(By Corey Rotella, CNA Extraordinaire)
Life is complex. Dynamic. Messy. Filled with the depth that comes only from human experience. It cannot be defined in bumper stickers or Facebook memes. Our scars bear witness to our struggles. Our pain can inform our choices without defining them. Our joy can heal our wounds without erasing them. Our failures are our greatest teachers if we keep moving forward despite them. Spare me a paint by numbers life, designed to be safe, easy, the best possible outcome with the least effort. Spare me a life designed for the delicate. I’d much rather have the depth and experience and freedom from a life that requires effort. Sweat. And sometimes tears. A life that is vast, filled with humor and pathos and human connections and real moments of clarity, in which I see glimpses of the truth.
This. THIS is life, with all its bumps and uncertainty and days with teeth. With its joys and connections and hope and love and depth. This is what lies beneath the facade of the daily “normal” and the drumbeat of imagined fear.
For a long time, I didn’t think I was worthy or capable of embracing life. I thought my difficulties and pain were the sum and substance of who I was as a person and I hid. In my head. In books. In self-loathing. In the bottle. I squeezed my eyes closed and pretended not to see as the world kept spinning around the sun.
I had to come to a crossroads. I had to make a choice to try something different. I had to take that leap of faith, open my eyes and trust that by taking small steps forward in my dark, I would eventually find the light.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING about my journey has played out the way I once thought it would. Where I once believed I’d suddenly have all the answers I need to be who I should be, I now accept that I learn as I go and there is no one way that I “should be”. Where I once believed it was important for me to have my eyes fixed on a destination, I now know that it’s more important to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to do my best in each moment. Where I once wished for normalcy, I now value authenticity. Where I once wanted the pain to end, I now value its ability to strengthen, teach, and motivate me provided I face my troubles head on. My life challenges me every day, but it also enriches me. It was by learning to accept life on its own terms that I began to find my place in this world and become an active participant in my own existence.
Corey Anne Rotella co-authored the book CNA Edge: Reflections from year one along with Bob Goddard and Hannah Hedges. It’s collection of essays from their blog CNA Edge: A Voice from the trenches of Long Term Care