2013, for me, was riddled with many unexpected twists and turns that chipped away at my own self-esteem and strength, both mentally and physically.
In 1969 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came up with a model of emotional stages that people experience with the reality of impending death or other extreme, awful fate experiences.
Commonly referred to as the five stages of grief they include Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and eventually Acceptance. Her hypothesis holds that not everyone who experiences a life-threatening/ altering event feels all five of the responses, as reactions to personal losses of any kind are as unique as the person experiencing them. Yet, many have become accepting of her theory and have used it as a source of healing both physically and mentally.
Our own sense of optimism, faith and sheer determination can either enable us to wallow in these various stages or catapult us to yet another stage that triggers a new found sense of enlightenment and mindset that prompts us to move forward eager to commence a new chapter in our lives.
So in 2013 every facet of my existence was challenged with unexpected setbacks, disappointments and turmoil that had me miffed and bewildered. Ross’s five emotional stages were overlapping along with the various minefields I was trying to navigate my way through.
Being too analytical for my own good made it incredibly difficult to see that proverbial glass as half full. My sense of humor was nonexistent as I grappled with a series of issues that seemed to overwhelm me. A cancerous tumor, a major career setback, financial ruin and even the death of my dear cat made for a series of unfortunate events that made it incredibly difficult to find a sliver of a silver lining amongst the clouds that hovered above me.
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! Rather than dwell on the “why” it occurred to me to focus on what I could do to lift myself out of all the despair and plan a rebirth of sorts. Rather than reach out for help it has always been my nature to reach inside myself first. I was raised on the belief that when you need a hand to first remember that you have one attached to each of your own arms.
I have had many ups and downs in life and despite the landslide of unfortunate circumstances in 2013, I have managed to survive them too. Never one to see myself as a victim also spurred me on to map out a course of action and lift myself to that stage of acceptance which rekindled my own sense of stamina and endurance. After all, over 30 years ago I was told that I would probably be dead in two years when I was diagnosed with HIV and yet here I am - undetectable and still very present.
Birthdays have been a turning point for me rather than a year’s end and 2013 was no different. October being my birthday month was also the start of a new personal new year. I landed a challenging job that not only combines my many years of fashion retail experience but also manages to tap into my earlier years growing up on a mixed farm.
Throughout my unorthodox youth and upbringing I lived in the country but attended city school so friends were few and far between. Instead, I had a wide array of various pets throughout those years that served as my best friends and companions.
From a baby fox my Grandfather found and gave me as a child to my years working with thoroughbreds at the racetrack as a groom and junior trainer in my late teens I always had a kinship with four legged critters. I had quite a diverse range of pets that were near and dear to me and can certainly relate to the love people feel for their pets. Rather than struggle to adapt to the ever-changing fashion world that isn’t as “pretty” as it used to be I am relishing the challenges of managing and buying for an independently owned Pet Shop that specializes in an organic/holistic approach to pet care situated right in the heart of downtown Toronto. It is also ironic to me that I have landed a job that combines the two distinct segments of my life and utilizes both experiences, creating a full circle affect.
For the first time in quite a while I really feel a sense of this is where I am supposed to be in and with my life. My sense of humor has once again returned as has my ability to reach out and help others through my passion for assisting others feel better about themselves and those they care for.
We are all a work in progress and despite those periods of life altering events we can continue to grow and flourish living our lives as best we can through faith, hope and sheer will.
Kubler-Ross mapped out a theory that still holds true and serves as a guide when the proverbial shit hits the fan. As unique individuals it is up to us to strive for our own sense of acceptance enabling us to move forward living our lives as best we can.
I truly hope this piece inspires you to experience 2014 (and future years) as ones filled with faith, hope, joy, happiness and your own silver lining if and when those clouds just might loom over your head.
I also agree with Kubler-Ross, “Beautiful people do not just happen”.