Emotion Commotion: Life Experiences, Life Lessons

Life Lessons
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Written by Kimberly Elmore

Almost a decade ago, my life changed as I had known it. My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was 25 and she was 53.

Almost a decade ago, my life changed as I had known it. My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was 25 and she was 53.

We all have different life experiences and even those of us who have the same or similar life experiences, often experience them differently. There are many factors that influence this–our upbringing, our personality, our self awareness levels, our mental health, etc. This article isn’t about all those aspects, but will cover how our life experiences influence our emotional responses and the lessons life experience can provide.

Almost a decade ago, my life changed as I had known it. My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was 25 and she was 53.

At that time, most of my friends were leading seemingly carefree lives. Starting careers, making new friends, socializing, and my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. No one in my group of friends had life experience with that sort of thing at that time. When I was 29, my mom passed away. This life experience is probably the most defining moment of my life, up until this point.

She was given her last rites by a priest on her birthday — the timing, I thought, was ironic. Knowing that 57 years earlier that day was such a joyous occasion, and then 57 years later, it was incredibly sad. She was actually given her last rites at around the exact moment she was born — life is eerily weird sometimes.

I was in her hospice room. My mom had started steadily sleeping earlier that day, but when the priest came into her room, she opened her eyes and greeted him with a, “hello Father.” This makes me smile now because my mom went to Catholic school and used to tell me about the Catholic guilt she was raised to believe in. So, of course she would find the strength to open her eyes to acknowledge a priest!

The priest started praying, I started crying, and my mom closed her eyes and slept again. I remember him saying something like, “Remember your mom did the best she could. That’s all any of us can do.”

In the upcoming year following my mom’s death, I was incredibly sad, depressed even. I was the first of my friends to lose a parent as a young adult. I would get angry that no one could relate. I would get angry that this happened to my mom. I would get angry that people weren’t reacting the way I thought they should. My dad, brother, extended family, and I all processed and reacted to my mom’s death differently.

I’ve learned that anger is an outward expression of a deeply internal hurt. It is self destructive. I was only hurting myself with my anger. I was essentially jogging in place, expecting my anger to magically propel me forward. There’s no forward motion with anger.

I remembered what the priest had said to me in my mom’s hospice room. All of us really are doing the best we can…based on our life experiences and our perceptions. Often times, the opportunities for self growth lie within the painful experiences and examining those “darker” places.

Another thing I’ve learned is that we as humans tend to process other people’s emotions and situations through our own emotional filters. We make someone else’s experience about “Me.” It’s difficult to truly listen to someone else tell their story and not judge it based on “my” life experience. It is difficult to not react from “my” perspective instead of just listening to “you” tell “your” story and share “your” emotions.

We all want to feel heard and validated, yet often times our emotional filters prevent that from happening in our personal relationships. It builds a barrier between creating connections. At the heart of creating connections are compassion, understanding, and empathy.

Sometimes, we as humans, we get affected by other people’s stuff. Sometimes other people’s situations or emotional reactions touch an unresolved wound we have within ourselves. And, so we react emotionally from our wound while listening to someone else tell their story.

After the experience of losing my mom, my emotional filters changed. My definition of a “bad day” is the day my mom died — that’s an emotional filter of mine. Whereas those who have not yet had that type of life experience (or perhaps those who even have), may consider a traffic jam a bad day. I’ve learned I cannot penalize someone for having different life experience than me or for reacting to a situation differently than maybe I would react.

Something else I’ve learned is that we cannot give to someone else what we do not possess within our self. Learning this has taught me the greatest life lesson – how to forgive – to forgive myself and others.

If someone struggles with self hatred, it will be difficult for that person to give unconditional love to someone else. If someone struggles with self compassion, they will struggle offering compassion to another. If someone cannot forgive themselves, they will struggle to forgive others.

Life Lessons

Forgiveness is the greatest gift — it sets a person free. Not forgiving creates a personal hell. Forgiveness, whether it’s self forgiveness or forgiving someone else, is void of ego and full of healing. We are all doing our best.

We all go through stuff. No one makes it out of this life unscathed. All of us are doing the best we can. We all face struggles and difficulties — it’s just we don’t all experience the same life challenges and we don’t all process our struggles and pain the same. Remembering this can help foster compassion, understanding, and empathy towards one’s self, and in turn, towards others.

This isn’t about striving for perfection in our relationships with others and with our self. This is about acknowledging our own humanness and the humanness of others. This is about being open to the life lessons that life experience, especially the painful experiences, can provide for our emotional growth, for our soul. Do your best, it’s all any of us can do.

As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.

What have you accepted in your life that took time, physically or mentally?

That I will never be a size 2 or 5’ (Ha!). We all come in different shapes and sizes and I try not to get caught up in the body image issues that stem from the (air brushed) women who are on the cover of magazines. I think what’s most important is to be healthy and comfortable in one’s skin.

What do you appreciate about yourself and within your life?

What I appreciate in my life is my friends. I’m very lucky that I have a close network of friends who have become family.

What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What goals do you still have?

At my job, my position has changed drastically from when I first started, which I credit largely to being self motivated (as well as to the professional opportunities my boss and other colleagues have provided to me). Professionally, my goal is to continue to learn and build my leadership skills.

What is your not-so-perfect way? What imperfections and quirks create your Identity?

I use a lot of detail when I talk, some of it is often not necessary to what I’m talking about. J

How would you complete the phrase “I Love My…?”

I love my…smile.

About the author

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Kimberly Elmore

Identity writer Kimberly Elmore is currently employed by Delta Dental of New Jersey in the corporate communications department as the community relations coordinator. She serves as one of our top and longest contributors.

Kimberly has been a huge part of Identity's success since the beginning of 2006. During Kimberly's college years she served as the arts & entertainment editor of her college newspaper and interned in the public relations department at the March of Dimes.

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