By Theresa Anthony, Author, Hope Springs from a Mother's Broken Heart
By the time we reach a certain point in life, most of us have faced some pretty major setbacks and losses. No one can dodge suffering entirely, although it can be tempting to look at your neighbor wistfully, wondering how it must feel to live such a charmed life. But the reality is that we all carry the wounds of broken dreams and broken hearts. That’s life.
So, with that being established—that everybody shares the common denominator of human suffering to some extent—let’s talk about that numerator. I picture the numerator as the representation of our attitude—be it surly or sunny. The more positive our attitude, the larger the value of that numerator, and the better our quality of life. Just like a fraction: 1/4 is way smaller than 3/4.
When bad stuff happens, and it will, we always have a choice to make. Do we want to wallow in sorrow for months, walking around like Gloomy Gus, or will we choose to count our blessings and find new ways to seek joy? Using our fraction analogy, do we settle for our life-glass at 1/4 full or do we aim for 3/4 full, or even 4/4 full and spilling over if we're lucky? Allow me to elaborate.
Recently, I had to bid farewell to my daughter and her family, meaning three of my four beautiful grandchildren. She and her husband decided to relocate to a state where they can someday fulfill their own American dream and purchase a home. Who can blame them? But oh, I took it very hard. My oldest granddaughter, now eleven, moved out of state last year and that about killed me. Now my remaining grandkids will be living on the other side of the country, leaving me grandchild-less. I am heartbroken.
But alas! After only a few days, somehow a little ray of sunshine managed to push through the thick gray clouds that had enveloped me for the last several weeks in anticipation of their departure. Today, I find myself slowly adjusting to this new reality—to a life without the frequent, often daily, interactions with my grandkids.
In fact, just two days ago I went on the offensive and decided to rejoin my gym. Like so many people, I had cancelled my membership with last year’s covid shutdowns. I drove to the gym, reupped my membership, and headed straight into the Zumba class.
I am a big fan of Zumba, the dance cardio workout set to meringue Latin beats, and in fact attribute it to helping me climb out of a very dark time. About five years ago, when I was in survival mode after the loss of my son to suicide and then my wonderful man to leukemia after that, I couldn’t imagine ever feeling joyful again. But then one day at the gym I wandered into a Zumba class and immediately felt my spirits lift. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have a clue how to do the moves—I was smiling again.
Since that day I have made it a point to incorporate Zumba into my regular exercise schedule, slowly making my way from the back row of the class to the front row as I learned the steps. During the lockdown, I still kept Zumba in my life to some extent via online classes, although it just wasn’t the same without the others dancing alongside me.
After this latest setback, I knew in my gut that I needed to do something to help break the funk. So, there I was, back in Zumba class after eighteen months away, feeling pretty rusty and a tad out of shape. But just as before, Zumba worked its magic on my soul. Amazingly, as crushed as I am to have all my grandchildren living out of state now, I realized during that class that I still had the capacity to feel happy and joyful. My numerator increased in value that evening.
Don’t get me wrong: It need not be a Zumba class that raises your spirits following a difficult loss or major disappointment. Anything at all that brightens your outlook and stirs your soul will get the job done. The idea is to just find ways to offset the weight of that bummer denominator by improving the impact of the numerator—i.e., our attitudes.
That goal, to push those dark clouds apart and allow the sunshine back in, can be accomplished in many different ways. Whether it is hiking local nature trails, enrolling in cooking classes, seeing live music, going fishing, joining a choir, taking sailing lessons, or shimmying through a Zumba class, if it propels your mood and puts a smile on your face then you are on the right track.
And hey, there’re always FaceTime calls and road trips when I need my grandma fix.
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Learn more about a mother's grief journey. New book: Hope Springs from a Mother's Broken Heart on Amazon