Below is an article that best conveys why learning from experience is a key factor in people being resilient faced with adversity. This research is foundational to my business. Please take a moment to read it and then I will share my stories of how I have learned from experience and you can think of how you might employ this strategy yourself. Life is tough on many of us and we can spiral into being a victim or a learner and survivor. I coach people into being learners and survivors.
I was returning to college in Minnesota after having Thanksgiving in Indiana with my family. I was in the backseat of a minivan. A couple of drops of sleet hit the windshield. We fishtailed. I watched us go into the ditch. We rolled three times and my body was ejected 25 feet from the vehicle. I remember every detail. I broke my back in three places and could not get up. I could barely breath because my lungs were so bruised from the rolling. I thought I was probably done for. At Mayo Clinic Dr. Cabanela would tell me that he would do his very best but in this situation I should make sure I say everything I need to say to my parents because there were no guarantees. I came through that surgery. I was told I would have chronic pain, walk funny, never participate in athletics, etc. This was a lot for a young woman just starting adult life. That prognosis was not correct.
The biggest thing I learned from this experience is that every moment is just a sweet gift. There are no guarantees. I have lived every day since driven by gratitude and purpose. It was a blessed teacher. Thank you accident.
The first marriage
I dated for the first time at the end of college. My charming neighbor friend started pursuing me and I was smitten. He had a rough childhood and I had gobs if compassion for him. Our marriage was a series of wonderful times mixed with the most degrading verbal abuse, and terrifying threats. One of his favorite things to say to me was that he was going to chop off my head and defecate down my throat. I called the police on him once when he threatened to kill my dog. He probably has bipolar. He is a narcissist and maybe a sociopath. His abuse victims continued after I finally escaped him. I believe he is skilled on preying on empathic types. While the divorce was being settled, he threatened to come and shoot me with a gun. He told a Sunday school teacher this. It was the night before teacher workshops and I had to leave my house in my pajamas and stay the night with friends. There were signs that he was having extramarital affairs with men throughout our marriage. I got a restraining order. During this time, he called me to say that he saw the dog in the yard and he could have taken him. He also said you didn’t change the locks on the garage and I have the hatchet. I found a 5 gallon bucket outside of my bedroom window with large footprints. The police said that they couldn’t do anything unless I saw him. Forgive my French, but that seemed too damn late. Meanwhile my neighbor two houses down had a restraining order, too. I left Chet, and got my maiden name back, and found healthy friends. I discovered that I can have a happy single life having with a healthy tribe of friends. Thank you Chet for being the Dark Lord that helped me reach for my best life and better know how to reject the plots of narcissists. I know longer fear you. You have zero power over me.
It was October, about 9:00 or so. I had just gone to bed. I heard a scream I will never forget, and five pops of a gun. I thought, my God, Chet is coming for me. I crawled across my floor to the phone and called 911. I peaked out the window and saw Cindy’s car door open, she was slumped in the seat. It is like a dream and defies any common sense but I went to her, not knowing where the gunman could be. I saw her brain. The police came. I gathered on the sidewalk with neighbors. Cindy was to get married the next day and her ex came and shot her as she got in her car. She didn’t survive. The next day, I could not open my door to let the dog out. My friend, Kendrick , came to help me. I missed one day of school and no more.
I had to talk myself through each day, going out my door, past the spot where I saw Cindy in her car, past the place I saw the five gallon bucket outside my bedroom window. One day at a time I became mentally more tough, resilient. I learned that these battles in your brain can be won and there is a pathway out of paralyzing fear and anxiety and depression. One day at a time. One moment at a time. Thank you Cindy. I heard you. I was with you in those last moments. I will not forget. In your honor, I will always hold space for women going through what we have experienced.
The second marriage
My second husband is the main caregiver of my daughter so I am not going to go in as much detail. I gave up financial power and put up with being daily disregarded and disrespected. He had a stink eye. He looked at me like I was stupid and worthless as a habit. There were hints that there may have been other women and vices causing issues in our relationship. When I said I was leaving, he behaved in a way that triggered some PTSD and left under duress. Since he was the biological parent, so I only negotiated for my daughter and suffered great financial abuses in the divorce. He did not pay on the house that I did a quit claim on so my daughter would have the home. He lived there for free for three years. That choice made it nearly impossible for me to get housing. I did not get to see my daughter that I had been the primary caregiver of for 8 years very much at all. It was the worst thing that happened to me in my whole life. It was an effective way to break my soul. Fortunately, my daughter and I are still connected. I am grateful for that. I grieve the time lost but look forward to being there for her for her future.
I learned from this to keep holding on even if it looks like you lost everything that matters. One day can change everything. And again, do not give your love and life to someone who does not give back. Thank you second marriage.
Three years ago this coming week, my dad was suddenly in the hospital. I was first told he was getting better. A couple of days later, Dad would be going into hospice. A day or two later, he had only hours to live and I was told to come home now. All of this happened in the period of one week. Dad knew he had cancer and just did not tell me. It quickly spread throughout his body. He swore mom to secrecy. I talked to him on the phone that week. By the time I got there, he was unconscious, and I was told that he expressed that he was ready to die. Oxygen was removed, blood- pressure dropped, and dad did the hard work of dying. He was a sweet generous man. He was not like the people I have partnered with romantically. He was mourned by so many that had good memories of him.
I decided to stay with mom in Indiana to get her through the transition. Overnight I lost my dad, my home, my friends from over the last 28 years I had been in Minnesota, and I also had to do a messy break up. I had been living with my boyfriend that had a rage fest about a month before dad died. Thankfully, due to my previous education with narcissists, I did not feel compelled to see if he would evolve. I have no room for people that justify rage and verbal abuse. When dad was dying, this boyfriend could only think of himself. He didn’t even want me to leave to be with my dad. He almost didn’t come to the funeral. The idea that I needed to care for others besides him made him lose his &$@?. Another narcissist… we’ll keep that story short.
All of my experiences have taught me a lesson that can be simply stated as the most important thing in life is value the people who love you and do what lights you up. Life is short and it should be beautiful. I am in a constant creative process along those lines.
I could go on forever about learning from experience because I am daily goofing up. I fall down but I get back up. Sometimes stuff just happens and sometimes it is my mistake. It does not help to have a victim mentality or to shame yourself when you fall short. You have to give yourself credit for what you have overcome. I know my stories are mild compared to some of you. Give yourself some credit.
Questions to help you learn from experiences:
How have hard times been your teacher?
What kind of people do you need to surround yourself with?
What self talk is making you a victim? How can you change those messages into mantras that propel you in a positive direction?
How can you thank those hard moments in life for teaching you?
What can you do to demonstrate self- love today?
These blogs are often written on the run and I come back and edit later… but in case I have no later, I will publish now and hope it helps someone.