What was the one experience that completely changed your life? What happened? How did it change your life?
Many experiences have changed my life so I am going to concentrate on a negative life event; one which affected me in a positive way. I know for life-changing experiences, many people talk about when they had their babies or achieved a dramatic milestone, like climbing Everest or overcoming an illness but I’m thinking about when my mother died.
Mum died two years after Dad. They were both young (61 and 60), active people who appeared to be more or less healthy but for undiagnosed arterial complications and bowel cancer, respectively. Obviously, with Mum dying suddenly, so soon after Dad, it was a shock to the system, especially as I was pregnant with my second child and had a 12 month old baby at the time.
I managed to keep life and soul together by concentrating on my babies but in time realised that I was becoming a stronger, more independent person. I noticed that I was not the pushover that I used to be; happily saying, ‘no’, when previously I would have struggled to accommodate everyone’s needs. Even though I’d left home at 17 and hadn’t lived there since, and was now in my early thirties, for the first time, I was symbolically on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t actually on my own; a very competent husband, caring siblings (although hours away) and attentive friends were there if I needed them.
In practical terms, nothing had changed – it was all emotional and psychological. However, I was parentless. I was a genuine adult. My parents and I, although very close emotionally, had not been geographically within less than two hours away since my teens. I had not relied on them at all really but when they were no longer accessible for chats, letters or visits, that was, like I said a symbolic shift.
I had very loving relationships with my parents yet after a while, saw that positive things can come from shattering experiences. I gained:
- A psychological freedom that I was only answerable to myself and although I hadn’t consciously sought my parents’ approval, as a child (of any age), I still desired it – potentially, I could now do what I wanted and to hell with it (not that I did, but you know?) ;
- Confidence in the knowledge that I was a bona fide grown up and people could NOT boss me about – becoming parentless meant I was also not a child of any kind;
- more qualifications. I took on further academic study to enrich my future, thinking, ‘now I know we might not be around as long as we’d like to be, if I could do anything, what would it be?’. This was a response to Dad saying he always felt he hadn’t achieved his potential. I still haven’t but I’m getting there!
- The evidence that you are indeed in charge of how what happens affects you. You choose to fight or fold. This has been the biggest gift. I experienced a lot of trauma in a short period of time (very difficult birthing experiences as well as the bereavements) and not only survived but grew into myself as a person; someone who is content, strong and realistic, understanding that most perceived stress is trivia compared to the big picture and the worst that can happen is mostly not that bad.