Resilience In the Face of Adversity

The words that are responsible for nothing less than emotional, spiritual and psychological violence: Everything happens for a reason.

That’s the kind of bullshit that destroys lives. And it is categorically untrue.

It is amazing to me that so many of these myths persist—and that is why I share actionable tools and strategies to work with your pain. These myths are nothing more than platitudes cloaked as sophistication, and they preclude us from doing the one and only thing we must do when our lives are turned upside down: grieve.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve heard these countless times. You’ve probably even uttered them a few times yourself. And every single one of them needs to be annihilated.

Let me be crystal clear: if you’ve faced a tragedy and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that taking responsibility for it will fix it, you have every right to remove them from your life.

Grief is brutally painful. Grief does not only occur when someone dies. When relationships fall apart, you grieve. When opportunities are shattered, you grieve. When dreams die, you grieve. When illnesses wreck you, you grieve.

So I’m going to repeat a few words I’ve uttered countless times; words so powerful and honest they tear at the hubris of every jackass who participates in the debasing of the grieving:

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. 

These words are so poignant because they aim right at the pathetic platitudes our culture has come to embody on an increasingly hopeless level. Losing a child cannot be fixed. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed. Facing the betrayal of your closest confidante cannot be fixed.

They can only be carried.

I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn’t. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we’ve replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence.

I now live an extraordinary life. I’ve been deeply blessed by the opportunities I’ve had and the radically unconventional life I’ve built for myself. Yet even with that said, I’m hardly being facetious when I say that loss has not in and of itself made me a better person. In fact, in some ways it’s hardened me.

While so much loss has made me acutely aware and empathetic of the pains of others, it has made me more insular and predisposed to hide. I have a more cynical view of human nature, and a greater impatience with those who are unfamiliar with what loss does to people.

Above all, I’ve been left with a pervasive survivor’s guilt that has haunted me for a couple of years. This guilt is really the genesis of my hiding, self-sabotage and brokenness.

In short, my pain has never been eradicated, I’ve just learned to channel it into my work with others. I consider it a great privilege to work with others in pain, but to say that my losses somehow had to happen in order for my gifts to grow would be to trample on the memories of all those I lost too young; all those who suffered needlessly, and all those who faced the same trials I did early in life, but who did not make it.

I’m simply not going to do that. I’m not going to construct some delusional narrative fallacy for myself so that I can feel better about being alive. I’m not going to assume that God ordained me for life instead of all the others so that I could do what I do now. And I’m certainly not going to pretend that I’ve made it through simply because I was strong enough; that I became “successful” because I “took responsibility.”

There’s a lot of “take responsibility” platitudes in the personal development space, and they are largely nonsense. People tell others to take responsibility when they don’t want to understand.

Because understanding is harder than posturing. Telling someone to “take responsibility” for their loss is a form of benevolent masturbation. It’s the inverse of inspirational porn: it’s sanctimonious porn.

Personal responsibility implies that there’s something to take responsibility for. You don’t take responsibility for being raped or losing your child. You take responsibility for how you choose to live in the wake of the horrors that confront you, but you don’t choose whether you grieve. We’re not that smart or powerful. When hell visits us, we don’t get to escape grieving.

This is why all the platitudes and fixes and posturing are so dangerous: in unleashing them upon those we claim to love, we deny them the right to grieve.

In so doing, we deny them the right to be human. We steal a bit of their freedom precisely when they’re standing at the intersection of their greatest fragility and despair.

No one—and I mean no one—has that authority. Though we claim it all the time.

The irony is that the only thing that even can be “responsible” amid loss is grieving.

So if anyone tells you some form of get over it, move on, or rise above, you can let them go.

If anyone avoids you amidst loss, or pretends like it didn’t happen, or disappears from your life, you can let them go.

If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go.

Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit.

You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go.

I’m not saying you should. That is up to you, and only up to you. It isn’t an easy decision to make and should be made carefully. But I want you to understand that you can.

I’ve grieved many times in my life. I’ve been overwhelmed with shame and self-hatred so strong it’s nearly killed me.

The ones who helped—the only ones who helped—were those who were there. And said nothing.

In that nothingness, they did everything.

I am here—I have lived—because they chose to love me. They loved me in their silence, in their willingness to suffer with me, alongside me, and through me. They loved me in their desire to be as uncomfortable, as destroyed, as I was, if only for a week, an hour, even just a few minutes.

Most people have no idea how utterly powerful this is.

