Blogversation 2012: When did life hand you something terrible that turned out to be great?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation here and on their blogs — asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the ladies of Blogversation 2012.

I try not to be biased — there’s been so much good conversation in the Blogversation, with thoughtful questions and compelling answers — but I am so eager to see this week’s conversation.

Often when we’re in the midst of something painful, we can’t see its full effects. We can’t see that losing a job or going through a divorce or whatever other difficult experience is going to lead us to a dramatically better place.

So with that comes this question about evolution and revolution from Kim Ann Curtin,, @kimanncurtin on Twitter:

Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Saying Yes to Life

This week Kim Ann Curtin asks, "When did life seemingly hand you a doozie yet over time it became clear that it was the best thing that could have happened?"

One of the greatest mentors of my life is and has been the mythologist Joseph Campbell. He speaks of a conversation he had with a Taoist master in “The Power of Myth” that teaches him that we must say yes to life.

Campbell approaches the master and asks if that’s true then wouldn’t that also mean saying yes to the bad things that happen as well? And the master agrees that it would – and while it might be hard for some to accept – it is what’s true.
Saying yes to a raise, promotion or a marriage proposal from the love of your life are easy to say yes to. But being fired? Losing all your money? Watching a loved one slip into an illness that makes them a shell of the person they once were? How in hell does one say yes to that?!

And yet when I think about what primitive civilizations faced, I imagine they faced loss every hour of the day – life threatening in fact and interestingly enough they said yes all the time! This from Campbell’s Pathway’s to Bliss:

“The first, primitive orders of mythology are affirmative: they embrace life on its own terms. I don’t think any anthropologist could document a primitive mythology that was world-negating. When you realize what primitive people run up against—the pains and the agonies and the problems of simply existing—I think it’s quite amazing. I’ve studied a lot of the myths of these cultures around the world, and I can’t recall a single negative word in primitive thought with respect to existence or to the universe. World-weariness comes later with people who are living high on the hog.”

Kim Ann Curtin recently had this "yes" necklace made by Lauren Harkness. Click through to Lauren's website.

I recently had a necklace made of this empowering word to help me remember that this is how I want to live. A life that says yes to life. Yet believe me I still find it really hard to say on some days in spite of it hanging around my neck. I yearn to say it all the time and sometimes because of grace I do. One of the ways that helps me say it in the fire and the rain is when I remember times in the past when life appeared to hand me what looked like an absolute horror and yet in the long run turned out to be the very key to my freedom and in fact wound up being the very best thing that could have happened to me.

So that’s my question: When did life seemingly hand you a doozie yet over time it became clear that it was the best thing that could have happened? That, as Rilke says, life clearly was in the “right?” 

