Everyone of us has had difficult things happen in our lives, for some people very difficult things. And one of those things will live in our memory as being the worst thing that ever happened to us. But then, if you are like me, I remind myself that there are many other people all over the world in many situations who have had – and are having – much worse things happen. This can be a useful way to gain a bit of perspective but, at the same time, it can so easily result in beating yourself for being self-indulgent and self-pitying. The truth is, that if something at a particular time has taken all the strength you have just to bear it, then that is indeed the worst thing that has ever happened to you.
I am reminded of some lines in the poem ‘Things’ by Fleur Adcock:
‘There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these minor betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.’
But if I ask myself right now: ‘What is the worst thing that has happened to me?’, the only answer I can give is ‘I don’t know yet’. I don’t mean that I am anticipating even worse things in my future. What I mean is that I don’t yet know the outcome of all the events in my life. With every year, if I be truthful with myself instead of just replaying past griefs, I come to understand that some of the most difficult things that happened were the turning points to change. And out of that change something wonderful grew, and I became more than I had been before. Sometimes something has to end, or you have to be shocked out of your old way of being, in order for new opportunities to begin.
So it may be that I will find, after all, that whatever I had believed to be the ‘worst thing’ in my life, was actually the best thing of all.