While I cannot put my hands on it at the moment, one of my favorite quotes from Oprah Winfrey goes along the lines of – When I look into the future, there is so much brightness, I can hardly stand it.
It is the eternal optimist in me who loves this quote, but I believe we all have that human tendency to hope that the future is bright and shiny for us. I thought this would be a good topic for the New Year. We seem to have a cultural thought pattern of “things being better in the New Year” that gets perpetuated each January. I have always chuckled inwardly at this as a Northeasterner and thought, “C’mon, people! It’s January! We’re heading into our stormiest months and you think things will get better?!”
I do, however, get the appeal of a fresh start and a bright future, of putting past struggles behind and moving forward. I know one of my most successful coping mechanisms for living with a disability is to believe my life will always be improving. That’s not at all to mean that my life was so miserable at any point that it could only improve; it means I have always been filled with hope that good things will continue to happen in my life and as I go about fulfilling my life, I will only become happier. So all the brightness Oprah sees, I resonate with.
Ironically, an important lesson I have learned that has only intensified the brightness is being able to embrace the darker, more difficult times. Understanding that challenges, especially when one lives with a disability, are a natural part of life. This has helped me to stop resisting or denying them when I see them on their way. Not that I joyfully welcome them in either…. It is just that I understand more that darker times actually adds to the brightness we experience.
Here an involved example from my own life that I’ll try to consolidate into a couple sentences. I was single for a good many years of my adult life. For several of those years, I did not even date. I was struggling with – what I thought – was wondering if men would be able to see beyond my disability. It turns out I was really wrestling with my own self-consciousness about the impact CP would have on my intimate relationships. I went through some pretty dark times of doubting myself and denying my desire for a relationship. I was not the confident person I am today.
Over time, I became sick of feeling that way. I began to address my lack of confidence in this area and (surprise, surprise) discovered I had to give myself the confidence I needed before another person could come into my life and do so. I had to spend some time looking at my darker thoughts and feelings that blocked the potential brightness of a loving relationship. Going through all this certainly helped put me on the path toward meeting my husband and having the loving relationship I now have. Today my days have a brightness to them that has been tweaked by those darker times.
In this New Year, I do wish you all the brightness you can stand and beyond. More importantly, though, may you remember in those dark times that will come this year, how the darkness ultimately strengthens you and brightens the future all the more. Shine on!