This I Believe

Karen - Amesbury, Massachusetts
Entered on February 16, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: setbacks

During the journey that makes up our lives, we all travel along dark and bumpy roads. One particular trip sent me to what seemed the edge of a cliff complete with a whipping wind that threatened to toss me into oblivion and end life as I knew it. Despite my careful navigation toward the best of plans I found myself smack in the middle of a place I never intended to visit. I screamed – How did I get here?? The answer remained elusive, to say the least, but in the end confirmed a deep personal belief. I believe in silver linings.

Sitting at my desk early one bright sunny morning, I received an anonymous phone call from a woman claiming that Joe, the man I had been dating for two months, was trouble and I should beware of him. Life stopped for an instant at the very weirdness of her voice and accusations. I can still recall the dread that rose up to my throat from the pits of the earth at the end that one-sided call. That call was the beginning of an onslaught of terror that would change my life.

The woman on the phone, I’ll call her Mary, had dated Joe for a very short time and upon their breakup felt a sting of rejection that she would not tolerate. I had no idea who Mary was, I had never met her but at the moment of the phone call she’d become an invisible stalker. Over the next six months, Mary forged a campaign of daily attacks intended to break us down. She broke into our work and personal computers, tapped our phone lines, had us followed by six private investigators and sent gruesome packages containing dead animals and threatening letters. She extended her efforts upon our families, friends and co-workers through mailings spewing ugly allegations, vicious untruths and ultimately, death threats.

The police investigation became complex and chaotic. Through Mary’s design, I became a suspect and had to endure lie detector tests and interrogations. Strain and tension ensued at work and the fallout was inevitable. I had to leave the job I loved and depended upon, embarrassed and ashamed. I was lost in a downward spiraling vortex.

I quickly learned that when you’re down and peeling your face off the pavement you sure do possess clarity of vision about human behavior and relationships. I found out quickly who my friends were. I encountered beauty in so many that I hadn’t known before but also glimpsed the dark and grim reality of fair weather friendships – ones I had once treasured. On what seemed an hourly basis my heart, mind and faith in humanity was sorely tested. Life was upside down and out of control.

Then in the middle of the turmoil, likely the result of sheer exhaustion, something unexpected happened. I made a conscious decision to step away from the chaos and vowed then and there to put the situation in perspective. I thought most definitely, people deal with far greater challenges. I knew I had to gain a deeper understanding and acceptance of the cards that life had dealt to me.

I believe that the moment we turn our perception of events into a positive and compassionate frame of mind is the moment that life opens up and returns the favor. Back in the game with a smile, even if I had to force one, I encountered smiles, genuine kindness and goodwill from everyone I came in contact with. Suddenly, I found that the negative energy of the situation had changed and things began moving quickly toward a resolution. Mary was brought to justice and peace returned to our lives.

I believe a silver lining exists for all us in times of crisis. I’ve learned that all action, good and bad, is a result of individual and collective energy and has the power to influence outcomes that affect us all. Conflict, struggle and inequity exist. As humans it is our duty to at least try to understand each other with an open and willing mind. My own crisis taught me so much about life. Nothing is certain. Life changes every day. Life is definitely not always fair and life is what you make of it.

The silver lining for me, and Joe, was an ironic twist to all that seemed against us. Our challenge was to find trust, meaning and beauty in a world that appeared utterly messy and ugly. Make no mistake, during the chaos I thought my life was doomed forever and I would never recover – but I now live a life I never dreamed possible.

Within a year Joe and I married and ultimately found more happiness than either of could have ever imagined. In a strange way, the adversity brought us closer together and formed a foundation I’m not sure we could have achieved otherwise. I’m blessed with a fantastic new job made even better by the wonderful people I work with. The once inconceivable struggle I endured along with most of my family and friends during that time brought to us a silver lining each our own. I believe the gift of a silver lining lies within each and every hardship we face as long as we’re willing to receive it. During times when the cost of living seems utterly unbearable it is comforting to know that the road ahead brings priceless riches for us to pay forward – personal strength, confidence and the power to love. I’ve learned that we only need to believe the silver lining exists and carry the patience for it to show itself.

May all of your roads be lined in silver!