As the long summer days pass, I continue to realize more than ever that I am living a life in which stability is an increasing rarity, but it's a life scattered with both wonderful celebrations and tumultuous lows, sometimes within the same moment.
An accurate example of the roller-coaster quality occurred a few months ago when I discovered a troubling lump on my dog and, while some might say she is just a dog, she has been by my side for 15 years. Her presence is a representation of stability and constant comfort.
During an already stressful year, I was dreading the inevitable horror of facing a long road of pain and suffering that comes with an illness, especially an animal's illness, where they are unable to express their thoughts or feelings and might not understand what is happening to them.
After a month of prayers, worry and medication that failed to reduce the lump, the same moment I found out that my dog did not have lymphoma, the phone rang with news of my young cousin's tragic and unexpected death. Events in our area this summer have followed a similar pattern. The same day our community grieved over the shocking wreck on Interstate 75, others throughout the United States were celebrating a milestone recognition of equality.
I am very sensitive, and I do consider myself a worrier. Since birth I have craved a sense of harmony and a need for others to be happy. This susceptibility creates sensitivity to external factors; they can be as severe as inexplicable tragedies or as mundane as the petty opinions of others or even a general lack of not being able to correct a negative situation.
This year has been more of year of highs and lows than any other in my life, and it has caused me to reconsider the degree to which external factors should affect one's sense of self. What should truly determine how we see ourselves? Should our identities be shaped by the tragedies in our lives?
Most would say that, of course, loss or negativity should not shape who we are or how we interpret the world, but that's easier said than done. To me, memories of bad experiences tend to be more influential and outlast positive events, but I never questioned their effect on selfhood until this unsettling year, where it became detrimental to let the events of my life affect my overall perspective.
As the year progresses, I am learning that it is important to have a basis to ground one's sense of self. I know an essential element for me is positivity and keeping the desire for harmony that has always been important in my life. I have found that a primary way to preserve a positive identity is not to dwell on the negative, but it has been an enormous challenge for me not to dwell.
Without the effort of knowing who you are and who you want to be, it is so easy to fall into a repetitive and negative thought process, to continuously turn over questions that cannot be answered, to depend on others to supply some sort of happiness or satisfaction.
I have started to see that negative dwelling provides no end in sight. Some days are very difficult, especially when it comes to dealing with loss, and there are moments where it seems almost impossible to escape the anger, devastation and fear we all face. But there comes a point where I have to grab ahold of my identity and move on.
There may never be a time where I feel that my life is perfectly harmonious, but I have found that faith, prayer, patience and earned confidence in the strength of survival are ways in which to ground my sense of self, and the belief in a greater good is essential during these roller-coaster times.
Contact Corin Harpe at email@example.com.