Shit storms & silver linings

This post is part of Mary Sabo's wonderful Misfortune Into Opportunity blog tour. Be sure to check out her blog tour for great stories made out of hope and heart. I like to find silver linings. I’d say I’m a pretty optimistic person and my smile tends to eat up (more than) half my face. When things go wrong I tend to find the positive, do what I’ve got to do, then move on.

But while I like to see the positive, I’m a firm believer that we we learn lessons when we’re ready. And that time is usually when we’re out of the shitstorm enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sitting with the shit

Sometimes, bad situations just call for sitting with the shit, not forcing a rainbow/silver lining before you’re ready and just riding it out.

That’s definitely been the case for quite a few occasions in my life where things haven’t gone to plan. And during those times, they all felt shit. They made me want to curl up in a ball, get under my duvet and cry with sadness/frustration/anger.

And for the most part, I did.

The one where I got turned away from a job for being too passionate - Hah, this is a good one. I went for a job as a mental health support worker, and had missed getting it by a ridiculously small margin. When I asked for feedback, they eventually told me I was too passionate and that some might think it was ‘over the top’.

So what did I do? My boss at the time gave me her car keys and let me sit in her car while I cried my eyes out.

And a couple of days later, I realised that my passion is my strength, and if other people have a problem with it, we’re probably not suited.

The one where I ended up on my own in another country - to cut a very long story short, I was meant to be visiting a friend who had moved to Switzerland but it didn’t work out. I ended up making the decision to go anyway, and booked myself in a cheap hostel for a couple of days, despite being terrified and not in a great place myself. So I got on that plan, got to my hostel, found a cute little cafe, got a hot chocolate (which was gross) and felt really sorry for myself.

Looking back now, some time later, I can see that my trip to Geneva was a huge stepping stone in me starting to enjoy time alone. I actually really enjoyed having time to myself, and since that trip, I’ve made sure that alone-time is now a staple part of my week, in order to energise, process things and just breathe.

The one where I spent three weeks angry - I went to Ghana a couple of years ago, with a large non profit organisation on water project. We worked in a remote village, and spent the first couple of days working with the people of the village, asking them what they thought was the solution for the lack of clean water in their village. Even though none of them wanted it, the organisation made a decision to build a rain water harvesting system. And we were much less equipped with the tools to build it, than the local tradespeople. (That and we were told to go and convince the people in the village that they were wrong about spirits living in their river, beliefs that had been passed through generations).

I remember phoning my partner, ranting about the whole experience and sitting with how demoralised and let down I felt.

But I learned one of the biggest lessons of all: helping people is about working with them with the tools they already have, and building up their toolbox.

Three different experiences.

They all felt like shit at the time. And I sat with the shit, and when I was ready, the lesson appeared.

With time away from the experiences, I can see all of those memories from a different angle. I had the time away from them, I’ve got through them, and been changed by them. Looking at them from a place where I’ve learned valuable lessons, I can say they are worth going back and re-living the experiences again for.

Framing misfortune as opportunity is a great way to grow and learn about yourself, but it’s also something that often comes after the experience. Sometimes long after.

At the time, it’s often best to sit with the shit.

[Tweet "Instead of suppressing things and minimising bad experiences, acknowledge that you’re feeling shit, allow yourself to feel shit, and own that shit!"]

Look out for silver linings, but if you can’t find one, that’s ok. You’ll see that glimmer of opportunity when you least expected it, and these are sometimes the most valuable things to learn of all.

What silver linings have come out of your own shitstorms? I'd love to hear all about it in the comments!