“Man, this has no end to it, doesn’t it?”.
My thoughts as I sat across someone who’s grieving the loss of a loved one. “This” referring to changing circumstances in life.
I looked back to my life, events that happened, circumstances that changed.
The rug was yanked under my feet in late 2016 and I went crashing down. For three years, life felt like a continuous season of one “bad” thing after another.
One thing after another. No, one thing plus another of difficult circumstances.
~ Major collapse of a family relationship. My world crashed. Let’s call this incident “10”. I will be referring to 10 later on.
The intense pain and loss pushed me into an almost depression. (One has to tick off several symptoms to be classified as depressed.)
~ Crumbled from the pain of 10. Requested to be exempted from going into the office and work from home. No more energy to keep smiling nor counting to 100 to stop me from sobbing in the office.
~ June: my husband got diagnosed with Stage Three cancer.
On the day of the diagnosis, our daughter was at the same hospital for surgery. The surgery happened to be the same time as the doctor’s appointment for the diagnosis.
I remember sprinting up and down the hospital floors, trying to make it and be present for both of them at the same time. I don’t know how I got through that.
~ July – August: two months of going from one test to another with my husband while grinding through the pain of 10.
Through the hospital run, we found out that my husband has a choice to delay the chemo treatment. So, yay!
~ July: there’s a reconciliation for 10.
~ September: my step-dad got diagnosed with Stage Four cancer.
~ Then two months later, chaos in my workplace which left me and my trust shaken to the core. The intense stress triggered the triad allergic reaction of fever, diarrhoea and an entire body eczema breakout. Till this day, my eczema hasn’t healed completely.
~ During this period, my stepdad’s health went slip-sliding down. Chemo further weakened him. Skin and bones left together with his only hope in Christ. I was travelling back and forth to hometown.
~ My father-in-law’s health went on a decline. Lost part of his mobility. Started to need a caregiver.
~ The situation of 10 improved.
~ Prolonged and delayed house renovation. Excitement mixed with cement dust and paint fumes.
~ Turned my pain from 10 to purpose. Redefined and redirected my website, melindayeoh.com and my newsletter, HopeMail.
~ Step-dad died and went home to the Lord.
~ During this period, hospital visits increased for father-in-law.
~ I was facing stressful struggles at work.
~ The situation of 10 improving slowly.
~ An ending and a beginning to a new phase of work life. And uncertainties. What’s next for me?
~ Started new ministry.
~ Father-in-law passed away.
~ Phases of grieving for family members.
~ Mother-in-law having more health problems. In and out of the hospital for tests.
~ All these while carrying the broken pieces of 10 and going through life. The undertone of sadness surfacing from time to time.
~ End of 2019, a new major upheaval in the family, carried through to 2020.
~ COVID19 pandemic
Two major lessons that I’ve learnt through difficult circumstances
Through these three years plus of intense shifting of circumstances, the reality of life hits home and hits hard. And I’ve learnt two major lessons:
There are way too many things I can’t control in life. Duh.
First: If I wait for and depend on good circumstances to be happy; the occurrence of things-not-going-well in my life will become the formula for constant misery. Or – + – = 🙁
Second: If I place my happiness on something that’s constantly shifting—life is gonna be tougher than it already is.
I wish that it was maturity that caused me to think this way. It wasn’t, not in the initial phase.
It was out of necessity. The need to survive through the pain and stress.
I intentionally looked for anything good and I nursed myself with that.
A gorgeous sunset.
A hand to hold.
A sight of a butterfly.
A meal on the table.
Knowing that circumstances in life will keep on changing, I resolved to find joy amid sorrow.
Even with my few years of “practice” with hardship, it’s still hard.
Honestly, I find it easier to be conquered by my moods. Easier to justify my misery. My secondary temperament being melancholic after all. But I don’t wanna live like that. Not constantly anyway.Not depending on circumstances to be happy starts with a refusal to remain beaten down; when beaten down has outstayed its welcome. Click To Tweet
A resolve to be resilient. And doing whatever it takes to punch through the darkness so that light can come in.
Last bit of honesty. Did doing all these made me happier?
Yes and no.
Yes. Knowing that there’s a God who is unchanging in a world where change is constant, gave me hope. And I do what I can to rely on Him as my source of joy.
No. I have an underlying sadness that I’m struggling with. The pain is still there. Healing is excruciatingly slow.
But of late, light is peeking through.
For that, I’m grateful. And remain, ever hopeful on the One I can place my hope upon.I think instead [of happiness] we should be working for contentment… an inner sense of fulfilment that's relatively independent of external circumstances. ― Andrew Weil Click To Tweet Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate. ― G.K. Chesterton Click To Tweet
I’ve summarised the headlines of an article from Forbes Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid. You can click on the link if you want to read further.
- Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves.
- Give Away Their Power.
- Shy Away from Change.
- Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control.
- Worry About Pleasing Others.
- Fear Taking Calculated Risks.
- Dwell on the Past.
- Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over.
- Resent Other People’s Success.
- Give Up After Failure.
- Fear Alone Time.
- Feel the World Owes Them Anything.
- Expect Immediate Results.