In my last blog I talked about the gift of resilience in the face of my job loss. It has been 2 weeks since I wrote that post and it has been a roller coaster of a fortnight. I can say that I have experienced the gamut of emotions from grief, to terror, to relief, to joy. But, by far, the emotion I have experienced the most is overwhelming gratitude for the tremendous love and connections I have in my life.
In my gratitude journal, one of the first things I write every day is ‘thank you for love and connections in my life’. I don’t think before these last two weeks that I fully understood the true meaning of those words. As an avid reader, I have been exploring the concept of belonging and love over the last several years. I was particularly struck by Dr. Brene Brown’s research on what she calls ‘wholeheartedness.’ Her research shows that people with a strong sense of love and belonging feel they are worthy of it. They are courageously imperfect, have the compassion to be kind to themselves as well as to others and a connection as a result of being who they are – authentically vulnerable. I have strived to accept who I am, warts and all, in my interactions with colleagues, friends and family. And I have been doing this since I started to tell my story of mental illness and, more recently, alcohol abuse through my writing and speaking. However, it is one thing to embrace a concept, but completely life-altering to experience the results as profoundly as I have since I was terminated from my workplace of almost 26 years. The outpouring of cards, emails, phone calls, visits, Facebook posts, hugs, tears, smiles, laughter, flowers, words of concern, gratitude and even righteous indignation on my behalf have been overwhelming.
Dr. Brown states that “connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” What I heard from friends and colleagues was that I would be not just okay, but I would find new success and happiness in my life. In a world where value often seems to be defined by money, fame, possessions, title, and status, how incredible it is to realize that my worth can be measured by the many truly great people in my life. Their loving presence – body, heart and soul – has shown me that I have something that is both precious and priceless.
There have been times in the recent past when I have wondered if putting the mask back on and behaving in a way that some others deem as acceptable and hiding my true self wasn’t a safer road to take. I consciously chose not to do that – authenticity was more important than security for me. The rightness of that decision is further supported by the fact that it has been the loud laughing, outspoken and fundamentally imperfect me hat all of these wonderful people have reached out to support. My friends love me without judgment, and it is on these terms that I love them right back. I understand what the Beatles meant when they said ‘I get by with a little help from my friends.’ The better part of my resilience comes from my connections. It is a factor of the number of arms that are extended to me; that hold me up when times are rough.
So for all the people in my life who have reached out, I want to send you a big, wholehearted thank you. I want to tell you that I know without question that I am one of the luckiest and richest people in the world. I am honoured, humbled and grateful for all the blessings your friendship have and continues to give to me.
John Lennon got it right: ‘all you need is love.’ To all my kindred spirits, I send it right back at ya!
About Susan Mifsud
Susan Mifsud is a 49 year old mother of two adult sons who has worked in university administration for the last 25 years. She is an active volunteer and advocate in support of the elimination of stigma and shame related to mental illness and addiction. Follow Susan’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds blog or additionally follow Susan on Twitter.