It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
To borrow from Charles Dickens — yes, there is a tale of two Pats… or perhaps it’s better to say, there are two tales of the one Pat. Because everything in life DOES have two sides to it, two perspectives: one can be negative, pessimistic, and hopeless; the other — positive, optimistic, and hopeful. Which tale should be told? Which tale should be lived?
Let’s start with my worst of times.
I was the result of an affair. Upon my birth, I was immediately given up for adoption by my biological parents.
I grew up with adoptive parents who were older than the parents of most of my peers, and because of that, I didn’t always relate to the “younger” things that my contemporaries were into. My parents didn’t adopt any other children, so I grew up very alone. I would say to at least some degree, the situation stunted my social skills. Always somewhat shy, I became introverted and a bit of a loner — not so much out of desire, but more out of circumstance. The truth was, I longed horribly for a brother or sister. I played alone most of the time.
As a result of being an only child and having an adoptive mother who very fearfully and tightly tied onto me her proverbial apron strings, I was constantly accused by others as being “spoiled.” It was an unjust moniker. I personally knew that I often had to accept not getting what I might have wanted or what other children had, because my parents came from such historically humble financial beginnings, and my blue-collar father was very careful with what money we did have. Because of these accusations and my loneliness, I swore that, assuming I got married, that I would have more than just one child. There was no way I was going to make a child of mine suffer by growing up alone.
I often did my homework without assistance, because my parents, who weren’t very well educated, didn’t always understand what I was working on well enough to give me a hand. Nor did I have any help at all when I signed up for college, My parents wouldn’t even fill out the financial aid forms, even though most of the necessary financial information had to come from them.
My first marriage was a failure. My children from that marriage both have mental and physical health challenges that have required lots of extra care, attention, and energy. In my adult life, many people besides my children came to depend heavily on me. A year into my second marriage, my mother has passed away, and I found myself caring 24/7 for my aging dad. Not long after my father moved into my home, my second husband was diagnosed with cancer. I place my father in another facility so that I could switch gears and help care for my husband during the year and a half that he fought a losing battle with lymphoma. During that time my husband was sick, we went through a bankruptcy. As he lie in a hospital bed receiving a last-ditch treatment to save his life, I was in downtown Chicago facing a bankruptcy committee.
My husband died in 2014. Even though I retained our home, I couldn’t afford to keep it on my salary alone, and because my husband was underinsured, there wasn’t enough life insurance to save the house. I ended up losing it in late 2015.
And it was also during this time that I learned the hard way — when my daughter was arrested — that she had become a heroin addict.
Yes, it was — if I had chosen to look at it this way — the worst of times.
Now for Pat’s best of times — and they are the same times.
Let’s review everything I just said — with a whole different attitude.
I’m an adoptee, who, instead of being destroyed in a back-alley abortion, was given up for adoption by my birth parents, in the hopes that I would have a better life. Their difficult decision brought such joy to my new adoptive parents, who wanted desperately to have a child, and it gave to me the gift of life — along with all its joys, beauty, and passions, and the chance to serve others with the unique skills and talents given to me by God.
I grew up with parents who were supportive, who loved me, and who did everything they could for me. What they couldn’t do for me, I learned to do on my own, and as a result, I became a very independent and self-reliant person. Growing up surrounded by older adults, I learned from the mistakes of others. My thoughts and behaviors matured early, and I adopted very strong moral values at a fairly young age.
As an only child, I readily and easily took on leadership roles. Because I often played by myself, I became highly imaginative — a trait which shaped the creative skills and mindset that have made me the successful artist I am today. My peers who bothered to get to know the real me discovered that, rather than being selfish, I was actually a very giving child, who was always looking for opportunities to play with others. I enjoyed sharing what I was fortunate to have with others, and I developed an extremely strong sense of fairness.
Being the child of a blue-collar father and a stay-at-home mom, I wasn’t able to get everything that I wanted, and from that, I learned patience and acceptance. I also learned financial responsibility from my father. Up until I was advised to do differently by my attorney, I always paid my bills, and today, I’m debt free. Like my dad, I too now use cash for everything. If I don’t have the money — I don’t buy it.
I learned a lot from my marriage with my first husband, things that helped me when choosing relationships in my future life, and those lessons eventually lead me to my second husband, a man whom I loved dearly and to whom I felt fully connected. And even in my first marriage, good memories were formed from good times. We produced two beautiful children who have a lot to offer the world. My daughter is beautiful, determined, and independent, who has been in successful recovery for more than a year. She’s studying marketing in college — already is working a job in her choose field — and has found her niche in life. My son, who has autism, is extremely kind, caring, and affectionate. He’s also an extremely hard worker and very goal oriented, like his mother. Both are very smart and like to laugh — and when they smile, they light up my world. They both have a bright future ahead of them.
As they and others in my life have needed a lot of care from me and have depended on me in various ways, I have been able find the strength and ability to help them — and that has provided me with a life full of purpose. I have, indeed, felt needed.
My father always said, life is all about your attitude. A positive attitude can make all the difference. Yes, we can trivialize it to a “glass half empty or half full” sort of thing. But it’s hardly trivial, when you examine both tales. It is the difference between living a life that is dead or one that is alive. It’s truly a matter of life and death. I chose and continue to choose the tale where I LIVE. I choose to have the best of times.
Which tale do you choose? Which tale do you live?