Searching for Silver

Searching for Silver
By Sandra Lynam, MA, LMFT

I was 15 1/2 years old when I unexpectedly had the first brain surgery. I’d seen a doctor that morning for what I thought would be a relatively routine visit. After a few moments he told me he would be right back. He came back with another doctor. They spoke over me as if I wasn’t there. They then sent me down to see an ophthalmologist. That’s when I got an idea something was wrong. Then I saw my Dad’s face and my Mom crying. Whoa! This couldn’t be good. Anxiety became my companion.
I was scheduled for surgery the next day. The hospital wouldn’t allow a parent to stay with me. When they walked out of the door to my room that night they left a scared, anxious teenager. The next morning I had surgery while I was awake and aware. Worried I would die, I was just glad to be alive when I awoke later that day. Six months later, a few days after my 16th birthday I had another surgery. By this time, I was thinking, “Why me, Lord?”

A few weeks later I was recovering at home when a cousin came by driving a pickup loaded with cousins from three different states. Yes, back then we routinely rode in the truck bed. My sister climbed in with them as I watched from the front door. The truck disappeared from sight, my sister and cousins on their way to having fun, leaving me feeling alone and discouraged.

I retreated to the couch, crying —having a full-on pity party. I felt so left out, totally left behind. My Dad walked in and asked what was wrong. I told him and then cried, “It’s not fair!” He looked at me compassionately and then offered, “Crying isn’t going to make anything any better.”

“But Daddy,” I wailed in protest. Nonetheless he persisted, “There’s a silver lining in every cloud.” I insisted that there wasn’t a silver lining in this cloud, because after all, I didn’t see it! “Well,” he said, “It’s up to you to find it.” And with that he left me to my misery. Now in retrospect as a parent myself I can only imagine that my Dad was seeing a sparkling silver lining in the fact that his child was alive, walking and talking, mind intact.

One may think my Dad wasn’t very sympathetic to me that day. Actually he was; I saw it in his eyes that day and many other times. Dad was a loving, wise man, and he demonstrated it that day. I knew he cared about my fears and wounded feelings even though he wasn’t saying what I wanted to hear. Most importantly, he cared enough to help me face that tough time and taught me an important life lesson. He reminded me that I had some control in the situation. While I wasn’t able to be out running around with my cousins, I still had the ability to choose my attitude by choosing how and what I was thinking.

The clouds, the storms of life will find us, sometimes unforeseen, sometimes through no fault of our own, and woefully — sometimes with our assistance. Those storms can flood us, threatening to drown us in grief, pain, anger, or a negative attitude. Yet within the storm there is always something for which to be grateful, to be learned, strength gained, or character developed, i. e., the silver lining.

No mistaking that hard times are, well– hard. I know I haven’t always remembered that lesson in the painful moments. We may feel as if we are floundering, overwhelmed by the pain, grief, frustration, or yes, the unfairness of it. However, if we have to go through the hard times, why not choose to learn what we can from them, be humbled by our struggles, or even just acknowledge our mistakes? Can we learn compassion for ourselves and others? Or maybe even use the hard times to inform us of the need for a new and improved attitude.

It’s our job to find it, that silver lining, however difficult that may be. Therein may well be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


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