A silver lining with some rough edges

I don’t remember when I started doing it, but I’ve always answered the question the same way.

Someone: “There’s good news and bad news. What do you want first?”

Me: “Tell me the bad news, that way the good news will cheer me up.”

That’s just the way my brain works, I guess. I’m the silver-lining finder, the rainbow chaser, the bright side of life seeker. It’s not always easy, but it’s like my default setting. It might be a remnant of my childhood, when I spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. I was born an Idiopathic Toe-Walker, but it took a lot of doctors and appointments to get to a diagnosis. My parents exhausted many hours and even more dollars to figure out why I couldn’t walk normally.

Bullying by my grade school peers became a daily struggle. When you’re a little kid, you don’t understand why the other kids are being so mean. Mom and Dad were wonderfully supportive, but that negativity will set in your mind like wet cement.

When I was ten, I spent weeks at what was then the Elizabethtown Children’s Hospital in Hershey, PA. The doctors were going to perform a relatively new surgery that entailed snipping my achilles tendons and stretching them out in an attempt to give me a chance at a life outside of a wheelchair. (Good News – it mostly worked!)

Before our first trip to the hospital, my dad sat me down and told me point blank that I was going to see children there that were in way worse shape than I was, and to not point or stare at the other kids. He made it very clear that I needed to consider myself very lucky and that there were kids who didn’t have it as good as I did. Dude – I could barely walk and was getting picked on every day. How could they have it worse than me?

It was eye opening to say the least. There were children with full body burns, major growth disorders, and maladies beyond my comprehension. He was right. I was lucky. Sure, I couldn’t walk right, but otherwise I was healthy and happy, with a good prognosis ahead of me if I put the work into PT.

Fast forward thirty years and it looks like that lesson has stuck with me. Teaching is hard, but it’s a good job that I love most days. I’ve gained some weight over the last few years but it’s because I quit smoking and drinking. I have a roof over my head, family and friends, and host of things to be grateful for. My dad was right. I’m lucky.

Sometimes it feels like I’m in over my head, but I won’t drown. Mom and Dad threw me a lifesaver when they taught me that coping skill when I was so young.

Karen Padden

Karen, Queen of the Paddens and first of her name. Teacher, Baker, Petter of Cats, Multiple Sneezer and Crocheter of Wubbies. Believes in kindness, always.

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