A friend’s son died years ago. I remember falling to the ground upon hearing the news. The first weeks I sobbed it seemed every minute. I couldn’t breathe a thought of him or his family without choking on sorrow. Then slowly, I found myself coming back up for air, sharing stories with only the odd tear. Eventually, I found a place where I could smile again. In the grieving process, I allowed beautiful memories of him and his family to calm me. It was hard to give myself permission to feel contentment in the same moments that I knew others were torn apart in. I figured that I needed to find the positive. To be brave. The worry and concern of the unknown had started to consume me. So instead, I made a conscious decision to allow in the brightness in moments of dark. The more people who permit themselves to find happiness again, the more there will be a support system for those still in pain. I cry in moments of grief, with the mindset, that one day I will cry tears of joy from the same memories carved from the same tree. But I needed more. I started to slow down and notice the world around me. I refused to let the rush of life consume me and instead watched my day unfold with a different lens. I remember on a particularly cold, early autumn day, feeling anxious about the imminent, endless, cold, and bitter winds of the months ahead. Up ahead I saw this tree, it’s bark stained black from rain, but with the odd brilliant red leaf pinched to the bare branches. I found the beautiful against the dark, stormy sky. (http://bit.ly/2gobUpO ) I gave myself permission to use a tragedy to build a positive. What seemed like a small step, a small shift in my thinking became a complete turn around in the way I lived my life. I allowed myself to look at challenges, not as failures, but as stepping stones to something amazing. I felt strong. Like any adventure, some days, I woke up feeling lost and it took time to find the trail again. But the ambition is there, to not let the challenges drown me. To believe in me. Even on the hard days, I let my inner voice shout loudly, “be brave!” Let’s face it. Life isn’t always easy. There are days that start badly and as the day creeps by I will think that I’m secretly being filmed for some reality t.v. show; that a live audience somewhere is gutting themselves because of my misfortunes and are just waiting for me to lose my shit. Those days are hard, but they always pass. Being brave means asking for help and being hopeful for tomorrow. I’ll reach out to friends on those days. I’ll post to social media that my day is sucking large, and watch as people around the world, send words of encouragement. I don’t let those days dictate how I live all of my other days. I don’t let them scare me into a corner and push me back into the mundane, ordinary. Rather, I take them as a signal that deep down I am strong and can take on the new and unknown. As I check off more and more of the hard days, my will gets stronger. I know that new challenges are around every corner. I’m not scared of them, rather, excited as to where the adventure will take me. I am brave. I will not always succeed. That is for certain. I will use the collective strength of the people in my world to help me find content on the other side of devastation. The adventure will always teach me something about myself or about the world. I will cast away any learnings that are hurtful but gather up the positive; anything that builds inner strength and knowledge. In my head I picture myself, having climbed to a pinnacle of a mountainous peak, wind whipping against me. The wind will always try to push me off the mountain top. But I’m confident enough to flex my muscles a little bit and give a little push back.