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Keeping pain in perspective

Yesterday, I opened up about some of the difficulties that I and my family have experienced in the last few years. It was a pretty vulnerable post, but I’m glad I wrote it.

It has also gotten quite a reaction. I’ve had friends comment that they “had no idea things were so bad” for us at the time.

While pity is not the intended point of the post (the point is about how those low times actually set us up for a fantastic 2019 and beyond), my wife and I actually took solace in the fact that so few knew how bad things had gotten for us.

Sure, a few very close friends knew. But outside of them, we just didn’t talk about it. It wasn’t anyone’s business, and we didn’t want to be those people who aired their dirty laundry on Facebook or whatever so that people would feel sorry for us.

The fact that we are past that low point is precisely why I felt more comfortable talking about it now.

But while those low years were incredibly painful and stressful, there was one thing (among several) that helped get us through it, even in the worst of times: perspective.

We were having a hard time paying bills. We had creditors calling us constantly throughout the day. Every morning we woke up, completely unsure of what was going to happen to us that day.

But when we started feeling too sorry for ourselves, we started listing off all the things we had that were awesome, like:

  • A rock-solid marriage
  • Two healthy, beautiful boys – and a wonderful prognosis after a heart disease diagnosis on our youngest
  • Miraculously, a roof over our heads
  • Heat
  • Window air conditioners*
  • Computers
  • Two cell phones*
  • The internet*
  • A media server loaded with whatever we wanted to watch or listen to*
  • Our own health
  • Food in the cupboards – not a lot, but we never starved
  • Clean water coming out of our faucet
  • Two functioning cars
  • A wealth of friends and family who offered their help to us if we needed it
  • Clothing (even if a lot of it had holes)
  • Friday night “dance parties” with our kids
  • A comfortable place to sit after a long day
  • A church full of loving people who encouraged us in our faith every week

If you look at these things, a lot of them are pretty standard for homes in America today. Despite financially living very closely to the poverty line, we had comforts that other people would dream of.

Shoot, all those starred bullet points up there? Those are things I didn’t even really grow up with (the internet was touch-and-go in the early years).

And beyond that, we found ourselves surrounded by loved ones going through struggles we couldn’t even begin to imagine:

  • A close friend has been fighting off terminal cancer for years. He’s in his forties and is a father to four children
  • One of my best friends lost her father suddenly to a heart attack
  • Another one of my best friends went through a very sad divorce

Those are just the ones off the top of my head. We all know people dealing with heartbreak, death, injury, disease, and loss.

Whenever we caught ourselves feeling too sorry for ourselves, we would just repeat: “It’s just money.”

We still had the things that mattered… and then some.

If you ever catch yourself spiraling, try writing down all the things you have. Don’t be afraid to be obvious.

Gratitude is a powerful thing.