It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
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. After my birth, I was immediately given away by my biological parents.
I grew up with adoptive parents who were older then the parents of most of my peers, and because of that, I didn’t always related to “younger” things that my contemporaries were into. I often did my homework without much assistance, and I didn’t have any assistance at all when I signed up for college, in part because my parents, who were very well educated, didn’t always understand what I was working on well enough to give me a hand. My parents wouldn’t even fill out the financial aid forms, even though most of the information needed had to come from them, since they had the money and the savings accounts. I had to fill them all out by myself.
My parents didn’t adopt other children, so I grew up very alone. I longed horribly for a brother or sister. I played by myself most of the time. As a result of being an only child and having an adoptive mother that had the apron strings tied on to me very tightly, I was constantly accused by others as being “spoiled” — even though I personally knew that I often had to accept not getting what others had, because my mom and dad came from such humble financial means, and my father was careful with the family’s money. Because of this accusation 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 put them through growing up by themselves.
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. And in my adult life, many people came to depend heavily on me, creating a very stressful life. 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 him during the year and a half that he fought a losing battle with lymphoma. He died in 2014. Durning that time my husband was sick, we went through a bankruptcy. Even though I retained our home, I couldn’t afford to keep it on my salary alone, and because my husband was under-insured, 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.
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. That 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 — and all its joys, beauty, and passions — along with 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 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 behavior matured early, and I adopted strong moral values at a young age.
Because I was an only child, I took on leadership roles. Because I often played by myself, I became highly imaginative, 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 I was a giving child, who was always looking for opportunities to play with others, and liked to share with them all that I was fortunate to have. 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 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. But 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 is now a full year in successful recovery. My son is kind, caring, and affectionate. Both are very smart, like to laugh, and when they smile, they light up my world. They are both currently attending college, and their future is bright. As they have needed a lot of care, and as others, such as my second husband and my father, have depended on me in different ways and for different things, I have been able to help them and that has provided me with a life full of purpose. I have 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 living a life that is alive. It’s 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?