The unexpected blessing of really tough times

Joyce Pemberton, Columnist

There’s a picture that hangs over my desk with a girl in a helmet getting a manicure that says, “Life is tough. I recommend getting a manicure and a really cute helmet.”

Joyce Pemberton

Most people overlook the picture, since it's surrounded by signed posters of Al Pacino, Frankie Valli and my Monkees album, which was signed by Davy Jones right before he died. So by comparison, it’s easy to overlook. Still, there it hangs. And every once in a while, it catches my eye. A reminder to me that some days may include flying projectiles - real or imagined - and a helmet just might be necessary. Those days are rare, but they do happen. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

Life is tough. But, (and here’s the rub), tough situations forge tough people.

Recently it seems I've had a number of friends who are going through difficult times- lost jobs, challenging relationships, health issues, combative children, financial trials. But with all of these challenges, to a person, they seem to be pretty optimistic. Together with family and friends, they are facing their challenges, and arm-in-arm, they are pushing through those walls, as forces to be reckoned with. They remain hopeful and positive that things will turn around. But most importantly, they are still engaged in the world around them. They aren't cowering in fear of what's around the next corner.

Last night I watched the movie "Rob Roy," for the first time. It’s a great story about the Scottish outlaw and hero, Rob Roy MacGregor, who lived in the early 18th Century. Talk about difficulties - Mr. MacGregor experienced just about every tough time a man could go through in life, and certainly some things you and I will never experience. He was betrayed by his best friend, then his best friend died. He was falsely accused of murder, his wife was raped, his house burnt to the ground, his children and livestock were all killed, and he was dragged behind a horse with a rope until he was barely recognizable.

Tough times. Rob Roy MacGregor had them in spades, set against a backdrop in a century where life just wasn't pretty. Still, he showed tenacity, and never, ever gave up. He was resolved to rise above his problems. You’ll have to watch the movie to see how it ends, but be prepared to be humbled. Our lives are so much tamer by comparison.

The ability to handle tough times with resolve, grace and a positive attitude is in all of us, I think. But sometimes we just need to be reminded that we can rise above our situation. I know this from personal experience.

Not too long ago, after life dealt me a very tough time, I was in a bit of a depressed trance. A friend who had gone through a similar experience decided my pity-party had gone on long enough. One day she looked me full in the face and said the words that changed my attitude immediately. "Life isn’t fair. So put on your big girl panties and deal with it.”

Her words were my wake up call. She was right. Life isn’t fair, but I survived. And not only that, I thrived. I couldn’t see it then, but out of that terrible time would come so many blessings that I would never have experienced otherwise. Gotta love friends who aren’t afraid to dish out tough love when it’s needed.

The human spirit is a remarkable thing. When difficult times come, we remain steadfast in our optimism. It’s what gets us through the tough times. And I just love that.