Using Your Strengths to Overcome Difficult Circumstances

My husband and I were chatting this morning over coffee, reliving in a sense, the search for my birth father.  He reminded me of how far we have come from knowing nothing to knowing so much information, including a psychic vision he received involving a few letters in the alphabet.  We were trying to decipher how this vision fit in with the stories we have gathered from the people who knew my family 5 decades ago.  We relived the psychic vision he had around 2005 about my birth mother's family before I even knew who she was.  (Mark knew ahead of time that my mother lived in the NW part of the U.S., including identifying the state of her residence and that she had a very unique name.)

One thing is clear to my husband -- he stated that, "you and I are strong people".  Not really understanding where he was going with this line of thinking, I probed him further.

"What do you mean exactly?"

"Well, I am a man of faith and all of these situations and experiences we have lived (sometimes endured) have a purpose. All will be revealed in its own timing.  I believe you will find your father when the time is right and then you will have the ending you need for your book."

(I have to admit I'm a little shocked any time my husband makes declarative statements such as these!).

"My book?  I'll be writing a memoir?"

"Yes, eventually".

My husband freaks me out on a regular basis with his predictions. Why?  Because he is always right (although he is humble enough to deny being always right).  One thing I have learned about my husband -- when he says it, it almost always comes to pass.

I started thinking about how maybe I really am a strong person and then I began to ponder exactly what it means to "be strong" exactly.



the state or quality of being physically or mentally strong
the ability to withstand or exert great force, stress, or pressure;

something that is regarded as being beneficial or a source of power: their chief strength is technology

Amy Morin, a psychotherapist who studies strength on a global level, states in her book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do that there are three components to strength:

Thoughts - identifying irrational thoughts and replacing them with more realistic thoughts.
Behaviors - Behaving in a positive manner despite the circumstances.
Emotions - Controlling your emotions so your emotions don't control you.

In case you are wondering what those 13 things are, I'm going to flip them around from "don'ts" to "dos":

1.  Gratitude
2.  Own your power
3.  Be willing to face change
4.  Focus on what you can control
5.  Please yourself and know that you can't please everybody
6.  Willing to take calculated risks
7.  Forward-looking
8.  Learn from mistakes
9.  Happy for other people's successes
10.  Will keep trying
11.  Enjoy alone time
12.  Earn their success (no sense of entitlement)
13.  Know it takes time to succeed

I admitted to Mark my recent visit to an adoptee author book reading last week was because I felt this unexplainable pull to just go, even when my evening got complicated and I was a bit late.  I had a deep, inner knowing that for some unknown-to-me reason, I needed to be there to meet this adoptee who I had never known or heard of before.  I also felt compelled to take the author a copy of The Adoptee Survival Guide anthology.  I have never done this before, but I listened to my intuition.  

Mark replied that he had that same feeling Friday when he was being pulled to go to the car auction with our adult son, Matt, but there was another side pulling him to the hospital as his brother was having surgery.  He reconciled the conflict using a deep inner knowing telling him his brother would be mad at him if he was sitting in a waiting room for no reason and didn't get on with his day.  He went to the auction and felt a sense of peace about his decision.  I asked him what the decision making process was like for him exactly and he responded, "You just gotta go with it."

So, what does this have to do with strength and/or "being strong"?  And how can we use our strengths in processing and accepting information we learn during our adoptee search and reunion journey?

1.  Strength: Trust your intuition and be brave enough to act on it.

Like the examples above, sometimes you just know something but can't explain why.  Sometimes you feel this overwhelming pull to go someplace or talk to somebody and if you think too long and hard about it, fear might stop you from acting on your gut.  Strong people trust and believe in themselves and what they know to be true.  Even if 15 others around you are telling you differently, a person of strength will trust in their own instincts over others (of course, that is not to say that others cannot provide valuable insight--a topic for another blog).

People will sometimes think you are wacky or flaky for believing what you believe, but no matter. What matters is what you know to be true.  Sometimes these "knowings" have no rhyme or reason to you at the time they are happening.  Only in hindsight can you see where this situation was leading.

I don't know about you, but I don't have time to waste trying to explain to everyone around me why I believe what I believe or know what I know -- I just know it.  I just believe it.  And I act on it.  That is strength.

