“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
- Winston Churchill
In November of 2010 I got accepted into an Ed.D. program in Leadership at Creighton University. I was delighted to go back to school because of the opportunity to once again learn from fellow colleagues and from professors from various fields. I was filled with optimism for the future.
And then upon me, swiftly and heavily, came the news: I was being released from my job. There was not enough to sustain my wages. It was nothing that I had done. There was nothing that I could do.
I felt no ill towards my boss, my colleague, my friend. In fact at first I felt nothing at all. But then, as the weeks began to pass, I started to feel the dread of each new day. The questioning that would arise in my mind about myself, my worth, about who I was as a man, as a provider. I questioned the future. I questioned God.
Like any other person that has been in the situation, my moods fluctuated. There were good days and bad. There were days when I searched for jobs and worked hours on end, re-creating my resume, developing cover letters, thinking creatively. Then, there were other days where I was plagued by depression and the questions of life as I searched for many things other than just a job.
Essentially, I was searching for myself.
Yet, through it all I knew that I had the talent, the ability and the introspection to not only find myself, but to land a quality job.
In March, prior to a service trip to Laredo, Texas, my wife walked in the door with two pregnancy tests in her hands. I was shocked and a bit bewildered. “What was going on?” I thought to myself as she walked up the stairs without saying a word. About ten minutes later I stammered up the stairs to find both pregnancy tests lying on the bathroom counter with pluses on them. I didn’t know what to think.
Not only did I not have a job, we didn’t have maternity insurance.
I was struck with fear.
“Surely my wife isn’t pregnant!” I said aloud. “Those don’t look quite like pluses for sure on there,” I said to Alicyn.
So we decided that she would leave for Laredo and on return go to see the doctor. Directly upon her return we went to the doctor. Five minutes later we had the results in hand. Both of us sat in shock. What were we going to do now? Not only did I not have a job, but we didn’t have insurance for Alicyn. All of this was unbelievably surreal.
We began making phone calls and found that she could get an ultrasound for free at the EPS clinic here in town and so we set up an appointment for early April. It was a Friday, I had finally landed a job at Ted E. Bear Hollow, and for the last three weeks had come to not only accept the pregnancy, but love the fact that I was going to be a daddy. Although I had only been on the job for a week Nancy told me to take the Friday off to “celebrate.”
I met Alicyn at EPS and we proceded with the ultrasound. As the nurse began with the wand over the belly of my pregnant wife a look of concern swarmed the nurses face. I could tell that there was something wrong. After trying several other things the nurse finally said, “I am concerned. I haven’t found a heartbeat and for where you are along in the pregnancy, your baby is much too small.” Immediately tears welled to our eyes. We never thought prior to this that such a thing could happen to us, but it had: my wife was now carrying our dead child.
My wife continued to carry our child for almost four weeks after that day, even beyond the OBGYN’s urging. She wanted to pass the child naturally and I respected her for that. Although the entire ordeal raised my stress level, I tried to understand where my wife was coming from. However, I couldn’t imagine what my wife was going through knowing that the child that once lived inside of her now lie lifeless. My heart was crushed.
Nevertheless, my wife never passed the baby naturally. We were forced to have a D & C, a procedure that my wife did not want to have and a procedure that we knew would be very expensive. Although in the end my wife was fine, the bills we were left with ($12,000+), added an additional layer of stress that we didn’t need. The crushing blow of loss is enough without such a bill. However, because of my wife and her “fighter’s” attitude, she was able to cut this bill in half. I am so very proud of her and the way that she has endured through this loss. Not only has she lost her mother, but now a child. I cannot begin to fathom the pain.
Recounting the past eight months or so I have thought about how we both could have given into pessimism. We could have lost this battle. Many would have.
I am not patting myself on the back for my ability to overcome. I am simply noting that we have a choice as we battle through life. We can either choose optimism or pessimism. We can choose to live when gripped with the awfulness of death or we can die alongside our dead loved ones. It’s our choice. When we lose a job we can decide to pick ourselves up, recognize our humanity, understand ourselves, that we will have good days and bad days, have grace on ourselves and work hard or give up and rot away. It’s a simple, yet profound choice.
As I said earlier, it was more about finding myself than it was about finding a job. I had to re-define my outlook on life. I had to learn to live without certain commodities. I had to live on less income. Yet, we managed to survive and we are the better for it.
So let me say this: it’s not a matter of if, but when. Something will happen to you and you will have to choose how to respond. There are only two ways: with optimism or with pessimism. Maybe at the beginning it will be one way and then turn into the other way. Nevertheless, keep your head up and choose optimism.
I will end with a story.
The other day I mentioned on Facebook that I was glad that I could receive financial aid loans this summer. I had received an email telling me that I owed $5,500 for school and I was mortified. I called the school and found out that all I had to do is fill out the new FAFSA form. I was elated! So I posted how happy I was. During a time where we are paying off a huge medical bill we cannot afford also to pay off a school bill.
I was amazed at the negativity that I received from those close to me. What I received were not pleasant. What I received were statements like, “Your loans will own you until you are dead” and “You will have to pay those off sooner or later.” I responded with, “A little positivity please.”
In this life I have found that people struggle with positivity. It’s a fact. When hard times come, positivity fades away. But, hard times will come and you will have to choose. I am no expert on this, but, I have had my bit of loss and frustration in the last eight months and I will tell you, although you may sway back and forth you have to make a conscious decision about who you are going to be.
Be an optimist.