Are there ways to find “healing” amid devastation? Yes. Can one be “transformed” by the hell life thrusts upon them? Absolutely. But it does not happen if one is not permitted to grieve. Because grief itself is not an obstacle.

The obstacles come later. The choices as to how to live; how to carry what we have lost; how to weave a new mosaic for ourselves? Those come in the wake of grief. It cannot be any other way.

Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience. If it is not permitted to occur, its absence pillages everything that remains: the fragile, vulnerable shell you might become in the face of catastrophe.

Yet our culture has treated grief as a problem to be solved, an illness to be healed, or both. In the process, we’ve done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. As a result, when you’re faced with tragedy you usually find that you’re no longer surrounded by people, you’re surrounded by platitudes.

XOXO

April

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Chivalrous Acts

Congrats!

I’m a modern girl. I’m independent and I’m single. I have built a career from the ground up, read everyone from C.S. Lewis to Suzanne Collins, can navigate social media with relative ease, and watch New Girl every week like it’s my job.

And? I know I can take care of myself. But hey, call me old-fashioned, too. It’s fine. I can appreciate aspects of feminism, but I prefer gender roles. I like when a guy volunteers to kill a massive spider without complaint, or lift a heavy box in my stead.

I find chivalry to be a gorgeous thing. 

Most women I know are a little like that. We love our modern independence in life and in love, but deep down, we want guys to treat us like ladies. As most women will attest, it’s become increasingly rare. Gentlemanly behavior sets our hearts aflutter. We want to see it, and many of us are waiting on it.

Some men make us question why chivalrous acts have died out. However, other men prove that sweetness still exists. I want a guy to court me a bit. In fact, I’m sort of holding out for that. Someone to sweep me off my feet? No, gosh no. Grand gestures are wholly unnecessary. I just want someone I can count on. I just want him to do little things to make me sure he’s the real deal.

Dating today is tough, and we women always seem to have doubts about the guys that roll into our lives. Does he like me? Are his motives genuine? Can I trust him completely? Guessing means you usually can’t, and confusion isn’t a good thing.

Most women would like to erase that. So if he puts in the time and does the little things, it’s like a screening process for us. He’s more likely to be into us as human beings, not hookups. He’s more likely to be Mr. Right when we’re over dealing with all those Mr. Wrongs. That’s why chivalry is as important now as it ever was.

Here’s to all the women who are looking for that chivalrous, good-hearted guy. He’s out there. These are the things he does to make us swoon. (And to all those chivalrous, good-hearted guys, keep doing what you’re doing. We love you for it.)

Here are a few of the cutest ones that would make any girl swoon:

1. Call. It would be nice to receive a phone call instead of text messages. While a text shows you were on his mind, a phone call is more personal. Call, don’t text a date invitation. Just the fact that you would take the time to actually call a woman to ask her out on a date will put you light years ahead of your competition (of which there is a lot).

2. Offer you his jacket. When the weather turns colder, and you have on light clothing, it’s cute when he offers you his jacket. It’s a sweet gesture.

3. Put your hand on the small of her back when introducing her to someone. This is something I read a long time ago and it stuck with me for some reason. This is a passive sign of affection and isn’t inappropriate in a public setting, but it bonds the two of you together and helps her feel more comfortable.

4. Open the door for her. The door to the restaurant, the car door, the door to the car picking you up. Whatever door is relevant to you both walking through, please do not lose sight of this simple but often overlooked act of kindness.

5. Suffering through a girly movie. When a man volunteers to endure a girly show or movie because he knows you’ll enjoy it, he earns major bonus points. (Even more if he does so without complaining or expecting something in return.)

Women in turn should respect the act of chivalry. I know many women out there who do not want the door opened for them because it makes them feel like their power or independence is somehow being taken away from them. They are aggressive and headstrong in society. It may not be because they want to be, but because to make it in the world, they have to be. This is true. However, can you imagine a world where chivalry didn’t exist at all? Would you want your daughter marrying a man that didn’t show her this appreciation for being the amazing, strong, supporting, dynamic woman that she is?

In short, that’s what chivalry is — a choice. The choice to do the right things, for the right reasons, at the right times.

XOXO
April McManus

EVERYDAY IS A MIRACLE (Happy Birthday Paytun)

It just seems like yesterday when Cory and I were talking about the idea of having another child… Then one day in early September we found out that we were pregnant, December I was put on mandatory bedrest. So, when Paytun was finally born, she entered the world huge for 37 weeks, at over 7 pounds, and crying loudly…we were so relieved!

