Standing Strong

Standing Strong

If I ranked years in either good year or bad year columns, 2018 would definitely make it into my bad year top five list. Filled with multiple disappointments and multiple deaths, it also marked the tenth year since I lost Dan and the twentieth year since I lost my mama, so there were bad memories to contend with too. However, I am still breathing, which means I get more time to fight through this unpredictable and sometimes hellish world—a place according to the news and statistics has become unbearable to many who believe they cannot go on. Their eyes dimmed from so many tears they cannot see a way out of their problems, they cannot see there are people who care, and in that deep, dark valley where seemingly unsolvable problems seep out of hidden crevices, they lose hope. Then they sometimes make an irreversible decision.

Mama used to remind me when I went through storms, “Better days are coming.” Sounds too simple, however, it relays optimism, the power of staying positive, a “glass is half-full” scenario. In my research for one of my projects, I read about people who attempted suicide or about the family and friends who lost a loved one who gave up and said, “No more pain. I can’t do this anymore!”

Rarely, in my studies have I come across stories that are more heartbreaking than these. I used to wonder, “If only someone could’ve reached that person in time.” That’s not always possible because many people who are hurting, deeply hurting to the point they feel they have no hope, are often good at hiding those feelings. Their smiles mask mountains of pain.

I’ve been so discouraged I felt that even God Himself had abandoned me. If you’re feeling like that, please do not give up. Even though you think you all out of strength, your motivation has been drained dry, nobody cares, it is not true. Deep down inside you have what it takes to go on and get through whatever it is. Please understand that storms don’t last, although it seems like they do sometimes. Nothing in life, even the good things, last forever.

2018 was rough, but there are good moments and milestones with good memories tied to them. The year marked twenty-five years since I boarded my last sock in a textile mill. It took me a little over seven years to make that change (persistence paid off big time). During this difficult year, I found there are diamonds all around me, be they family or friends (old and new); they were there to remind me to keep going, don’t give up, stay persistent.

Staying motivated during difficult times is hard. Getting through them can sting like a bee, but we can stay strong and keep fighting.

When we were in Monaco a few years ago, we came across a group of trees planted high on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. What makes them notable is that they are all leaning out toward to the sea, appearing to desperately hang on while fighting the elements that seek to uproot and destroy them. The strong winds may have bent them over time, but they are still standing, still fighting, still surviving.

We may get blown around, scarred up, and our worlds flipped upside down now and again, but we can keep on fighting, keep on trying. Like the ant and the rubber tree plant and the train that thought it could we learned about in our childhoods, we can stay strong like those trees on that hill in Monaco.

It’s possible you are closer to a breakthrough than you think, something is going to happen to make the bad days worth the wait. Your situation may look hopeless now, but it’s not always going to be that way. 2019 may be your best year and like Mama said, “Better days are coming.”

Happy New Year!

 

 

© Dee Hardy | Encouraging the Discouraged, 2019. All rights reserved.

Surviving Bad Behavior

Surviving Bad Behavior

Bad memories I’ve tucked away for years seeped to the surface recently, and it comes from reading posts from others sharing their painful experiences as a child or as a teenager. I have very few good memories of high school—it was a bastion of bullies—a boot camp that separated the men from the boys, the women from the girls. I suffered alone, often going home and pounding a pillow like it was the bully of the day, then breaking down in tears, sobbing silently; the pain was so bad.

Despite those difficult circumstances, I believed it was possible to have your own personal pep rally; to encourage yourself that things will get better, situations will improve, you can go on, or in some cases, move on. I’d tell myself things would get better when I got out of high school. Grownups don’t act like that.

No. They sometimes act worse and in more deceptive ways, not caring what lies they tell or whose life they destroy to get what they want. Although those bullies are classified as adults, they’re often more vicious than any pubescent or teenage antagonist ever thought about being. One major difference is that young people who are victims of bad behavior usually don’t have enough life experiences to understand one important fact.

Something I didn’t learn until I was well into my adult years.

Here it is. No matter how high or mighty we rise, no matter how rich or powerful we become, whether we’re beautiful or handsome, or ugly as a Blob fish, and no matter who protects us, we do not get away with mistreating others.

Eventually, a day of reckoning will come, the Karma bus will arrive, we will reap what we’ve sown, and we’ll sometimes get it back much worse than what we gave our victims.

Since Dan died, I’ve had to reconvince myself of this more than once. He was the one who kept me grounded, who reminded me to let things go. In the last several years, I’ve found that a few people not only stuck a sword in my back, they twisted it and forced it in deeper, and in some cases took advantage of the fact that I’m a widow.

