Tuesday, 12 January 2016
Reactions to Adversity
In a recent lesson with grade 6 students we discussed the concept of ADVERSITY and how we react to it. We challenged the students to ponder whether or not good could come from it.
Life throws adversity at us all the time and there are so many ways to handle it. In researching adversity online for our upcoming lesson, I found a neat story that related adversity to boiling water. In this short tale it talked about how an egg, a potato and tea leaves all react differently to the same adversity, boiling water. An egg turns hard, a potato turns soft, but tea leaves create a delicious and new flavour!
I can honestly say that at times in my life I have reacted like an egg and become hard and protective of myself and those around me, additionally, I have also been the potato that just turned mushier and mushier (this is my most common reaction) as I faced adversity, but I have also been fortunate enough to have the mindset that has allowed me to take situations of adversity and turn them into tea leaves.
In 2002 my husband Gary dove into shallow water and broke his neck. At the time he was actually my fiance. The accident occurred 6 days before our wedding. Initially, I think that we were both in so much shock that there was no real reaction, but over time as the situation started to sink in I reacted as a potato and got mushy. As we plugged along and began to get our life back on track I would say that we had none of the above mentioned reactions. It definitely can take time to brew a good cup of tea! Over the years various barriers, particularly fertility caused me to mush, but Gary has remained strong. He’s not really a potato or an egg, but I wouldn’t say that we reached the tea stage until 2008. Things started to change slowly for us, but the birth of our eldest son, Ryan, really changed our outlook on life.
The addition of Ryan to our family gave us a completely different outlook on our situation. Prior to Ryan, Gary and I would spend time reminiscing about “walking Gary”. Probably not the healthiest of activities, but something that somehow provided comfort. When Ryan was born it suddenly struck me that the “walking Gary” that we spoke of or thought of played absolutely no role in Ryan’s life. Ryan never met his Dad walking. His dad was Gary in a wheelchair. He would be the only way he knows his dad and there would be nothing wrong with that. Ryan’s birth really caused us to remember to think of Gary as Gary and not to distinguish between “walking Gary” and “wheelchair Gary”. I believe that this is when we reached the “tea” phase of reacting to the adversity that we encountered 5 years prior. It wasn’t immediate, but it was a result of continuing to live and enjoy life.
I am grateful that the adversity of Gary’s accident has turned to tea for us, but I do believe that there was value to my mush stage. I needed to grieve the loss of the life we thought we would have. It took time, but eventually we got to a place where we were living our new life and not dwelling in the past. So back to the question we asked our students, “Can good come from adversity?”. I think the answer is yes. Do I believe it happens immediately - absolutely not. The next question I then ask is what is it that allows a person to find the “tea phase”? For Gary and I, I know that our attitudes and mindsets played a big role, coupled with the support we had surrounding us from family and friends.
Adversity is inevitable, but I think the reason this online story resonated so well with me, and I wanted to share it with our students, is that it helped to explain in simple terms how we can all react differently to the same adversity and that it is in our power to create something positive from it. I found the tale empowering and hope that it empowers others when faced with an adversity. Will I immediately react as tea when faced with an adversity? - ABSOLUTELY NOT! I am a mushy potato through and through, but will I consider my reaction and ponder other reactions? - ABSOLUTELY YES! Delicious tea may be in the future!