This past year, almost everything I feared came true. I felt like, at times, I lost everything I cared about: reputation, friendships, and everything in between.
But by the grace of God, I'm still standing. And by that grace, I know it is for the greater good that I cannot yet see. This is a time in transition, but I know for certain that if I can keep standing in this cold season in my life, that God has made me more resilient and more tolerable of adverse circumstances than I ever imagined.
I have always had a deep fear of swimming in open water. When I was really young, I almost drowned, and to this day I have some slight fear going into the water at a beach or ocean. But then once I'm there and in the water, things are fine. I know that everything will be alright, and that's an awareness I didn't have when I was younger.
All my fears came true, but that was the best thing that could have happened to me. At times, that destroyed my anxiety. My pain and grief over losing almost everything I cared about was the best thing that could have happened to me, and although I couldn't see it at times, and sometimes I still can't see it, I know it's true now.
Pamela Cytrynbaum of Psychology Today echoes the point in an article that explores how grief can cure anxiety. The worst happened to Cytrynbaum when she lost her brother out of nowhere, and it wasn't even something she was anxious about. Instead, her anxieties were filled with germs, date rape, identity theft, Ebola, financial instability, and health. She tackled those anxieties through flu shots, insurance, seeing the doctor, and checking her credit rating.
How did this one get past my supersonic, hypervigilant anxiety radar? I thought I had played out every possible loss, every scenario, all of the potential wolves and Nazis at the door. Never saw this one coming.
She realized she didn't fear the right demons, "so certain I knew what to look out for," thinking she could outrun the wolves coming after her. But she couldn't see this one coming. "I know these are just thoughts and my life is full of profound blessings. But that's not how it feels," she says. "I got punk'd by my own brain. Big time." And for her afterward, nothing was scary anymore. "No loss seems impossible," and the loss of her brother was a sort of "pathological innoculation." Her profound suffering in grief taught her to prioritize what really mattered, and all those small fears didn't.
There is another popular adage I was reminded of recently: Murphy's Law, which states that "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong." And we scoff at Murphy's Law as something our overprotective parents or guardians tell us when there's any semblance of risk in our lives. I don't see any reason to abide by it and prepare for the worst possible outcome in any given situation or we won't take any risks (which is probably why, at 22, I don't think about insurance that much). But what happens when it actually applies, when whatever can go wrong does go wrong?
Well, it's important to note that when we say everything goes wrong, it means that everything goes wrong according to our plans. Sure, no one has close ones dying or unemployment or natural disasters anywhere near the top of their plans, but what we mean more by everything going wrong is just that circumstances turned out drastically unexpected.
It is only that kind of adversity, though, that reminds us of how lucky we are and how good we have it. Paul Hudson of Elite Daily writes that highly successful people "plan and then attack" in these circumstances because "moping isn't allowed." But my experience and my circumstances reminded me that sometimes, we just have to feel it or it's like a wound we don't treat, a wound that needs stitching that we don't stitch up. When life is a journey through hell and back, having a scar lets us thrive, but just pressing forward unsustainably with a severe, untreated wound does us no favors. Yes, we have to keep going, but we also need to take the time to stop, too.
Seeing our scars as sources of pride remind us that we are more resilient than we ever imagined, and our stories can inspire others to believe in themselves and do the same. I certainly know the heroes in my life are the ones who have navigated and traversed the most difficult of circumstances and come out on top.
When everything goes wrong, we're reminded how lucky we are to even be alive, even when being alive is an ugly thing to go through. "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on," Robert Frost once said. And those words are true and always will be while we mentally and emotionally wrestle with these questions. But Betty Draper of "Mad Men" offered succession and counterargument to that quote when she said, "I know people say life goes on, and it does, but no one tells you that's not a good thing."
Whether good or bad, though, there was a voice that told me, sometime in the peak of my struggle, that no one can decide whether our circumstances and life going on is good or bad. We decide. And God supersedes us and goes a step even further in the Genesis 50:20 rule: what man intended for evil, God intended for good.
"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself," Robert Frost said. And so from the outside looking in, someone may say that my life is utter chaos and in ruins. But so what if they're right? They don't define me. But even I say that my life is utter chaos and in ruins. But so what? God intended for this all to be good.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for a while. I'm still standing, and everything will be alright.