Sometimes life sucks. And don’t we all have a story, or two, or ten, about just how bad it sucks? I’m here to tell you that it can suck for everyone. For some more than others. But if you lean in, I’ll tell you a secret that it took me decades to learn…the more it sucks, the better off you can be.
Last week I went to a mind blowing, two-day seminar where nineteen brilliant people spoke. While they all had something valuable to share, the best speakers were the ones who bled – all over the stage. They got up and shared things that most people would keep secret. The kind of stuff that shakes you in your shoes.
Most of us would shrivel up and hide, waiting for comfort. And a few of them did just that. But when they realized that nothing was going to get better until they lifted themselves up, everything changed for them.
Years after their hardships, they are successful, brilliant, talented people who offer huge gifts to the world. Each one of them had a pure exultation for every moment of what happened to them. Not that they enjoyed the hardships. But they appreciated their ability to withstand the pressure and come out the other side stronger than they had been.
The same has been true for me. My mom died when I was twenty-four. After being sick for many years, she left me with not much else but a rocky childhood, a handful of bills, and my nine-year old brother to raise. At twenty-four years old, I became a parent and took on responsibilities that changed the course of my life.
There were days when I resented my plot in life. And there were many days, even years later, when I couldn’t get out of bed. I had chosen a lucrative profession that made me miserable just so I could support my family. The pressure was intense and life sucked.
Or so it seemed.
When I finally pulled myself out of bed, I realized that everything I went through molded me into who I had become. Someone who’s generous and kind and compassionate. Someone who has courageously rebooted her life and can now spend hours, even days, writing to her heart’s content.
Nothing has ever felt sweeter.
So here’s my two cents. Sit for a moment and close your eyes. Visualize taking all those dark, sad, tragic, heartbreaking things that happened to you and compress them until all the dirt and grime falls to the ground. You’ll see that what you are left with is a huge, brilliant diamond. Now wrap that diamond in a big, bright, beautiful bow. Place it on a shelf inside your mind, where it will be ready to access whenever you need it.
Singer, song writer Ann Wilson of Heart did just that when her band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this month. Here’s what she said in her acceptance speech, “I had the wrong gender, looks, DNA, and hometown for music business success in the era we grew up in. But aren’t the sweetest parts about music always what’s wrong?”
These hardships are what make us shiny and valuable – they are our diamonds. They aren’t meant to be hidden away under shame and embarrassment. They are meant to be worn with pride and shared with others who need a hand. And when we share ourselves, our true selves, that’s when we change the world.