By Maggie Lyon

Sometimes I don’t know if I should laugh, scream, cry, or flip out about the ups and the downs, the good and the bad of life. Sometimes it’s all so BIG.

Sound familiar?

I’m one of the many who have a complicated story. If you were to ask me to write out a list of the wildly bad stuff, it runs pretty intense. Here you go: Scary childhood, anorexia, drug abuse, and disfiguring acne—I’m talking over one hundred pustules on my face—all before I was twenty. Add to this one rocky, suicidal year on drugs for manic depression and anxiety; a near nervous breakdown at twenty-four; devastating dysentery at thirty-one; post-traumatic stress disorder from the dysentery—oh, and chronic anxiety to boot!

Needless to say, I have spent a whole lot of my adult years working through all these events, and still sometimes work with them. What’s been amazing, and I mean mind-blowing, about everything I’ve been through, is not only has the tough stuff been punctuated by insanely sweet and terrific stuff, but I now have an upbeat, joyful perspective—and a profound willingness to accept my life as miraculous.

Sure, I’ve cycled through all kinds of attitudes about my story, from feeling like a beaten-down victim, to seeing it all as really terrible luck, to thinking I was being punished for being “inherently flawed,” as my abusive mother used to call me.

As I grew, studied, and took interest in understanding my life, I eventually came to see it as the universe giving me what I could handle. I clung to this as the rationale for all my pain, and to puff myself up when I got envious of other women’s seemingly easier lives.

Yet the more I meditated, wrote, and spoke, this idea fell away too. I slowly began to see and relate to my anger, despair, fear, and sadness as a brilliant opportunity to connect with, and applaud the wonder of, this astounding life. I saw these episodes, and the feelings attached to them, as necessary catalysts of the triumphant rally for my own strength, confidence, overflowing love, and for opening me up to the divine. I also became deeply dedicated to the support and encouragement of others going through their stuff.

For those of you feeling burdened, victimized, afflicted, and/or envious of another person’s life because bad stuff is happening in yours, here are the five steps that have been pivotal for me in spinning the traumatic and ugly into emotional-energetic gold:

1. APPRECIATE what is going well in your life. Be grateful for your gifts, whatever they may be, and find stability here. Instead of calling everything awful, pay attention and seek out and honor the fortunate things too, however hidden they are by your personal mess.

2. RELEASE the tough stuff however you can. Cry it out, talk it out, sweat it out, shout it out, either solo or with a willing group or individual, just don’t hurt yourself or anyone else as you let it go. Finding an outlet is vital when it comes to working with pain. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the bawling and hurting become tears of relief, and sometimes even laughter.

3. LEARN by really looking without judgment at how you are in the middle of your struggles. It requires insane amounts of bravery to do this. You literally reclaim your power by committing to face yourself and your life story, and in seeing the truth of what is. Only by ignoring, resisting, or refusing to look, is the possibility of transformation lost.

4. PERCEIVE differently what you see now from how you’ve been programmed to see it up until now. With a fresh and open perspective, bad luck can quite wonderfully turn out to be good luck. Things that you’ve thought of as random acts of cruelty and doom become blessed and crucial events, utterly essential to your growth.

5. CELEBRATE the gut-it-out hard parts as supportive of the whole beautiful, mystifying journey. Your troubles don’t make you worse off. They make you more profoundly you, richer in character, wiser, and that much more interesting. This last step is about saying, “This is it! This is who I am! I am choosing to live in the light. I am choosing to celebrate the darkness as a vehicle into my bright and exciting future.”

When we change our tune and take ownership of our path, we welcome in the fantastic. By working with and toasting what we’ve got (and have been given) we set ourselves up not only to survive—but to THRIVE. The habitual cry about your or my messed up life simply disappears. Instead, we become our own most spirited cheerleaders, and victory fills the air.

Maggie Lyon is a writer on wellness and spirituality, a motivational speaker, and a holistic lifestyle consultant. A practitioner of Zen Buddhism and Iyengar yoga for the past twenty years, Maggie is committed to guiding others on their individual quests to awaken to the sweetness in life. For more on Maggie, check out her or on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.