Some time ago, I was asked about some of the most difficult challenges I have faced during my lifetime. It was interesting that when I started thinking about some of these challenges, negativity crept into my mind. It was while lying down that the thought came to me, “Why does dealing with challenges have to be negative?” At that point I realized that most of my difficult challenges ended with positive outcomes.
Like most people the list of my challenges along with their outcomes could go on and on and on. With that piece of trivia, I decided to comment about three of them.
I believe that perhaps the greatest and most difficult experience I have ever had was my marriage to two of the most wonderful women in the world. Both marriages provided me with growth opportunities that made me a better husband, father, grandfather, and person. I quickly learned that marriage requires give and take from both partners and a willingness to listen and even sometimes change your mind. It provides a chance to be closer to your BEST FRIEND and share your intimate thoughts and feelings. It allows these two friends to shake their heads at some of the dumb things everyone does at one time in their lives and laugh and work together to make changes. It creates an environment of acceptance and apologies and forgiveness without holding grudges. It allows us to be open and honest with each other and accept the other person for who they are. It invites us to practice unconditional love.
Marriage truly is a difficult challenge, but it also provides us with the greatest opportunity for growth and happiness and success. The effort to make it work is worth all the effort we expend.
The outcome of this challenge has been amazing as I have grown to love and appreciate both of these beautiful women for who they are and the positive impact they have had on my life. My life would be missing something without both being part of my great adventure.
- Loss of my wife and mother
Three things impacted my life the day my mother died. First, a profound sadness that she would not be around any longer. Second, she would no longer be here when I desperately needed some of her delicious Poor Boy chocolate raisin cake. Third, the surreal knowledge that the death of Carol, my wife of nearly 35 years, was eminent although 17 days after my mother’s death was quicker than anyone anticipated.
Losing the two most influential women in my life in such a short time was difficult and created a loneliness that is indescribable even though I knew both were going to leave me. Fortunately, I had more than three years to prepare for Carol’s leaving and nine months to get ready for losing my mother. I tried to take advantage of the time to study about both of their conditions and become spiritually and emotionally strong for myself as well as for them. Even as these two women were getting closer and closer to death my love and appreciation for them increased exponentially. Yes, in death we lose something, but I also experienced an increase in my gratitude that they were part of my life.
There are times even now (19 years later) that I wish I had done some things differently in my relationship with Carol, but I know that I can’t go back and redo them. I can hope that where she currently resides is a better place and she can find it in her heart to smile at some of the dumb mistakes I made and realize that these things were simply actions in the moment and not reflective of the real me.
My mom and my wife Carol had a great impact on me, and these relationships continue to influence my life. Even in death, I am grateful that I had the time with them that I had. I am certain that wherever they are they are smiling down at me and giving me a thumbs up for my decision to marry Anne.
- Raising children
Raising children can be one of the greatest experiences in a person’s life while at the same time it can also be one of the most frustrating and difficult things anyone ever does. One day you are your child’s best friend and a moment later they wish you were more like their friend’s parents and at that moment, they may even claim not to like you. Parenthood can be like a merry-go-round as you try your best to be the type of parent you always dreamed of being, but can we be that parent without compromising our standards? What obligation do we have to our children? We have a responsibility to society to teach them the values of respect, understanding, acceptance, hard work, productivity, and a myriad of other things.
It’s a good thing our children know and realize that life does not always go along smoothly and that they will face challenges some more difficult and impactful than others. Let’s help them understand that these challenges can strengthen them, or they can stop them from achieving all that they can be.
Our responsibility is to teach correct principles and then let them choose to apply our teachings in whatever manner they like. Our children will eventually reach a point where our job will be to stand back and support them, as they become the adults that they really want to be. If they reject our teachings and choose another path, then as parents we must let them know that we still accept and love them. Good parents will say to each other, “as hard as it might be, I still love them and I’m grateful they are my children.”
As great as the challenges of raising children can be the rewards will always be greater.
The most important lesson I learned from writing this paper is that all the difficult challenges that I listed and those that I haven’t shared have provided personal growth moments. I was a better husband, father, and person because I experienced my challenges and worked to overcome them and therefore, I must admit that I have been greatly blessed.
Happy Failing Forward,
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