What can possibly be the upside?

Everything's an offer
— Rob Poynton

By John-Paul Flintoff

Last week, I gave a public talk about how we can all take control of our lives, and stop feeling like victims.

At one point, I mentioned an idea that has had a lot of resonance for me: that everything, no matter how bad, represents an opportunity – and that our task is to find out what that is. We can’t stop horrible things happening, but we can look for the opportunity they present – and the sooner we do that, the sooner we feel like we’re back in control.

But like everybody else, I struggle with this idea. And rather than talk a lot of “motivational” rot that I don’t even believe, I admitted that I struggle with it. In fact, I said, I’m struggling with it a lot at the moment. I’m finding it extremely difficult to see any kind of upside, after two special people died and another was taken horribly ill.

(As I spoke, I became aware that I was on the verge of bursting into tears, and my feelings must have been pretty obvious because someone came up to me afterwards and said, “Have you always been a sensitive person?”)

Anyway, later in the week I received a lovely email, and I want to share it here:

Hi John-Paul

I work with XXX at XXX. I hope you don’t mind me emailing you but something you said last night really struck me and I felt the need to share some thoughts.

When you talked about your [relative’s] illness, you mentioned how hard it is to try and find the positive. That’s certainly been my experience too. My two children have special needs, and face daily challenges that are devastating at times for all of us. But there has been a lot of positive to come out of it for me and my husband including:

  1. No longer sweating the small stuff and gaining huge amounts of perspective
  2. Developing a very dark sense of humour that can sometimes make us cry with laughter
  3. Becoming much more compassionate for others who are suffering
  4. Truly appreciating the little moments of joy in life like a hot cup of tea or playing with the kids
  5. Becoming a super-tightknit family (as you mentioned)
  6. Understanding that you don’t need much in life to be happy (if the kids are ok, we’re ok)
  7. Generally being much nicer people

I hope that you’ll get to experience some of these and that you get through this horrible time. Thanks for sharing your brilliant musings too last night – I really enjoyed it.

So I’m glad that I shared my struggle. Every part of my body was telling me to keep it to myself – but if I had, I would never have been given this encouraging response.

Posted: May 3, 2015