I’ve wanted so many times to go home or call Dan to tell him what happened, so he could tell me everything was going to be all right; they would get theirs someday. That’s not an option anymore, for the house is empty and of course, there’s no way I can call him.

People who belittle or bulldoze others in their way may think they’ll get by with what they do or what they’ve done to others, but in time it’ll catch up with them. In my cases I may not see it happen, but I can rest assured and you can too in your situation, that no matter how badly someone has treated you or where you are in life when it happens, what goes around, comes around. It may take a long time—I’ve seen it take over thirty years, but it will happen.

I still see some of my tormenters from those horrible high school days around about and occasionally their profile picture will pop up on Facebook. As I write this I’m looking at one of them who made it her business to let me, and anyone else around, know which of my physical characteristics were mock worthy.

I know some of her history since we left high school, and it hasn’t been good. It’s been painful, in fact, and I do feel sympathy for her. But I can’t help but wonder does she remember how she made me feel so inferior, making fun of me for what I had no control over.

And I sincerely hope no one has told her Father Time has not been her boyfriend.

Yep, payback can be hell.

 

© Dee Hardy | Encouraging the Discouraged, 2018. All rights reserved.

Angels Among Us

Angels Among Us

When I began blogging, I wanted to use this avenue to encourage people who are struggling. Having some, well, maybe, a lot of experience in that area I thought I could be useful there. Here lately, I found myself needing encouragement too, a voice to remind me to keep trying, or to help me stay focused on my goals. My Mama used to be the captain of my cheerleading squad; the one who taught me to never give up and to hold onto to my faith. She’d tell me stories about people who kept going no matter what, and sometimes when I was glum she’d break out with that fabulous little song called “High Hopes.” You remember, the one about an ant and a rubber tree plant.

Mama went to heaven on a hot summer night in 1998, leaving behind her devastated daughter to hold on to her memory and her lessons. What she taught me stayed with me, her words reminding me God didn’t give me an off switch, and the fight to survive doesn’t end until your last breath. God gave me a strong will, and Mama didn’t let me forget it, making sure it was embedded in my mind. Her strategy worked until my husband died. All bets are off now.

When Dan died, I learned God sent angels in the form of other widows who could empathize with what I was going through. The first angel I found actually sat across from me at work—I called her just a few hours after I became a new widow; I can still remember parts of our conversation that horrible morning. Two more angels came into my life a few weeks after Dan’s death, and another angel, who doubled as my cousin and who knew all too well about the pain, was only a phone call away.

I now believe God sends us angels during other difficult times too, especially when your mama is no longer with you. Not all of us have or had a good mother. No, not all mothers are the same, but I got lucky there. When I was growing up, she was my mama, my protector, my teacher, the disciplinarian, but when I became a woman, a deep friendship developed.

When the bad times come now, I can no longer get a dose of her wisdom or encouragement. I could use some of those—the keep-at-its, the “you come from strong stock,” and “it’s always darkest before the dawn.” Yeah, no doubt some days are darker than others.

However, I am grateful for those angels who helped me during my, so far, darkest period, and since losing Dan, these angels have increased in number. Not all of them are widows.

The last few weeks have been difficult, and I want to hear Mama’s voice. I can still remember the sound of it when she spoke, when she sang, her laugh. I want to tell her what’s going on like I used to do. Knowing that’s impossible, God placed a few more angels around me who are echoing her words, almost like channeling, being the voices of reason, of inspiration, telling me, “you’ve come this far, don’t give up now,” or “He will get us through all things.” On the stormy days, the ones when it seems like lightning is popping everywhere, filling my heart with fear, it’s hard to remember giving up is not an option; sometimes it’s hard to trust in the power of God.

A few of my angels have been busy making me remember what Mama taught me, even though they never knew her. There’s no way they’ll ever know how much their listening to me or texting just a few lines, reminding me to get back up and keep trying or to ignore the junk when dealing with difficult people has meant to me.

I miss my Mama, and though I can’t be with her, I do have strong women in my life; some are family, some are extended family, all of them I cherish. No one can ever replace Mama, but these angels have and are making my walk alone easier.

If people important to you are no longer with you, don’t overlook the angels who’ve come into your life, speaking words of wisdom, encouragement, and strength. Listen to them and stay focused. Most of all, never, ever give up!

To all the mothers and to those beautiful angels in my life, Happy Mother’s Day!

 

© Dee Hardy | Encouraging the Discouraged, 2017. All rights reserved.