Life Twists

February 2017 gave our family yet another “life twist.” It was terrifying, all consuming, baffling, overwhelming and traumatic. I could list many more adjectives but I think you get the idea. Three quarters of the way through June, just shy of 5 full months later, our life started to resemble a version of our “normal.” Although I’m not quite ready to write about our most recent “life twist,” I am working on it because I know it needs to be shared to help other children and families. In the meantime, I do want to share some nuggets of wisdom I have gained through my “life twist” fights that were reaffirmed.

If you don’t resonate with this quote from Forrest Gump you need to take a moment and sit with it because it is one of the most true-life statements.

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get” – Forrest Gump

Mama Gump was spot on! Life is about living and every day that you wake up is a gift. Just like that box of chocolates YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO GET. Taking this a bit further – with the chocolates you get to spit out and throw away the ones that don’t satisfy you and you get to try another one. When you are given a “life twist” that sends your world crumbling you can’t always just spit it out, throw it away and wait for the gift of tomorrow. You have to hang on tight with every fiber of your being and fight.

When life requires you to hang on and fight, it changes you. It changes your perspective. It changes your relationships. It changes your priorities. It changes what you can give and receive. It changes EVERYTHING. Sometimes you may notice the changes immediately but often you don’t become aware of the them until you actually breathe and realize this particular “life twist” fight is waning. In some instances, you may not even see how it changed you until years later. Be gentle with yourself during the fight and in the time after when you are regrouping, healing and reassessing. I speak from experience when I tell you that the fight and aftermath are not always pretty. They are often defeating, an emotional roller-coaster, a blur of actions to just make it another day and a lot of fake smiles that take an enormous amount of energy and effort because if you speak you will burst into tears and not be able to stop.

There is no right way to handle a “life twist” and there is no guarantee of the outcome. Through my experience, I have learned 5 nuggets of wisdom that are true in every “life twist.”

#1. EVERY “life twist” WILL teach you a lesson and help you grow as a person.

#2. The choices and actions that occur during a “life twist” DO NOT and SHOULD NOT define you for the rest of your life. When you are in the fight you may look back and think, “Ugh, I screwed that up.” but guess what? You made the choice or did what you needed to do to get through that moment. If you can do better, do better. Otherwise don’t beat yourself up or let it consume you. (re-read #1)

#3. You CAN NOT be EVERYTHING to EVERYONE. Do you hear me? You have to understand that you are being stretched in ways you never imagined during a “life twist” fight. If you don’t take care of yourself because you are worrying about what everyone else expects you to be for them…you will hit rock bottom. It will hurt and more often than not your recovery will be messy. Be present, fight the fight, do the best you can for that day (or those 5 minutes) and take care of you. (re-read #1)

#4. New and unexpected people WILL come into your life. People you never could imagine your life without WILL leave. Your circle of support changes shape and somehow when you look back it makes sense in its new shape. (re-read #1)

#5. Everyone in your immediate family that is entrenched in the “life twist” fight WILL survive. For example, if your “life twist” requires you to give more to a specific member of your family, it is okay. Your family adapts and pulls together to fight together. You may need to get creative in the ways you are supporting the other members of the family. You need to be willing to accept that schedules and routines will change. Some days you will eat ice cream for dinner because you just cannot imagine pulling a dinner together and it is already close to bedtime. Remember I am telling you this from experience and from a raw place because I have been there. Everyone WILL be OKAY. (And one last time…re-read #1)

My box of chocolates also reminds me not to sweat the small stuff. Find at least one thing every day to be grateful for. (Even on days that you don’t want to…do it. There is always something or someone to be grateful for.) Be kind, give grace, live authentically, ask for help when you need it, don’t give up, love your people and do your best every single day.

One last thing, re-read #1. Have you picked up on how important this one is? Be open to receive and see the lessons and accept the growth to help you on the journey of being the best version of you that you can be each day. This will help you get through other “life twists.”

Taralee A. O’Malley-Hurff is an educator, a philanthropist and a published author. Her book, 100 Things To Do Before You Are 10, is the go to resource for family bonding and adventure. Taralee has passionately contributed to the fields of special education and early childhood education since 1998, meeting her students as needed in the home or in school. She excels at recognizing each child’s unique gift and successfully ignites their love of learning through exploration, discovery and play. It is through this work that Inspired Education was born. As a philanthropist, Taralee currently serves as the President of the Board of Trustees for the Southern Regional New Jersey Early Intervention Collaborative. This is her 6th year as a Board Member. Taralee enjoys family life in Southern New Jersey with her husband and three children.

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