She has brought such joy to our lives, and it’s hard to believe she is ten! Here are just ten of the reasons why we love her so!

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1. She’s an outgoing extrovert. I joke that I’m a outgoing extrovert and Cory’s an outgoing introvert, but it’s true. Paytun is the best of us both!

2. She is incredibly creative and crafty. I cannot believe the things she comes up with…from a very young age and as recently as last week. Get her together with her friends Hannah & Morgan and they produce all sorts of new inventions.

3. She is such a great little sister, usually. Sometimes she complains about her big sisters being annoying, but most of the time she takes good care of them and includes them in her adventures. She also does a lot of teaching. Taryn adores her (when they are not fighting…). Haha! She also gets along well with Mari–for the most part. Hey–no kid is perfect!

4. She is a truly great friend and daughter. Each year at her birthday party I’m struck by what nice friends she has, and how much they appreciate and enjoy each other. Sh chooses her friends carefully–and I love the fact that she has just as many female friends as male friends. At her birthday party this year we will have girls and boys.

5. She is forgiving, diplomatic, and considerate. If she receives a present she already has, she is tactful and doesn’t blurt out that he already has it. She does not say unkind things to other people (with the occasional exception of her sisters). 🙂 She has a huge heart.
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6. She is confident and daring. She never seems to get stage fright when performing, in fact she loves the limelight, just like his mommie. Like her daddy she loves thrill rides!

7. She is talented–that’s not really why I love her, but it seems like it fits. We’ve been told she has a talent for swim, although she’s just putting in his time at the moment. Her first love is science. Running is just on the side. They seem to come so easily to her, I never had that kind of confidence or poise in front of all those people as a kid!

8. She has pizzazz. That’s what I am told by all her teachers. She is one of those people who has a natural dynamism and energy.
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9. She’s resilient, upbeat, and enthusiastic, which I consider three important traits for happiness. Whenever she gets into a funk (and she does, probably more often than others in the family–she has big feelings), I know she will rebound and recover before much time has passed. She usually goes off to have time by herself and recover. She also embodies one of my favorite quotes, which is:

 “Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

10. She is sensitive. We cry together at emotional movies. She’s also incredibly affectionate and tells me she loves me every single day. Usually, it’s “I love you more.”

Love this kid, and I’m so proud of her for what she’s already accomplished in her first decade!

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50 THINGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY

I know that being happy can sometimes feel quite temporary and the little joys can easily get lost when you’ve had a bad day at work or been sat in traffic for two hours, so it’s great to remind ourselves of those little quirks that make us happy every now and again.

Without further ado, here are fifty of the things that make me happy (in no particular order).

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XOXO –

April

The Fight Goes On …

The Way We’re Told It Goes:
Meet The One…

1. Fall In BUTTERFLY Love
2. Have all the Feelings
3. Date
4. Move Into Together: AKA YOU’VE CROSSED THE FINISH LINE! You’re done! Congrats, Cinderella! All that’s left now is: Happily Ever After!!!!!

The Way It Has Worked For Me:
Meet A Special One…

1. Fall in Butterfly Love
2. Have all the feelings
3. Date
4. Move In Together  – AKA Cross the STARTING LINE.

5. You’ve begun. Shit gets real.  Grocery shopping and children and assembling furniture and navigating each other’s families and demons and other confusing, terrifying things keep happening.

6. Slowly understand that relationships are not what you thought it would be and your signicant other is not who you thought he’d be and additionally you are not who you thought you’d be.

7. Notice there are no more butterflies. Panic like bloody hell. Understand with mounting dread that LIFE has killed the butterflies and this must mean you have “fallen out of love.”

8. Look into separation.

9. Start to learn how horribly difficult it will be to separate for you and everyone you love and also – HOLY CRAP IT COSTS A LOT. Try to locate a path of less resistance. Search for some solution that is less emotionally and physically and mentally and financially expensive. It’s often not LOVE that makes us stay – but the expense of leaving. AND THAT’S OKAY.

10. Ask for help. Suggest meeting with experts, talk to wise people, read good books. Mostly, Be still and listen for The Next Right Thing in the quiet.Wait. Keep waiting. Make no decisions except what to do EXACTLY RIGHT NOW. Sit with the pain. Sit with the struggle. Sit with the uncertainty. Resist the relentless urge to deflect the pain, run from the pain, numb the pain with food- booze -work –future tripping- unkindness- false certainty -busyness or any other Wisdom Killer.  Just Be Still and Wait.

