Never give up. Be strong. Keep the faith. Never lose hope.
These are all things I tell myself and have told myself for a long time. In the last five months, it’s fair to say I’ve struggled a bit to hold onto these words. And as many of you know, last year was a bit of a tough year recovering from my car accident, but today I’m going to share a piece of my life with you in the hopes it touches someone, maybe even you, because no matter who you are or where you are, we all face challenges and must learn to adapt.
When I started this blog in 2014, I wanted to make a difference – to pay it forward, to use what I’ve been through to help someone. That has been my mission from the start and I hope today’s message reaches someone who needs it. I think when we go through tough times, we look for meaning, and in many ways, a reason for the challenges we face. I believe we can use what we’ve been through to help others and I hope by sharing a little bit of my journey, it has helped you in yours.
Recently, I had a fifth surgery on my leg to address some complex nerve issues associated with my ankle injury. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse and I landed myself in the ICU for several days. One evening, my surgeon came in and asked me how I stayed so positive. Without batting an eye, I told him, “That’s just who I am. I’m blessed that God gave me an optimistic outlook, and it also helps me to know that you’re not giving up– that gives me hope to stay positive.” He nodded and said, “Those are all great things and I am by your side through this, but have you ever been upset or angry about your situation?” “Not really” I replied, “What’s there to be angry or sad about?” His eyes got big. “Well… you are very young, you injured your leg in 2011, have had five surgeries, dealt with lots of pain and loss, and not once have you been upset? Is that what you are telling me?” “Pretty much” I nodded “Or I just choose not to be.” He said, “Let me tell you a story. There once was a boy whose mother passed away. He didn’t grieve or shed a tear. His friends and family worried about him – he said he was strong, that he was fine. Years later, he cried for the first time, but people had no idea why – and then he realized, he had never allowed himself to experience the pain and loss. Now, there was another boy, same situation, yet he felt the pain and experienced the loss and grieved, people didn’t blink an eye because it made sense – it was a horrible situation. Do you understand what I’m getting at?” he said. “Yes, I do” I replied, “but I’m not sad. There’s nothing to be sad about. Sure, it hasn’t been an easy journey, and while I may be facing more challenges with my condition, I just have to keep staying strong.” “Well”, he said, “just know it’s okay to cry”. I pondered it some more while lying in my bed, hooked up to machines, but again pushed it aside. The next day, as I was moved to another room, I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t know why, other than the fact that I was scared to leave the only place and people that stopped my pain after the surgery. Maybe my surgeon’s words made an impact. Yet, I told myself, “Beth, pull it together.” Never give up. Be strong. Keep the faith. Never lose hope.
I have always been a happy go lucky person (kinda like a goldendoodle if you will). I rarely feel sad and have never considered myself to be depressed (my life is good, there is a lot to be thankful for), but it seems lately, people are telling me it’s okay to be sad, but I don’t want to feel sad… I want to be happy. And in order to do that, I remind myself I need to Never give up. Be strong. Keep the faith. Never lose hope. But what if being strong means embracing the ability to face your weakness? To face what you don’t want to face? I’ve never wanted to be weak, ever. I’d rather give it my all and die trying before ever admitting I couldn’t do something. I believe that’s ingrained in my DNA and it’s what made me the athlete I was and still am today and it’s what’s carried me through many of life’s challenges. Yet, as I laid down to go to sleep recently, I felt like giving up. And that made me feel weak.
While I was in the hospital, my surgeon told me about a movie he wanted me to watch, called “Inside Out”. I remember thinking to myself, okay I’m 29 years old… I don’t watch a lot of Disney movies, but what do I have to lose? I’m laid up anyway. ☺ Little did I know this powerful children’s movie would change my life.
What I learned and applied from a simple, yet profound Disney movie is that being strong and positive doesn’t mean you crush the other emotions that you don’t want to feel or hide them as if they don’t exist, it means opening yourself to recognize that feeling these emotions doesn’t make you weak or negative – feeling them makes you, well, human. I think anyone who goes through a traumatic experience, endures chronic pain, or faces hard times, learns ways to adapt and cope, and for me, I became pretty good at pushing certain feelings aside. Pain has a way of changing us, by making us stronger for what we’ve been through, but I’m almost certain it creates ripple effects, some of which we cannot run from. I know for me at least, sometimes when I’m facing struggles it’s easier to say “everything is fine”, because I want it to be that way, I want my family not to worry, I want to move on with the subject, and I don’t want to face the pain, but what we resist has a way of persisting. So I’ve made a conscious, yet difficult decision to feel – to remove the armor. To try and open my heart to what is happening right now, to feel the pain (both emotional and physical), to sit with it – and not block it out. In essence, as my friend Jim would say, to “Touch the Dragon”.
If you ever find yourself in a situation of trying to push your feelings aside, know that you don’t have to guard your heart from feeling what you don’t want to feel – for your heart and soul have the strength to know these emotions, to sit with them, and yet still find their way back towards the light. I tell you this because I have experienced it.
I am Beth. I am resilient, fierce, and determined. Fear, sadness, and anger are all parts of me I choose to see and know, but not become. Joy and light are my strength and faith is the beat of my heart. I will never give up hope, I will stay strong, and I will keep the faith.
Love yourself through life’s challenges and know that if/when you lose your smile, it’s okay, you will find it again, I promise. In the end, strength is not the absence of fear or sadness, it’s the ability to sit with the darkness and still know who you are.