I’ve had a hard time of things lately. I don’t say this to complain, but more to explain. I hate learning the full meaning of statements like “when it rains it pours.” I’ve felt like the unluckiest person in the world for most of September. And to add insult to injury, any creative writing has been almost non-existent. If I had one word to describe last month and the first week of this one, it would easily be sucks.
HOW DO YOU MAKE IT THROUGH TIMES OF TROUBLE?
If you haven’t had a rains-it-pours spot of life, buck up because it’s coming. But for the rest of us who’ve been through them a time or two, when life is spectacularly sucking, making it through the suckage can be incredibly difficult—especially depending on what’s exactly we’re going through at the time.
Realize that while some things that help others may work for you, at the end of the day you’re completely unique which means there is no one-size-fits-all handbook for handling adversity which means while you can take recommendations figuring out how to get through something is going to take you listening to you.
You may draw strength from your friends, family, your faith, truths you hold sacred—whatever it is, understand this about yourself so when storms come you’ll be ready for them.
Or at least as ready as you can be.
I am an extremely religious person. So for me a lot of where I draw strength from comes from my faith. This is where the winks come in, although I wholeheartedly believe these winks can still work for the less religious. You can call it coming from the universe if that’s more comfortable for you.
WHAT IS A WINK?
I define winks as little things God sends you that lets you know He’s still there, still caring, and that the storm won’t last forever. Think of them as small reprieves or little bits of sunlight peeking through dark clouds for a moment or that burst of cool air on a sweltering day. It doesn’t bring you total relief, it just keeps you going for a little while longer. They’re always there, it’s just in the midst of our troubles sometimes they’re hard to see.
HOW TO LOOK FOR WINKS
I used to be an extremely negative person. I didn’t even know how negative I was. I think I was just dealing with life as best I could, but my view of the universe was no good deed goes unpunished.
It’s difficult to make the transition from negative to positive and it’s certainly nothing that happened overnight. My mom, when I was a teen, would say to me, “You choose whether or not to be happy.”
And more often than not my response was something like this:
What the *bleep* did she know about anything?! She didn’t understand how I was feeling. How everything in my head felt like it could explode at any second and how I wanted to scream and scream for all the things I was dealing with! (Aaah, those teenage years. Thank goodness they’re behind me…)
The thing is, she was right. But that’s a hard thing to swallow. Even harder to convince a negative person like myself to accept. And negativity can make seeing winks extremely difficult.
Now a note about choosing to be happy. It doesn’t mean you repress the difficulties or ignore them or pretend to be happy when you’re actually not. A big myth I had to overcome in my life was that being happy meant you’re feeling good ALL the time. Or that the absence of pleasure meant the absence of happiness. And that’s just not the case.
So how does one push away enough of the negativity to see winks? Or even make the transition from negative to positive person? In my experience, the easiest path (note: easiest, not necessarily easy) is gratitude.
And I distinctly remember thinking: How in the world is gratitude going to make any amount of difference? I’m still going to have my problems. I’m still going to feel like crud. What’s gratitude going to do for me?
Quite a lot, apparently. I don’t know what it is, but I think there are even psychological studies on how expressing gratitude can improve your life. So I forced myself to start examining my life for things to be grateful for. I started with the bigger things, like that I had a job and my health and a roof over my head and food in my cupboard. But it also came down to the little stuff. Like Fall leaves, or a song on the radio, or nice weather, or an especially delicious meal.
The more I took notice, the more I seemed to notice. I’d see the kindness of strangers, the happy innocence of children, and beautiful sunsets. I started to feel like I’d stepped into a Louis Armstrong song.
All because I was trying my hardest to have gratitude.
EXPECTATION BEGETS APPEARANCE
Now that I was paying attention to all the goodness around me and appreciating that I had it, I also started to notice when I needed cheering up or additional strength in troubles, I’d get the winks. Sometimes it’s a song on the radio with lyrics that carry words that address my worries. It might be a friend saying something I hadn’t asked them about that brings comfort I needed.
One recent wink in particular probably seems such a small thing to anyone on the outside, but was a real testament to me of God’s love for me. I mentioned moving. I bought a dresser that needed a lot of touch ups. But I’ve also bought a lot of stuff to outfit my new apartment—things I needed, but I hate draining my savings. I felt like I’ve been hemorrhaging money.
Anyway, the BFF and I took a drawer in to get it color matched. While the man was mixing the paint, he accidentally spilled about half of it out of the pint-sized can. Since I only needed enough paint for touch-ups, rather than him having to throw out the rest of the can and mix a new one (which was the typical practice) I asked him if we could just get that half can at a reduced rate. He was able to recoup some costs on a mistake and I was able to save some money for other necessities.
But it doesn’t stop there. As I was doing touch ups I realized the paint wasn’t as exact a match as I was hoping, and even with feathering it would be pretty obvious. Well, as it turns out half a pint of paint was more than enough to repaint the whole thing. And it looks substantially better anyway (a lovely TARDIS blue. You know a police box sign is in this dresser’s future).
It was a little thing that relieved the stress of moving among other things that had been going on during this time. It was my wink, and I was grateful for it.
And now when I find myself in times of trouble, I not only expect help but support. It doesn’t always come in the way I expect or in the time I expect, but it comes. I’m amazed at how much expecting for these things to happen causes them to happen.
WHY MENTION WINKS IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I suppose this is my way of expressing gratitude for getting to a place in my life where I’m more positive, happier, and feeling like I have some tools to help me through difficult times. And I’m hoping by sharing that perhaps this helps one of you when you’re trying to make it through your own periods of trouble.
It’s taught me a lot about faith and belief and how having faith that things will happen makes them happen. I think especially as writers we’ve got to have the faith that we’ll reach the success we’re hoping for. That if we do all we can, we’ll get published or improve our skills, or whatever our goal is. And in the meantime, whenever we’re struggling, to keep our eyes open. The winks are there, waiting.
What do you think about winks? What do you hold fast to when you’re having difficulties? What things have you done that help you maintain a positive attitude? What keeps you going as a writer?