And they lived happily ever after.” We all become familiar with that line from a very young age. It’s the way the story is supposed to end. The thing we don’t spend enough time discussing is the fact that “happily ever after” only comes after a fair helping of conflict and pain. The struggle is an integral part of the story.
The conflict looks different for each of us. It comes in a million unique forms. Sometimes it’s obvious to outsiders, but most of the time it’s hidden. If we could see each others’ challenges and obstacles more clearly, we would have an easier time being gentle and patient with our neighbors.
When my son was diagnosed with autism, I wanted more than anything to help him. I told myself that if he got enough therapy or saw the right doctor, everything would be okay. Then he reached his teen years and things got worse instead of better. He developed some mental health issues. I was devastated and wanted to scream, “Why me?” and, “ It’s not fair.” I was stuck in that mindset of despair for what felt like a long time, until I realized that wasn’t what mattered.
I couldn’t change my son’s diagnosis. The only thing I could do to help my son and myself was to adjust my sails. I can’t control my circumstances, but I can control my attitude and the ways in which I respond.
The challenges I’ve endured have helped shape me into a stronger and better version of myself, and the same is true for each of us. The struggles serve a purpose. They knock us down, then force us to rise higher than we were before. The battle makes us stronger, braver, kinder, and wiser.
Shore Local’s Hometown Hero, Susan How-ell-Iacavone, has known struggle and pain. At one point, she was an addict and homeless. She has not only survived but thrived: she is graduating in a few weeks from Rutgers with her Bachelors in Social Work and she has already been accepted into graduate school; she works at Serenity Estates and she recently purchased a home in Northfield. Most significantly for Susan, she has used her experiences to create a program to help others. With her non-profit organization Angels in Motion, Susan prepares care packages for the homeless in Atlantic City that contain toiletries, treats, encouraging messages, and a list of helpful resources. Without Susan’s trials, her whole story would be different. Because of her struggles and challenges, she has the potential to make a difference every day. The same is true for each of us.
“ Life is 10% what happens and 90% how I react to it.” – Charles Swindall.