I’ve been thinking lately about the things in my life that I threw my fists to the sky about and yelled: It’s just not fair! Why? Why me? Why my family? 

I have been thinking about those things—maybe because I am about to enter the age my father was when he died or maybe simply because enough time has passed—but I have started to find the gifts in those things.

LOVE this poster by my bestie Karen Salmansohn


Oh, for the love of cliché, I can hear you say.

Ok, not always do I see the gifts as they happen. Not all of the time. Maybe 78% of the time. Maybe 67%? Maybe 20%?

Look. I am a human being. Flesh and blood and moody and partially deaf. I still get angry sometimes when I think of my dad dying so young, and I definitely miss him. I miss the idea of him all the time. Every day. That never goes away. I get annoyed that I can’t hear someone call my name. Yea. I do. Daily. But I have been able to recognize the gifts in the things in my life that I once looked upon as curses or faults.

I posed this question on my Facebook the other day:

Has anything happened in your life that, at the time, you perceived as “bad,” “sad,” “crappy,” “unfair,” etc. and which you now look at as a gift? Love to hear. Post below.

To my delight, I got such inspiring answers that I felt I had to share them in a blog. People being so vulnerable and open and wise. That’s the thing. The wisdom. Oh, how wise we get with time.

Does that mean the pain goes away?


Not always.

But it softens around the edges and becomes bearable and eventually becomes a sigh or a nod, but mostly it becomes a part of us, and that part is who we are today. Right now. In this moment.

Here are some of the responses to my question on Facebook:

Alanna Jane: Becoming disabled 3.5 years ago!

Staci Pribush Job loss 2 years ago brought me to the most amazing new path!

Liz Bridges: The morning I got the call that my brother had passed away. It was so painful and very difficult to walk through but I did it. My life has opened up in so many ways and I’ve met people that I love. Thank You Steve! 

(Note from Jen: Steve Bridges was a famous comedian and one of my best friends in the world. It wasn’t until after his death, and, because of his death, that I met his sister, Liz Bridges, whose comment this is.)

Becky Stuto Cervical cancer. I had a hysterectomy at the age of 31 followed by divorce. This was the best thing in my life. It inspired me to live for myself, to go back to school, I remarried the love of my life, and pursued a master’s degree. I’m kicking ass.

Nicole Anderson Getting laid off in 2009 when the economy tanked. Tough time, but I grew and learned a LOT from it and would not be on the amazing path I am today had it not happened. It was a blessing in disguise!

Rachelle Smith Stokes My job right now. I see it as “Bad,” but when I have time to reflect and when I am reminded, it does have some positive things. I am learning from it.

Marilyn McClintic Kriz Absolutely…my marriage. I was considerably unhappy for much of it. But I received many gifts from it…the first being, of course, my children. But as far as ‘lessons learned’ gifts and personal growth, I learned about the addiction to people and relationships and how to recognize the signs and not go down that road again. I learned to follow my heart, my intuition instead of my fears when it comes to my relationships. I learned about the importance of being myself instead of who somebody else wanted me to be. I learned about the importance of communication. I learned how to end a relationship (marriage) in a constructive way. I could go on and on.

Zoe Weldon Divorce and job loss led to me living in my friend’s backyard in a tent at 33…that lead me to the most empowered, juicy, divine life. I now live near the beach, developed a gentle spiritual practice, and have just started my own business. Best lessons ever.

Martha Meyer Barantovich Sexual abuse, which was indeed very shitty, led to bad and shitty decisions/events, but eventually taught me the meaning of strength and how to be empowered. I still learn from my life’s lessons regularly, but with power and strength!

Rachel Michelson I’m 37 and was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer back in January. I’ll be fine. As a result, I’m so much closer to my dad—he flies from the east coast to the west coast every TWO WEEKS so he can be here when I have chemo. And while I don’t feel it all the time, I know this experience has made me stronger and much braver. 🙂

Fiona Williams Finally facing up to my mental health issues a couple of years ago. Still running, still hiding, but have slowed down and am *trying* to work with myself, not against myself.

Jessica Trowbridge My own parents divorced 5 times between the two of them, and my divorce was finalized just over a year ago. I have gotten to know myself SO much more than I would have without these experiences…I see people jumping from relationship to relationship (this is what my parents and ex did) without taking the time to know who they are by themselves. I realize this is easier said than done, but wouldn’t trade my self-discovery for anything! Still learning, and if I decide to enter into another relationship, I feel confident that I will be a much healthier, whole person in that coupling. Thank God.

Michelle Anderson-Weierbach I got pregnant with my first child at age 17. At the time, I thought it was the worst thing on earth that could have happened to me. When she was born, she was a sickly little rag doll, who needed tons of help and care. She was diagnosed with PWS when she was 3. All of this has been a gift and lessons in disguise for me and my family.

