Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.  ~William Feather

I never imagined my life turning out the way it has.  I remember getting married in 2003 and thinking I would live a happy and healthy life, raising kids of my own.  The beginning of my marriage and my new life with Chris started out just as we had planned.  I worked as a nurse, supporting us while he attended grad school. Life seemed like it could not get any better.  We were happily married, lived at the beach, and could travel and do just about whatever we wanted.  I had “great” friends at the time who were there for me through thick and thin.  We were living the good life.

I used to think success meant that you graduate from school to land the job of your dreams, and throughout your career and living life, you make a difference one life at a time.  I assumed that success also included making money to be able to go and do as you please, having as many kids as you desired, and having the greatest friends who would always stick by your side.  Boy was I wrong.  Working my dream job of nursing lasted only 5 years, as I endured a chronic illness. Money became a foreign word and a rarity to us. While both of us desire kids more than anything, giving birth could possibly be a matter of life or death for me and/or our child.  In the midst of these trials, many of my relationships turned south.

Success, it turns out, isn’t black and white. It doesn’t fit some sort of mold for each person.  Now, I define success as being able to handle and live each and every day with my head held high, being able to accomplish the everyday struggles that I live with, and no matter who is for me or against me, knowing that I can do anything I put my mind, heart, and faith around.

When I became sick, most of the people in my life abandoned me in the times I needed them the most.  I lacked the support I needed in relationships while living out my nightmare.  I yearned for someone to talk to, to cry with, and to simply lean on when times were unstable and out of control.  They were not the ones living my “hell”, so why would they walk out on me?  I was told by one of my former counselors that she walked out of a good friendship when her friend was diagnosed with a long-term illness.  Her excuse was that, too often, she had to change her own schedule to fit her friend’s altered schedule and inability to participate in some activities due to her condition.  She explained that she could not deal with it anymore because it became too inconvenient to be friends with her.  When she shared this experience, I was left speechless.  It made me think to myself, “Am I an inconvenience to people?”  Calls from friends and other relationships had come to an abrupt end.  Even now, as I have lived with this disease and begun living my “new normal”, I still see the quick relationships come and go.

After many years of dwelling on broken relationships and hardships, I was mired in misery. Something had to change! I discovered that happiness comes from within me and through the love of God, who has transformed me in a way I could never do alone.  It is not how many friends you have, but the quality that matters.  True friendship will not walk out no matter how hard things get.  True friendship will stand the test of time – through both happy moments and sad days, conflict and disappointment, honesty, and change.  Relationships are just like a marriage.  You both have to give 100 percent, or they will not survive. There is no room for jealousy or selfishness, but rather selflessness and patience. Losing relationships is inevitable.  A few of my losses devastated me both emotionally and mentally. It took years to finally move past some of them. For some, I did not know if I would ever be able to move past them and overcome the loss.  No matter if they were family or friends, losing a relationship of someone I loved has never been easy. If I cannot be myself, be honest, and openly share positive or negative things, without the relationship ending, then I do not need the relationship and never had it in the first place. Hanging on alone to toxic relationships is not healthy. They have moved on, and so should I.

Through the good times and bad, I have become a strong person who can overcome and move on because, with God, I am not given anything I cannot handle.  Dwelling on the loss or past will not bring back lost dreams, goals, jobs, or relationships, but moving forward in a positive direction builds our strength and character. That’s the true definition of success.