11. SLOWLY embrace the truth that a million warriors have discovered before you  – You have not FALLEN OUT OF LOVE. You have fallen out of infatuation AND INTO LOVE.  Like it or NOT- THIS IS IT, SISTER. This is Love. It ain’t the Disney version- it’s the REAL version. The Disney version is easy and shiny and struggle free and happily ever after but the Real Version is about allowing struggle to morph you into a bigger, more spiritual being. Real love is about METAMORPHOSIS, and metamorphosis IS FIFTY SHADES OF PAIN – just ask the butterfly.

12. Start over every freaking morning.

13. Go to sleep every night feeling exhausted and blessed as hell.

Much Love,

April

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Feelings Might Be Overrated

This afternoon I find myself in a very depressed mood. Don’t get me wrong — I am very thankful for my life.    I have every reason to be happy. Thankfulness is essential if you’re ever going to take hold of rest and contentment.  But thankfulness and contentment don’t always mean you’re happy.

We have this stupid belief in America that if we’re not happy, we must not be “doing it right.”   Life, I mean.  Sometimes we really aren’t doing it right, and we are never doing anything completely right. But happiness is not a consistent measure of this.  Oftentimes we do very good things that make us sad, or do very wrong things that make us happy.

I think that, more often than not, our feelings are overrated.  That is not to say that they are useless or bad.  They are important.  But what I am saying is that we give them too much credit to dictate our lives.  When we’re happy, it’s harder to challenge ourselves to love God and serve others more.  And when we’re sad, it’s easy to become a little vacuum to try to suck life from any old source we can find.

And more often than not, moods don’t direct us to satisfying things.  They are more related to how much sleep we got last night, or how many vegetables we had, or our genetic composition, than whether we are making upright choices in life.  Moods are self-preserving mechanisms that try to persuade us to meet our own needs.  If we let emotions control us, it can be dangerous and unhelpful, not only for the people around us, but ourselves as well.

Emotions are confusing,  some say God is our lamp to navigate through our chaotic or dissatisfying lives.

I’m reminding myself today that I have everything I need already therefore i am fully equipped to fight the good fight.

When we’re unhappy, it’s easy to think, “Maybe I just need ____.”   But when we run after anything in this world, it will always disappoint us.

When I considered all that I have accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I find I’m quite strong.

When I used to put puzzles together as a kid, I would get frustrated when pieces wouldn’t fit.  To relieve my frustration, I would try using a hammer.  Although this would force the pieces into place, these pieces were not made for each other, and I would find at the end that the picture was neither beautiful nor satisfying.  I knew I would have to submit to the reality of the puzzle instead of merely relieving my frustration.

Yet I still find myself wanting it both ways.  I want the puzzle to be complete and I want it done now.  I want Jesus to be the head of my life and I want to be in control and have everything go my way.  And I want to be happy all the time.  I want Jesus to get the glory He deserves, and I want to steal a little for myself.

I am glad that the choices I make in my life are not the fatalistic result of my feelings at any given moment. I am free to make choices because of my consistent resolve to live to the fullest purposes.

Much Love Always,

April

Enjoy Life Slowly

During a conversation with a dear friend a couple of days ago, she mentioned that she works more now than she ever did in the past and is missing out on life’s little pleasures…

Whether you’re single, married, or in a relationship, the demands of life and the expectations of those nearest and dearest to your heart can make finding time for yourself a huge challenge. Between dedicating time to parents, children, partners, siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, friends, colleagues, and work, it’s hard to even dream of stealing a little time for yourself.

Couple that with the guilt that many people, especially women,  experience when they manage to find a few moments of time for themselves, and it becomes clear why so many people feel that finding time for themselves isn’t worth the effort. But worth the effort it is, and not only because of the personal benefits you’ll reap. Alone time has interpersonal benefits as well.

Taking time for yourself gives your brain a chance to reboot, improves concentration, increases productivity, helps you discover (or rediscover) your own voice, gives you a chance to think deeply, and helps you problem solve more effectively. It also gives you a better sense of balance and self-awareness that can lead to a better understanding of yourself–what drives you, what inspires you, what excites you. This, in turn, can have a positive effect not only on the quality of your relationship with yourself, but also on the quality of your relationships with others.
I leave you with this …

“When we take some time to solely think about ourselves, and not have to consider our impact on others, we begin the process of true self-awareness. It can be a little daunting at first, but the result of this awareness is that you learn what drives you, what excites you, and what motivates you. This new-found self-awareness is a beautiful thing and it can have a dramatically positive effect on your life and relationships.” – Marty Herald
X❤X❤, April