2.  Strength:  Know and Believe that all things will work together for your good.

I am a church-going woman. Jesus taught Christians to believe all things work together for our good; however, other religious traditions have a similar tenet.  This part of strength is similar to intuition, but in real life, it looks more like faith and hope.

"Yeah, right, Lynn, a tsunami or tornado is going to work together for my good -- even when I'm dead."  I admit, this line of thinking may have some limitations; however, there is so much truth within it.

However, remember working for your good, does not necessarily mean you will be happy about the result.  Nobody goes into marriage hoping to divorce one day, but sometimes divorce can be a blessing.  Nobody is hoping to get a cancer diagnosis; however, in difficult and painful situations, we grow and can be a blessing to others.

I recently read about a local author who published a book called, Parkinsons as a Spiritual Journey.  I I read the author's story in my local paper last night with deep interest because the author, Joseph Reitz, said something that really struck me.  As his doctor was revealing his diagnoses of Parkinsons Disease (after Mr. Reitz had been suffering with tremors in his arm for 2 years), Mr. Reitz felt devastated but at the same time heard this voice in his head that said,

"Everyone has something".

Mr. Reitz was quoted as saying, "It was like a gift of grace and it took the fear right out of me."

Mr. Reitz journeyed through his disease looking for ways to hope, manage, accept and help others who were walking the same journey as him.  A psychotherapist read a few of his stories and encouraged him to keep writing his stories and stated these stories could help his other patients.   He turned his stories into a book, bringing hope to others with the same diagnosis.

3.  Strength:  Knowing when to ask for help

A few times I have openly acknowledged during conversations with people that I have had counseling.  I always laugh inside when their faces give away their surprise that I would admit this out loud.  I have had people confess to me that they would never tell a stranger their innermost thoughts.  Others have looked at me with a perplexed face, not saying what I suspect is really on their minds:  we got a crazy one here!

It is not weakness to admit when you need help.   Back in the mid-90's, Mark and I lost a baby during the second trimester of my pregnancy and we were devastated. We could not lean on each other as we were both grieving.  So I decided to find a therapist to help me work through my grief.

When our car breaks down, we find a mechanic. Well, when our hearts are breaking down, therapy can be good.  When our emotions get too far out of hand, it is good to seek therapy or talk to a friend or loved one.

Weak people will not ask for help, mainly because it makes them feel (or in their minds) look weaker.

If you get your DNA tested, but you don't have the foggiest clue how to interpret the information, ask others who understand genetic genealogy.  If you are an adoptee and others around you do not understand what you are feeling, seek out a support group.

Strong people know where their limits lie and will reach out for help.  Be strong and ask for help!

4.  Strength:  Seeing the good in the bad

A large part of the conversation with my husband this morning centered around the pain I experienced during my reunion with my maternal family.

Through our discussions, I realized that my reunion fell apart (partly) because I asked too many questions about my father and who he was.   This "need to know" of mine threatened my mother as she had no intention of sharing that information with me (unbeknownst to me) and I had no intention of accepting that as the final word on the matter.  It is painful to accept that a relationship I fantasized about my whole life, ended too soon, albeit silently, over the truth about my conception.

As I relived the dark feelings this morning, other thoughts began to occur to me.  I was really, really blessed to meet my mother at all.  I was blessed to be able to stay in her home, look at her face and have many conversations with her -- something so many adopted people never had as their mother was deceased by the time they learned who their mothers were or learned they were adopted.  I was blessed. I was blessed to find out who she was when others still have unanswered questions about their mothers.

It is easy some days to feel sorry for myself when I log into DNA Detectives and read stories of searchers (adopted and non-adopted alike) who right off the bat get a first cousin match upon taking their very first DNA test, and I'm 2 and a half years into genetic genealogy (in all the databases) and have nothing closer than a 4th cousin match to my father (I am not alone in this category).

Lately, though, I have realized that I wouldn't have learned as much as I have about genetic genealogy over the last several years and met the amazing people I had met if I had instantly gotten access to my paternal line like so many others. I am learning and growing through this journey, whether I would choose that path or not.  It is what it is!

There is a silver lining in every hurt, every rejection, every disappointment.  Sometimes it can take years to recognize it, but it's there.

It takes strength to see it and keep moving forward.


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