scheme of things – the bad doesn’t matter. The good in my life will forever outweigh all of the bad. I have my children, I have successfully fought for and obtained what I wanted in life, and it’s getting better every moment. I have a gift that allows me to reach out and help others. The grass is always green for me no matter where I go, the sun always is shining. I chase the clouds away with my eternal optimism. Because I know just how fucking blessed I am to still be breathing, to have a coherent and sane mind, to have all of the physical and emotional comforts I do. It would be absolutely ungrateful of me to think in any other way. And it would be ungrateful of me to not share my optimism with the world.
There’s always a rainbow, no matter what storm I’m going through.
I’ve chosen to be happy. And I am.