Categories: lifestyle

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9 replies

  1. I’ve had multiple experiences of a sort of reverse Trojan horse – something rides up to my doorstep looking like a terrible attack, but it turns out to be just the opposite.
    For example, I’ve blogged about how losing my job the day before my mother was diagnosed with cancer made for a pretty lousy week, but I was blessed to have more time to spend with my mom in her final months.
    Likewise I’ve blogged about how having my full-time job eliminated at the AP led to going part time and transforming both my work and my life.
    But I won’t talk about work this time. Instead, I’ll talk about love and heartbreak.
    Several years ago, I was engaged and living with my fiancé. We had the church reserved, the band and photographer booked, I owned the dress. We were about to buy our first house.
    A few days before we were to close on the house, we had a date night planned. He was late getting home from work so I waited. And waited. And waited.
    Eventually, he called and said cryptically he needed to go talk to his sister. My intuition told me immediately what was up, as I’d had suspicions about an intern he worked with. I flew in to a rage, screamed that I knew she was sitting right there while he was calling me, and stormed out of our apartment after first smashing a photo of the two of us together.
    When he eventually came home and we talked, he denied the break up was about the intern. They got married quickly thereafter.
    I was devastated and despondent.
    I don’t remember how I found my therapist, only that I knew I needed to see someone. I was beyond lucky to find someone unwilling to let me pay to whine about my victim status. Yes, she said, I was suffering the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder – not eating, not sleeping, feeling irrational with trouble concentrating – but my cheating, lying ex did not do this to me, she said.
    I did. I was in that relationship. I chose him. I ignored the signs that things weren’t working. This despair was the result of my own bad choices.
    Swallowing that bitter pill was just the medicine I needed.
    I made a list of everything I wanted in my ideal mate. I stared hard at the list and saw all the places my ex was not that man.
    Slowly, tentatively, I began dating again. Words cannot describe how bad I am (or was, I should say) at dating, but I pushed through my anxiety about rejection to get on with my life.
    Just as the universe brought me exactly the tough love therapist I needed, I was blessed to start dating a good looking, funny, kind man who understood how heartbroken I was. We went out for close to a year and I grew to love him, but my list kept me mindful that he wasn’t my life partner. He was more like a personal trainer getting me back in shape to love again.
    Eventually my ex came to the apartment we used to share to claim his remaining possessions. I braced for another wave of depression and tears, but was surprised when I mostly felt mad at myself that I’d let him treat me that way.
    Maybe I didn’t cry that night because my ex brought his new tenant, who was renting a room in the house my ex and I were planning to buy together. I talked to the renter and thought, oh universe, what a sense of humor you have, that this guy living with my ex in what was supposed to be my house is so attractive.
    Months of disentangling possessions, mail, all the doings of a mini-divorce went by, giving me several chances to chat with the renter in my would-be house. It became clear we were attracted to each other, even though it was a terrible, complicated idea.
    Eventually I went on a date with him, mainly to prove to myself that the only reason I found him so compelling was that he was forbidden fruit, so I could continue with my healing and move on.
    Except that tenant was John, and we’re coming up on our 12-year wedding anniversary in May.
    If not for the worst break up of my life, I might never have clarified what I really wanted from a mate, might not have been available to meet that man if he did come along – and if we hadn’t been about to buy a house when my ex broke my heart, pressing my ex to take in a renter to help make the mortgage, I might never have met the man who was nearly everything on my wish list.
    I believe in every one of life’s hurts, there is an opportunity for learning or growth. In this case, the silver lining was also love, with a man who’s made my life so much richer.

  2. I started a new job and planned my wedding at the same time. We’re talking about a wedding which I had THREE weeks to plan. I didn’t breathe for what seemed like a long time. Right when I came back to work after the weekend I got married, I found out I was part of another round of layoffs. After being let go from the job, i felt like I could start to NOTICE that I had gotten married. I had a chance to breathe and enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season with my handsome and fun-loving honey of a husband.

  3. As I grow through life this seems to be the case, terrible eventually gets better. Everything passes & falls into place, if you look at it from the right perspective. Thank goodness…I’m forever searching for the silver lining.

  4. “Where we stumble, there lies our treasure.” – Joseph Campbell.

  5. March 31, 2012: Today is the third anniversary of the beginning of the rest of my life.

    It was three years ago almost to the hour that a few well-rehearsed words sliced the ties that bound me to the job from which I thought I would retire.

    So, what do writers do when they find themselves in choppy, murky waters? This writer started writing, and I produced what is probably the most personally important piece I’ve ever written. Shell-shocked after getting laid off, I wrote a piece for a national website that I had admired and read for awhile; within a couple hours of posting it, it became an editor’s pick, made the site’s cover and showed me there was an audience for my work far greater than I had ever imagined.

    I also posted a more local version of the piece on my former newspaper’s website because I couldn’t get past not being able to say goodbye to the many co-workers, friends and readers with whom I had so enjoyed spending the previous 19 years.

    Since then, I’ve refashioned my life and I can say quite honestly, three years later, losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me. It doesn’t always feel that way, and, yeah, I still occasionally post little pissy pieces about my former corporate overlords, and, yeah, I don’t have as much money, but I have two things money can’t buy — freedom and time. I’ve got time to think and write about whatever the hell I want (and I love that I can use the words “pissy” and “hell” anytime I like).

    I’ve also discovered the secret one of my neighbors shared with me just after I got laid off.

    “You’ll be surprised at how well you can get by on so much less,” she told me.

    She was so, so right.

    The most important thing I’ve gained, though, is how I ended that first post of the rest of my life: I’ve been absolutely present for my kid, the baby readers of my newspaper column fell in love with who turns 13 in just a couple months. And what a kid he is. Each and every moment with him is a wonderful gift, the pot at the end of the journalism rainbow, my reward for a job well done. I’ve not missed a beat with him these past three years, and I’ve watched him thrive.

    For this, I give thanks each and every day.

    You can read the post that showed me there is, indeed, life after newspapers, here:


  1. Making our own luck by being open to possibility « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally
  2. Blogversation 2012: Wrapping up a year of online conversation « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally
  3. SXSW, part II: Serendipity’s role in success and how to cultivate it | Newvine Growing -- exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally

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