It’s inevitable. At some point, life will throw something at you that causes you to lose focus. Something that blurs the presence of happiness and joy and makes them impossible to find. Something devastating.
For me, that something came almost eight years ago, when my first marriage crumbled and my mother became ill with terminal cancer—all at the same time, while I was living abroad in Singapore with three young children (including a newborn baby).
Friends, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure that I would survive that chapter of my life. I was in a significant free-fall, with no safety net in sight. There were so many things that I couldn’t possibly understand. So many things that were unclear, uncertain. The only thing that seemed definite was that I was bound for nowhere, never to find joy or happiness again.
Back then, Singapore—a dream world for so many—came to signify tears, heartache, despair, and constant self-deprecation. Everywhere I looked, I saw only hopelessness. This beautiful, enviable place became nothing to me but a permanent reminder of the miserable state of being from which I was sure I’d never recover.
Once home to the States, I swore I’d never go back. Ever.
What a difference eight years has made.
Last month, I landed in Singapore again. As the plane touched down, I wore a huge smile on my face. Because in spite of everything, I’ve learned how to see life through the right lens. The one that makes everything a little clearer. The one that has brought joy and happiness back into focus.
This hasn’t been an easy journey. In fact, it has been excruciating at times. But I’ve made it. And as I skipped down the streets of Singapore last week, the happiness brimming from my soul, I reflected on three things that have guided me here:
1. Acceptance. The serenity prayer is not just for those who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. It’s for us all. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… those words are powerful. I spent years refusing to accept what had happened, running from the truth, placing blame where it didn’t belong. I carried burdens that I shouldn’t have. And once I stopped fighting it all, I came to simply accept it and move forward.
Acceptance is a powerful, freeing thing. I cannot change others, and I cannot change the circumstances. But I can change the way I look at everything. Hard as it may seem, I can choose to view things through the right lens.
2. Faithful Perseverance. Even if you’re not a religious person, I hope you’ll walk with me here. My faith kept me going when there was nothing else left to hold onto. Faith gives power and purpose. It gets you out of bed each day. And it gives you a reason to keep going, even when you want to just lay down and die.
Have faith, friends. Pray. Keep working towards better days ahead. They exist, I promise you. Things become clearer and clearer as you move ahead with faithful perseverance.
3. Forgiveness. Of anything I’ve ever had to do in my life, this one is the hardest: to forgive someone who may not seem to deserve it, but desperately needs it. It’s completely cliché to tell you that hate will eat you alive, and forgiveness will set you free, but it’s true. I’ve seen so many that just can’t get past something, and for that reason they cannot truly experience joy and happiness. It spills over into their lives and the lives of others, and taints everything.
I could not experience happiness again until I forgave those in my life who needed forgiving—whether or not they deserved it or asked for it. And because I chose to forgive—others and myself—I am free. Free to skip down the streets of Singapore and see everything in a new light. Free to find the joy again. Without forgiveness, everything would remain just a little bit blurry.
Perhaps more than anything, forgiveness lets me see life through the right lens.
It is with a grateful heart that I write this piece. Because I’m grateful for friends and family who have helped me to accept what I cannot change. Grateful for time and faith, which have pushed me to persevere. And finally, I’m grateful for the ability to forgive.
For without these things, I could not see life through the right lens.
Now, everything is in focus. Now, I can truly experience happiness again, even after personal devastation.
And no matter what your circumstances, I pray that you will, too.