Because sometimes horrible things happen and we need to survive. Not just for ourselves, but also for the people we love and care about. In Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter the main character, a little girl, has been encouraged by her father to find a positive slant on any negative situation. Sometimes knowing how other people get through difficult times can give us inspiration and the confidence to know that life will not flatten us – so here’s what happened to me….
In 2004 I was working as a district nurse. I had brought up two beautiful boys as a single parent. (Not a choice I wanted to make, but no child should be raised in an abusive relationship). I had a wonderful long-term partner and, once my sons had flown the nest, I joined the Territorial Army. Both boys had returned to Switzerland, the country where they were born (destined to be chefs) and so I decided to join up (I thought they would teach me to drive trucks, but being an officer that was out of the question!)
The second Iraq war was in full swing when my status changed from reservist to Regular Army and I was preparing for a six-month tour of duty as an army nurse. My partner had suffered a collapse and was told that he needed ground-breaking cardiac surgery. To cut a long story short, halfway through my pre-deployment training, and following his operation he suffered a fatal heart attack. The army were good to me and offered to defer my forthcoming trip to Iraq – but I felt that the change of circumstance would be better for me than sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself! So off to Iraq I went….
It was a conflicting experience – both exhilarating and boring in equal parts. It’s a strange thing to get your head around, realising that someone actually wants to kill, maim or otherwise do you harm! ‘Incoming….’ became an an almost constant refrain during the first few months as mortars hurtled towards the camp – but to paraphrase Forrest Gump – that’s all I want to say about that…
Less than a year after arriving home and moving back to Switzerland my older son was involved in an accident and died. No words can describe the devastating effect of that on the family – so I won’t even try…
Six months later, while we were still reeling, came the news that my beautiful almost-step-daughter had died in a hit and run accident in Bangkok where she was working as an English teacher. And then a further half year on my father finally lost his battle to cancer.
Something needed to be done to maintain sanity!
The first step was a conscious decision to find something beautiful or positive to comment on to myself every single day. The second step – to smile and acknowledge people I came across in my everyday life probably caused a few raised eyebrows – but people sometimes did reciprocate – after the initial shock!
More than 30 years ago – while working at an American College in Switzerland – I had been ‘accused’ of being ‘just a Pollyanna’ by a rather negative Professor of English. It was only recently, while re-reading the book as research for a positive thinking blog, that I realised I am probably just that – a Pollyanna – and it has served me well. It is not a natural state of mind for many of us – but one that can be learned – and which in time becomes an emotional-life-saving habit.
In these pages I hope to offer you something beautiful or positive to reflect on if you are struggling to keep your stuff together…..