Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Play the cards you are dealt......or get new ones????

When I was a little girl, in an effort to encourage me to be strong and cope with the tragedies that sometimes accompany life, my mother often reminded me, “You have to play the hand (cards) you are dealt, sweetheart.”  Her well-meaning words were meant to help me keep going and not become bitter when life became difficult, especially after my dad died and later when she (mom) encountered serious heart trouble. She certainly faced some difficult times in her young life and the way she used her faith and strong will to persevere inspired me and molded me into the woman I am today. Those words became a sort of “mantra” for my siblings and me, and as a result of my mother’s role modeling, all three of us the Borawski kids grew up to be fighters….survivors….and very strong, independent adults.  In many ways I am very grateful for that life-lesson, but in some cases, those words became a stumbling block, and likely kept me from reaching out when I needed help. In a sense, they kept me trapped in a life of despair because I thought, “This is the life I have and things will never be any better” and so I did nothing to improve my circumstances. I just did what I needed to do to survive……and function.   

Let me explain. When my life became very difficult (2003) after not only one, but two job losses, an out-of-town move, a $9000 pay cut, the death of two loved ones, an arson that burned my family cabin to the ground…..and several other very tragic and life-changing situations, I was at a point where I couldn’t really take much more.  You’ve heard the story; there’s no need to dwell on it.  I coped the best I could and put on a happy face; in fact, even those closest to me didn’t know I was struggling so much because I hid my pain…both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, I turned to food, and I ended up over 400 pounds and at the lowest point of my life.

All during this time, I kept telling myself those words that were ingrained in me: “You have to play the hand you are dealt……”  Over and over and somehow, for many years, I did what I needed to do to keep my head above water for as long as I could.  God certainly was with me during this time because even after being unemployed for 18 months without unemployment, I managed to go back to college and graduate with not only one, but two degrees, sell enough stuff on eBay to keep my homes and the lights on, deal with the horrific side effects of some chemo type medication for the Rheumatoid Arthritis that caused me to vomit and be sick every weekend for over a year, go back to college when I was barely able to walk,  and eventually to get a new job that required me to work 40+ hours a week…..all while trying to cope with the struggles of life.  Mom’s words…and a firm belief that God was with me…got me through that time……but only by a thread.  I literally was in serious trouble when I started this journey; not financially, spiritually, or mentally, but emotionally and physically.  I was a real mess.

I have mixed emotions when I look back at those years. Sometimes I am amazed that I was able to leave that life behind. Mostly, I am grateful that God set me free from that old life and continually helps me on a daily basis to persevere.  But, I’m also ashamed that I didn’t reach out for help when life was so tough and that I wasted so many years living in a private hell. Ironically… the midst of that time…. I never, not even ONCE had the thought, “Theresa, if you don’t like the situation, do something about it!”  Hmm…..WHY?  Why did I just assume that THIS was the way life was always going to be?  Why didn’t I think that I had ANY responsibility for my situation?  Why was I blinded to my role in my physical and emotional health?  WHY?   Honestly, I don’t know.  I could justify myself by falsely claiming, “This was God’s will…” but I don’t believe that God WILLS us to be miserable.  I do, however, believe that He can use difficult times to teach, prune, strengthen, and mold us….and that He reveals Himself to us in the lowest times of our life….if we continually seek it, but I certainly do not think He wants us to be in despair.  I also believes that the struggles of my past were a part of His plan; a plan that He is revealing and preparing me for on a daily basis…and that without those times, I would not be where I am today.  God has used those experiences and struggles to help others and I am so humbled and blessed! He has turned my mourning into dancing and I am eternally grateful.  As my dear priest friend used to say, “No cross; no crown.”  And yet……

Today, I have a different perspective on things.  Yes, I believe that in many cases, “You have to play the hand you are dealt,”  when faced with situations in which we have NO CONTROL; meaning things that happen TO ME….like death, natural disasters, world situations, weather, the behavior of OTHER people.   When faced with a power outage from a storm: I have to deal with it.  When faced with a rainy day when a picnic is planned: I have to deal with it.  When a friend/loved one becomes sick or dies: I have to deal with it.  I cannot change some so many things and my mother’s words echo in my spirit, encouraging me to trust God, dig deep, and do what I need to do. 

HOWEVER… situations in which I do have control…….such as my weight, my attitude, my emotions, my reaction to situations, and my physical and mental well-being…..” I DO NOT have to play the hand I was dealt!” There are many things over which I have the power to change.  It wasn’t until a few years ago when I realized…”I CAN THROW THE CARDS BACK and get new ones!!!!!” DUH……Why didn’t I think of that before?  Once I decided that I didn’t want to live that life of obesity, depression, and immobility and that I COULD DO SOMETHING TO IMPROVE IT, I threw those cards in….and got new ones.  Thank you, God, for setting me free…..and dealing me a better hand when I decided, “enough is enough” and I surrendered my life/will/future/health to you.

So, my friends……my advice to you today is this:  If you do not like the cards you are holding, throw them back and get new ones.  If you don’t like the way you are feeling, or looking, or living…..take some action….even if it is just one tiny step….to change it. Go back to school to get some more education if you don’t like the job you have. Seek new friends if you are surrounded by negative people who are dragging you down. Make better decisions and give up bad habits if you aren’t happy with your life circumstances.  Don’t fall into the trap that I was in thinking that life could never change; that you are destined to be fat, addicted, miserable, sick, depressed, unhappy….whatever…..for the rest of your life.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  YOU CAN….and YOU WILL…CHANGE YOUR LIFE.  But… have to throw in the cards and take a chance on some new ones. Don’t hang on to the old ones thinking, “well, these are good enough.’  You have to change the way you THINK before you can change the way you ACT.   Cope with what you cannot change….but change what you can.   

As the clip art says so appropriately…..TAKE A DIFFERENT ROAD!  I have faith in you.  You can do it and I’ll be right here cheering you on!