We all have a story! We all have our struggles and pain! We all have joy!
As I have been trying to improve my writing I have realized I need to feel comfortable about opening myself up so I can put feeling and more of myself into my stories. Some days I feel like I can barely do the things I need to do as a mom and not feel judged and criticized, some days I get up immediately feeling that I am not good enough and have to attempt to boost my confidence, and other days I get writing done but I don’t always put enough emotion in it to make the reader feel what I am trying to say. I realize I have my struggles and a story to tell, but everyone has their own story to tell, we all have our own struggles and challenges to bear. I then thought about some of the stories I heard of some of my ancestors.
I come from a long line of strong, hard working, determined – maybe even stubborn, and resilient people. The stories I know show of struggles, pain experienced, and maybe they even wished for circumstances to change or be different, but I believe they lived amazing lives throughout it all. I sometimes fight to live each day with the pain that continues to nag at me from the life I have lived. Some days I feel that I cannot keep going, it feels like it is too much of a struggle to believe in my dreams and myself.
Then I remember the stories that I know of family before me. I think if they went through what they did and kept going then I can follow, knowing their blood courses through my veins, alongside the copious amounts of coffee, and my stubbornness to keep me fighting. I wish I had known these amazing people but even though I never met them, the stories I have heard and the admiration I have for them lives in me along with the strength passed to me through their genes. I want to share just a couple stories of my amazing ancestors with you.
First up is my maternal Great-Grandfather, Dirk Evertsen. He was born in Holland and lived the biggest part of his life with only one arm. At 16 years old while helping his boss move a stove upstairs in the shop, he forgot to put a lid on the top of the stove. So instead of continuing up the ladder he simply tried to reach up to put it on and that was when the right sleeve of his jumpsuit caught in the gear shaft of a big fan. It spun him around by his arm 24 times before he was freed. The result of this caused 5 broken ribs, both legs broken, and twisted his arm so much that it caused enough damage to need amputation. In 1930, he then moved his family to the United States. He lived a long life, with struggle I am sure, but also had a great life with family, kids, grandkids and probably loved his life.
Second up is my paternal Grandfather, Douglas Dee Vowles. He worked as a civilian engineer, was married, had 4 children, and when he was 38 years old a cyst developed on his spine near the neck. The spinal cord became damaged and he remained paralyzed from the neck down for 21 years of his life. After many years of being paralyzed he managed to have a special telephone installed in his home that he operated with his lips and chin, which connected him to an operator who would dial the numbers for him. He sold insurance, books and candy around Christmas, and also a cosmetics line. He also believed there were others worse off than him and began helping on a committee arranging outings for and calling to cheer up people that were physically handicapped. My Grandfather, I am sure, had many bad days, struggled, and wished his circumstances were different. This was a struggle for not only him but the whole family as well; however, I am sure they had joy and good times. His struggle was hard but his inspiration is far reaching to all who heard his story, especially his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Last for this story is my paternal Grandmother, LaPreal Vowles. I believe she is an amazing example of strength and the most irrepressible woman in my ancestral lineage. I was only 4 years old when she passed. Her early life did not have many physical struggles but I can only imagine how much she struggled raising 4 kids, taking care of her husband who was paralyzed, taking care of her home, and working jobs to help with money as well. She worked in church offices and also worked as a taxi driver. Later in her life she was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), which added physical struggle and pain to her later life. My Grandma I am sure felt so much stress, struggled with life early on and then struggled when she was older, but had to have enjoyed her life as well.
I look to these examples of resilience in my life not to compare my life or minimize my struggles but to have as a source of strength when I feel like I am falling under. I do not like it when someone is struggling and others say “Think about how others have it worse than you do”. I believe everyone deserves and needs sympathy, empathy, and the chance to experience their own struggles and pain. We all need to feel like we are being heard, to have a chance to talk about what we go through. We need to feel and experience our pain without minimizing it or comparison, in order for us to work through the pain and move to the other side of struggle to joy.
There will always be someone who has a struggle worse than us, and others who may not be going through as much; but everyone’s pain or story is tough for them. We should never diminish another person’s pain or compare it to someone else, but we can walk though life with the help from others examples of strength through adversity.I challenge all who read this to look at how you communicate to those around you that struggle and make sure they are feeling the support they need. Also, I challenge you to look through your own history and see what examples of strength you can find in your life that may bring you hope when you feel down because of their resilience.
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.Helen Keller