“If it wasn’t for all of your torture
I wouldn’t know how to be this way now and never back down
So I wanna say thank you
‘Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter”
Yes, those are Christina Aguilera lyrics. And I don’t give a f%^&.
At 36 I thought I’d run out of f%^ks to give. But no, I still cared too much — about what people thought, people who “wronged me,” people who faded out of my life. I am only human. And I will never be immune to a cold shoulder or harsh word. However, a near death experience can really put things in perspective and give you more strength and courage than you thought you could possess.
It may sound cliche to say I’ve learned lessons from trauma – and ridiculous to say I don’t regret it happening. But the further out I get from the worst of it, the more I am thankful for what I’ve taken from the scariest experience of my life.
For one, I have learned about true compassion and empathy. I thought I was a good person and a good friend – but now I know how careless I have been and I’ve learned how to do better. I am more in tune with what to do and say when someone is suffering. I will go the extra mile and not be paralyzed by some foolish feeling of helplessness. It isn’t that hard to be helpful. To listen, to show you care, to send food or flowers or cards with real words of encouragement. To offer to help with the children or the laundry or the overstressed partner. I have been as guilty as anyone else of the vague “Let me know if I can do anything” text. From now on, I will just do.
As I’ve written before, I’ve learned that sometimes the people you least expect will step up in amazingly beautiful ways. Friendships I feared had faded were rekindled when the chips were really down. Partners and parents stepped up with strength I didn’t know they had. Friends and acquaintances built a safety net for me and my family and gave me a whole new appreciation for my relationships, neighbors, and community.
On the flip side, I’ve dealt with the fact that there really are people who wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire. People who may have seemed important at another time in my life were proven to really have their heads up their own asses.
But here is the good part: I will no longer mince words.
Not that I was ever one to shy away from a good verbal ass-kicking, I now have no reservations about getting it all off my chest. I’ve officially broken ties with toxic people in my life, even the ones I was scared to cross for fear of the consequences.
I have vowed to be more courageous in speaking my truth no matter what. When the Orlando shooting occurred, I took that opportunity to come out as bisexual on Facebook even though I have been married to a man for 13 years. I wanted to take a stand for the LGBT community, and no longer gave a rat’s ass what anyone thought.
Finally, it’s no surprise that a life-changing event will make one that much more thankful for what they have. When a run becomes tiring I push through with the gratitude I have that my legs are strong enough to propel me forward. When my children fight and scream I still get frustrated and annoyed – but I am quicker to forgive them and let them stay up late eating cereal. I relish everything I have and want for nothing more.
Except maybe really big bathtub and a lemon tree. And those two things took me a while to come up with.