Forward Living: The choice — to take a step or to stumble

At one time or another we’ve all stamped our feet and cried out to the universe: “It’s not fair!” Tantrum? Of course, because in reality whatever caused our pain wasn’t fair — but who says life is always fair? What screws us up the most is the story in our heads of how things should be. 

I’ve read Rabbi Harold S. Kushner’s classic best-seller “When Bad Things Happen To Good People” at least three times, but who’s counting? Finally something within me clicked: On this roller-coaster ride we call life, our trials and tribulations can be stumbling blocks or become stepping stones.

Many women who have beaten breast cancer have become ambassadors for the cause. Some have founded support groups; others have raised breast cancer awareness by wearing and distributing pink ribbons. I know a great gal who reaches out to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. She offers moral support through her story of survival and has made a difference in the lives of countless women.

Losing a job or being passed over for a promotion is a traumatic experience. Many folks feel so identified by their work that it’s easy to sink into depression. I worked with a guy who was terminated from his Wall Street job. He went back to school and became a nurse, and a beloved one at that.

A long-term relationship that hits the skids is mind-blowing, especially when one of the parties didn’t see it coming. Although sadness, betrayal and anger are the prominent emotions, once these feelings subside we may come to realize that if it’s not this person, then there’s someone better. And guess what? The better usually comes along.

Those who have lost a spouse or a loved one through death are the most vulnerable folks on the face of the earth. The whys are endless and pointless. Finding the courage to grieve is hard. Some folks will run away from grief by engaging in destructive behaviors. Who can blame them? However, the 100-foot tidal wave of emotion that envelops one who is bereft is stronger than any quick-fix remedy. There’s no choice; grief will have its way. But there is one caveat: We can’t stay stuck. Life will, if we are willing, move us along until we emerge scarred and battered but bolstered by the brilliant inner light of resilience.

During the “worst of the worst” it’s almost impossible to see the light. Yet we travel on blindly, feeling our way through the darkness. We flounder, fall on our faces, get up and try again. Or maybe we just don’t have the strength to get up — for the moment, that is. But get up we must.

Being widowed twice may qualify me as a “super widow”; I assure you I’m not. However, through every “it’s not fair,” every tantrum, when I couldn’t or wouldn’t get up, unbeknownst to me something strange and wonderful was happening. I realized that those traumas were also stepping stones to another life. Sure, those stones are slippery, but if we don’t have the wherewithal to make our way over those little stones, they will morph into stumbling blocks. We will metaphorically drown in three inches of water. How sad is that?

I have this quote from Patrick Overton on my desk and refer to it often: “When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take that step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen … There will be something solid for us to stand on, or we will be taught how to fly.”

Hidden in the human heart are marvelous capacities for survival. Life is a process. We are life’s living enterprise. Everything that has happened in our lives has happened for a reason and is an integral part of becoming who we are.

The choice is ours: stepping stones or stumbling blocks. A no-brainer, don’t you think?

Iannelli_CMs. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.