When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Decades ago I bought a book by this title. It’s packed away somewhere among hundreds of books in my storage unit.

I could have used it when my husband was inexplicably felled by a stroke. He didn’t have all those bad things wrong with him that foretell a major medical incident. It almost seemed like a mistake. But it happened and we adjusted and learned to live with the consequences.

Bad things are generally associated with loss…health, job, significant other, a long-held belief. Sometimes they are physical and other times emotional. But we’ve all faced losses and I daresay most of us have survived and become stronger as a result.

I don’t remember what the book’s messages were, but they probably weren’t too different from the old sayings quoted by my mother. Don’t cry over spilled milk. You’re better than you think you are. Everything happens for a reason. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t let the vultures get you down. All of these are clichés, but they’re still valid. When life kicks you in the teeth, get up, get going, get better.

My favorite of the old saws is “adversity lets you know what you’re made of.” I had to remember that while cowering on my seat in the steering station during a wild ride on Delaware Bay in high winds and chop in our sturdy little Nordic Tug. I survived and didn’t take the next flight home when we got to port, but I’m not sure my heart will ever be the same.

Authors—and I now know many of them—check their sales, their reviews, their newsletter subscribers and often get discouraged. Many decide to give up. I confess at times I have been one of them. But then I remember all those clichés my mother spouted and I stick with it.

I faced many fears during the eight-month trip my husband and I took in our little boat and many more since. Has adversity made me a better person? I like to think so. Have I learned lessons? Hell yes.

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