I recently asked, "What have the great trials of your life taught you?" The responses I received ranged from thoughtful to funny to deeply moving. Some were quite personal. I liked them so much I'm reposting from comments to here. If you have a few minutes, enjoy them.
annafdd: That a lot of pain comes from remembering the past and anticipating the future, and that if you manage to stay in the present moment, no matter how shitty, you actually feel better. (does not work for physical pain)
Anonymous: All people are real, even the invisible ones on the other side of the monitor.
Anonymous: Don't leave with anything unsaid except perhaps good-bye.
Anonymous: It's never wrong to be kind.
Anonymous: That it would be a really good idea to stop drinking.
anton_p_nym: Most recently (ie: yesterday) I learned that if you're known as the quiet and diligent type, if you do pitch a hissy-fit it gets really noticed. (Perhaps even noticed too much.)
barbarienne: That my dad was right. His two favorite quotes were "The essence of life is change" and "this too shall pass."
After enough years and enough stuff, I understood those words. Stuff that was horrible and life-changing and so on when it happened is, twenty+ years later, just another bump on the road of life.
Granted, Dad never faced recurring cancer. I suspect those phrases may ring differently in your situation.
Bill: I have learned that my inner voice belongs to a complete and utter bastard. Sort of like a less feelgood C. W. Sughrue.
I still miss my dad, though.
brownkitty: A generous spirit is a valuable thing. People will attempt to use it. They're not always aware of it. Don't let any of that stop you.
brownkitty: A hug may not fix it. Lack of a hug may well break it beyond repair.
brownkitty: Home doesn't have to be a particular location. It can be a mindset, an environmental factor, a culture, a person, a concept.
brownkitty: If you're keeping score in a relationship, that relationship is in trouble. Because you're keeping score now doesn't mean you'll be keeping score next year, next month, next week, next minute.
brownkitty: Maybe, sometimes, a personal vocation shouldn't be a professional ones.
mikandra: A family upheaval has taught me that something you thought was secure can suddenly fall apart completely and utterly and without prior notice or chance of repair. In other words: that you need to be appreciative of what you have at this very moment.
mikandra: Life in general has taught me that all the superlatives in the world cannot overrate financial security.
mikandra: The too-early death of my father taught me that if you have a plan to do something, stop talking about it and do it, right now.
mikigarrison: Financial stress makes almost all crises harder to deal with, and crises increase the odds of financial stress. If I'd realized this 20 ago the degree to which I do now, I would have made very different choices.
mikigarrison: It can be really hard not to smack people who feel the need to tell you how "lucky" you are to be coping so well, or surviving this crisis, etc. It's not luck, it's damned hard work. In some cases it's damned hard work now, and in some cases it's the damned hard work I put in earlier to give myself a cushion and flexibility for crises.
mikigarrison: Letting myself have a "lazy" day with no expectations can be an incredibly important thing.
mikigarrison: That the people I enjoy doing fun things with are not always people I can count on when I need them -- and the harder lesson here is that this is ok. A friend does not need to be able to meet all my various needs to still be a good friend.
mikigarrison: That what is really, truly most important to me in life is sometimes different than what I'd always assumed -- when you start having to tightly ration energy and caring, your choices can tell you a lot about yourself. I've tried to carry that lesson over to my non-crisis life, but it's something I have to be on top of on a regular basis -- it's far too easy for me to get sucked into spending too much of my time on what I *think* should be important to me rather than on what really is.
mmegaera: That I can handle a divorce, a cross-country move alone, a new job in a place where I know no one, and my father's death in the space of a month, which while hell at the time did wonders for my self-confidence in the long run.
scarlettina: And, for better or worse, the sun always comes up tomorrow.
scarlettina: God (or Providence or Osiris or Luck...or Loki) helps those who help themselves. But he always waits for you to go first.
scarlettina: We always underestimate the willingness of those around us to help when things go south.
scarlettina: We are all far stronger than we realize. We may not like the necessity of manifesting that strength, but we are and we can.
But that's okay, because I am amazing and can do it by myself.
snippy: Nobody is looking out for my interests but me...just as well, because I'm better at it than anyone else.
snippy: Whatever I am doing is the most fun to be had, largely because I am doing it and I am fun.
therinth: Make room for people to have second chances.
torreybird: When I lost the Pearl of Great Price down the Great Sewer of Circumstance, I destroyed myself with worry: Did I stumble? Should I have destroyed the Pearl with piercing, and thereby secure it?
I learned I should quit feeling guilty about circumstances beyond my control, and instead examine my motivations, my decisions, my actions - and learn the lessons available.
Sometimes, the lesson is only that the Sewer stinks.
wlotus: Agnosticism, for starters. Years of believing in (or trying to, anyway) and worshiping a divinity did NOT help me get through the trials I have encountered in life, so far.
wlotus: I learned to appreciate the good moments when they happen, and to strive to do so without looking over my shoulder to see what is coming next.
wyld_dandelyon: I think the first thing I've learned is something I believe you are aware of--that you don't have to have a big-D Disease, one that everyone recognizes is life threatening and life changing, to have your sleep and memory, your productivity and enjoyment of life stolen away, sometimes slowly enough that you don't realize what you've lost.
Maybe that's the hardest--when it creeps up so slowly you don't realize that you've lost capacity, even while you're crippled by it.
And it's humbling when you find out something you can do--or not do--that helps you recover some of that capacity, pretty much by accident!