By Tammie Allegro
As a young girl, I had a grand plan for my life: I made up my mind early that I would be a child psychologist. The plan included marriage by 25 and four children — two boys and two girls just like my mother. Our beautiful home would be in San Diego, and I would be very active in my community. Fast-forward 36 years and the picture couldn’t be more different. Life happened. Illnesses happened. Death happened. Struggles happened. I was a young single mother for nine years before eventually marrying my best friend at age 31. We have two children, and I am not a psychologist. Even if my younger self would be disappointed, I am very happy with the life that I have made for myself. Nothing spectacular; just a life filled with love.
When a child is born, most parents start imagining how their child’s life is going to turn out. Will he or she be an athlete or ballerina, doctor or entrepreneur? I think it is fair to say that almost no one is thinking about their child being sick for the rest of his or her life, or the daily struggles an illness can bring. They surely don’t anticipate fighting with insurance companies and doctors, either. However, for many patients with chronic illness, this is exactly what their lives revolve around. It would be easy and almost expected for them to become consumed with all the things that are not going to happen in their lives because of their illness. Instead, they must be very strong and positive individuals to make a conscious decision to make peace with what life has handed to them.
At times, I struggle with questions like: “Why me?” I find that if I seek out someone to help or perform a service for, my issues of the moment seem much smaller. Anything from writing a nice note and dropping it in the mail to taking treats to a friend can mean the world to someone who is feeling isolated or struggling through a really tough time. This doesn’t take away my struggles; it just puts them into a different perspective and forces me to get outside of my own head. Each day that we wake up is another opportunity to actively pursue happiness and gratitude.
Another way to find peace in the toughest times is to find our “Zen” place. For me, my Zen place is church or listening to music in my favorite chair. For others, it might be reading a great book or spending time in the garden. Whatever our struggles are, it is important to have a place to take our minds off things. Being a parent, sometimes those Zen places and times are hard to come by. But, parents can try taking a bath instead of a shower after you put the kids to bed. During our time alone, it helps to reflect on the things that went right that day instead of the things that went wrong. Oprah once suggested a gratitude journal to help us remember the blessings in life. Seeing tender mercies happening allows us to let go of the disappointments of the day. Also, when our children see us handling situations in a positive light, they are sure to learn from our example.
There are a lot of ways that we can find peace during the tumultuous times in our lives. It falls on us to decide how we want to walk through life and situations. It is important to focus on the things we have and the things we have accomplished. We need to appreciate the people in our lives and focus on those who are present and available instead of spending our days missing those who are not. This doesn’t mean that every day we are going to have blue birds singing around our heads. It just means that our focus and energy will be on the blessings we have been given. There is a great quote by motivational speaker Brian Tracy: “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”