Lynn Marie Lost a job I had had for 18 years and loved (I was devastated), met some wonderful people at a volunteer job, time off led to new job, brought my family back together, was re-introduced to the love of my life! Life is so much better now! But if you had told me back then? I never would’ve believed it. So now, right now, I am looking at another job loss/financial desperation…but I am holding on to the knowledge of my last experience when I was in this position and all the wonderful things that I NEVER could’ve imagined for myself…I am anxiously awaiting whatever good things life has in store for me!!!

Kristin Olson I didn’t get into top choices for college, grad school, or my grad internship. Looking back though, the places I went were definitely the best choice for me, but I couldn’t see it at the time. Thank you universe!

Ruthie Goldman Van Wijk Omg yes. My previous marriage falling apart horribly. And now I’m so happy. I teach yoga, am happily remarried, and run a yoga non-profit in Palestine!!! Wooo hoo!

Kathleen Quinn I worked for a company that had layoffs about 4 years ago. They had a committee that picked the people who would be laid off. They told me I was one of people they picked. At the time I was surprised, upset a little, bitter. I later realized that they did the right thing because I could not, in good conscience, convince providers to accept their one-sided contracts.

Lenora: Wow. I no longer feel sorry for myself about stupid stuff after reading these. Beautiful. My experience: having a baby diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. What an incredible path that put us on. None of us would have been the same without it.

Caroline: Almost drinking myself to death…spending time in jail…being driven to treatment by my Father and his best friend…humiliating…the lowest low…that was almost 27 years ago…what a gift that ALL was!!!

Nicole Anderson Thanks so much for posing the question, Jennifer. It’s SO important for us to reflect on the meaning behind the challenges we face in life vs. stay in a negative mindspace. We may get handed lemons, but it’s up to us to find the lemonade and gratitude in those experiences. You inspired and reminded many of us to be grateful for past adversities tonight, so thank you! You = ROCKSTAR!

MovingOn Cancer was the shittiest, most valuable “gift” I’ve received.

Leslie Jampolsky I thought g-d hated me when I was diagnosed with M.S. And that I could not return to work. At the time, my children were 1 week old and 1 year old. When they became school aged, I realized what a blessing it was to be a stay at home mom, where I could volunteer in school and be home for them when they got home from school. That I could help with their homework, cook dinners, make a warm breakfast, etc. That is when I realized that I was truly blessed.

Andrea Rossetto Mom has kidney cancer right now that has metastasized. She is very ill and has been hospitalized for nearly 2 weeks. This is about as horrible as it gets, feels tremendously unfair. To see her so ill is the most painful thing I have ever endured. This has been going on for 5 months. I am not grateful for a thing in this moment. Can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel right now, feel very alone and unsupported. I hope one day I can understand why this is happening. It is excruciating and paralyzing.

To that last one

What I want to say to Andrea is this: I know it sucks. And it does. And it is painful and unfair, and I do not know if I buy into the b.s. that everything happens for a reason. And, yes, I am really sorry that you and mom are suffering. I am no stranger to this. What I know is this: there will be a gift eventually. Whether it comes in the form of you comforting another. Whether it comes in some art you make from it, because your pain is so deep, and that, my love, is what happens to pain transformed. It becomes art. If you let it.

Do not try and be grateful now. Not yet.

Go through what you need to go through and then begin to heal but, meanwhile, read all of the above comments. I hope they provide you with a small sense of hope, even a glimmer, the size of a dime or a truck. Whatever it may be, let them instill in you the hope that you will come out on the other side and, most likely, a better version of yourself. We get better if we let ourselves. I know I have. And a lot of that getting better has been because of the crappy things I thought had happened to me. Father dying, hearing loss, stepfather dying, family losing everything, nephew diagnosed with a rare disorder. All of it, that I wanted so badly to bury in a sack and throw in a dirty river, has created the very woman who is writing to you now and sending you a big fat hug and an invitation to scream and yell and cry and write as much as you want to me.

The rest of you: Bravo.

And to me: Bravo.

I am a better person than I used to be.

Are you?

Add yours below!

Jennifer Pastiloff was recently featured on Good Morning America. She is a yoga teacher, writer, and advocate for children with special needs based in L.A. She is also the creator of Manifestation Yoga® and leads retreats and workshops all over the world. Jennifer is currently writing a book and has a popular daily blog called Manifestation Station. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and take one of her yoga classes online at Yogis Anonymous.

Jen will be leading a Manifestation Yoga® weekend retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires, Massachusetts Feb 1-3, 2013.

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