People: The Problem AND The Solution
That’s me in front, on my 3rd birthday. With me are my brothers Mike and Gary, and uncle Todd in the middle. Todd was more like a brother, as he was only a year older than Mike and spent lots of time with us. I am the lone survivor from this picture. (Cheerful post, right? Hang in there, we’ll turn a corner in just a second!)
Gary had a brain aneurysm burst while riding the school bus in the 3rd grade. Our family’s life revolved around his care as he remained in a vegetative coma until his death three years later. We had barely discovered our “new normal” when another round of tragedy hit. By the time I was 14, Grandpa, Uncle Todd, my boyfriend and a schoolmate had all committed suicide. My formative years are marked by grief, depression, the financial strain brought about by protracted medical needs and so many funerals, as well as feeling entirely out of step with peers who were unable to relate. Attempts to cope led me to inappropriate relationships with food and men, both of which betrayed me. Things started straightening out as I entered adulthood, until my oldest brother Mike died suddenly after an unexplained seizure. He left behind the love of his life and three young kids. I married that same year. Unfortunately, the marriage was terribly broken and ended in divorce after years of trying to make it work.
Each of these losses broke me in some way. I loved these people. They were beautiful and dear. They each held a piece of my heart that I can’t get back. Through them I learned that it is primarily the loving of people that brings about the problem of pain. We sometimes give more than they give us in return, watching them suffer makes us ache, they break our hearts, and they sometimes leave or die.
And yet. Loving people is also what heals.
Just as I can tell my life story through the suffering that has marked my journey, I can also recount so much good. And every bit of that goodness is because of My People. My People include parents who adore me and are still wonderfully in love after 50+ years of marriage. They are my heroes. I was also given a child to love, whose fresh view of the world helps me notice the magic and wonder all around. And watching mom, dad and my favorite kid together? Well, that’s at least a dozen different kinds of goodness right there! It sometimes takes my breath away. Not to mention how much I have treasured watching my brother’s kids grow up to be amazing humans. Then there are my friends. They are all kinds of Steel Magnolias vulnerable, funny and strong. I have faith, which anchors me in love and provides me a sense of belonging to a much larger community. I’ve been fortunate to do work that matters, alongside really talented folks who make the world better. And its been the best surprise ever to have stumbled across a man who is strong and kind and good and who has decided to love me. For added bonus, his people have embraced me, so they’re now my people too. It’s an embarrassment of riches, really!
Yes, its all about the people. Loving them can bring experiences of pain, deception, rejection, betrayal, heartache, and grief. When I focus on that, anxiety and depression quickly grip me and drag me into dark places. Then I remember I have the power to turn on the light. I turn on the light of hope by intentionally being grateful for the people I love. As I focus on being fully present with giving thanks for those who enrich my life, I find I have much less energy to give to the people and circumstances that deplete me. Indeed, it is the loving of people that makes all the hard stuff of life worth it. My people are worth it.
How about you? Who are your People? Tell us (and them!) how fabulous they are. See if it doesn’t boost your spirits a bit.
Kande spends her time coaching people and organizations, bringing just enough order and creativity to their chaos until it becomes something beautiful. She is most excited when coming alongside folks figuring out who they are and what they want to be when they grow up. Not that she has plans to grow up anytime soon herself. Find her on Twitter and Instagram as Mama_Kande or at kandemilano.com.