Life in short is a crazy mixed bag of ups and downs, challenges, beautiful moments and experiences. No matter who you are, you are not immune to life’s hardships and the sooner you get used to that the better.
I am an optimist. A glass is half full, type of person. I see the good, when others may see the bad, give me a shit situation and I will seek out the positive angle (it’s my super power) In writing this article I wanted to work out why that was and why some people find it harder to cope than others.
I have met some incredible people in my life time and some remarkably strong people (especially since my husbands cancer diagnosis) and its often strange how optimistic and cheery the chemotherapy ward can be. I have a couple of friends who have been through the most hellish times in recent years, but still manage to get themselves through to the other side, whilst some people snap a nail and their world is over.
I believe there are commonalities between the tougher people I know and equally the not so tough, so let me share my (not so scientific) findings.
Those that deal better with the tough stuff:
1: Take responsibility for themselves. They know that they decide how stuff is going to run. They take responsibility for how they act, how they respond to the hurdles and they accept they have control over their reactions.
2: They accept there are things they cannot change. Health is of course a big one, death too, if you or someone around you is ill you have to accept that is the case. Fighting the facts only prolongs the pain and stops you living in the now. Trying to push against what is going to happen is horribly painful thing and if you step back, breath and remain calm, you can see more clearly and enjoy the time in between.
3: Are optimistic. Optimistic people see light at the end of the tunnel. They know that good is coming and no matter what happens they seek that out, they know its on route. Sometimes that optimism gets tested and they have to work harder to seek it out, but they don’t doubt it for long and nothing will change that sunny outlook.
4: They cry if they need to. They shout and scream if they need to. They are kind enough to themselves to know it’s not healthy to become a robot, that it’s OK to cry if it helps in that moment. They also have the wisdom to know that crying for too long won’t help either, but they are kind to themselves along the journey, allowing room for flaws and vulnerability.
5: They help others. Maybe there is something cathartic in this. I like to pay it forward and I guess if you’re going through tough stuff, helping others with theirs is a good distraction. Everyone I know who has seen hard times, would go to the end of the earth to help others, because they know what it’s like to struggle.
6: They appreciate the down time. I always liken getting through the tough stuff to giving birth (bear with me) before you give birth you imagine its all ‘PAIN, PAIN, PAIN’ and then when you give birth you realise there are time between contractions to recuperate. So in life there are moments of calm in between the chaos. Those that deal with the tough stuff better, take that time to reboot, get ready, stay calm and when the wave comes again they are much better equipped to deal with it.
7: They avoid the extremes. Some people may see this as being cold or dead but avoiding the great highs is as important as avoiding the big lows. When people get so excited about something happening, the reality is they have to come down at some point and it’s tougher. Even as an actress I never got too excited over anything, because I knew it was just the next stage. I can vividly remember signing a record deal with Sony UK at 18 and everyone around popping champagne as I signed the contract, getting excited and jumping around. I sat there thinking this means nothing, I have proved nothing. its not about being negative or not enjoying the great stuff, it’s just recognising its just another thing thats happening.
8: “When you’re going through hell, keep going” Winston Churchill. I love this quote and it’s one me and my husband adopt. When its hard, those that get through it, just keep going. They ride it out, they know some days are hard. They appreciate that some days just getting out of bed is an achievement and they keep going. The one thing you can be sure of in life, is that nothing stays the same. good or bad, it will not stay that way forever.
9: They know that when life is tough it’s back to basics. You want family , love, good food, fresh water, beautiful scenery, nature, animals, honesty, raw, real life. There is not time for bullshit, negativity and fake friendships, they won’t serve you and they won’t get you through. Maybe you need new friends, new hobbies, new ideas about who you are, but reality is good. I crave honesty and reality from those around me and those that don’t fit that get cut out. I don’t have space in my mind and so I move away from anything other than that.
10: They know exactly what they want and they do ‘whatever it takes’ to get there. It might not be right now that you get it, it might not be possible right now, but get that vision in your mind of the ideal life, the ‘goal’ life and do whatever it takes to get there. Be kind to yourself along the way, enjoy life on route, know there may be times when you stall, when you go back a step (like a little life cha cha) but thats OK. Holding that goal life in your mind and the mantra ‘whatever it takes’ will see you through.
In a weird way there are lots of positives to come out of the ‘big stuff’, you might wish it wasn’t there but those of use who have and are going through life’s shitty bits know that we have grown as people and learnt more than some ever do. So be grateful for the knowledge and clarity that brings. Be glad that you are awake to life and if thats the only positive you can see right now then take it.
If you’re going through it right now remember it will not be like this forever. Your mindset will change, the situation will change, something new and fantastic will come along, so train your mind to seek out that good.
I do Buddhist meditation and this taught me to know that I might not be able to change the situation, but I can change my reaction to it and how liberating is that. The answer is within us.
Dealing with cancer and ill health