So, this is my 400th blog, and for a week I’ve been going round and round in my head concerning what to write about. I was gonna do a retrospective of the last 5 1/2 years, as I started writing this in December, 2016, but then got to thinking: what is the bottom-line message of this whole endeavor? For me, it’s this:
I want you to survive, yes, but to push beyond that, and to THRIVE!
I love you, God loves you, and I want you to have the best life you can, despite the obstacles which try and deter your happiness. My greatest desire is that you not only discover the joy the Lord has for you, and live in that, but make a purposeful decision to intently pursue all which is captivating in life.
That being said, sometimes, we’re just in survival mode, aren’t we?
In the Psychology Today article Why Survival Mode Isn’t the Best Way to Live, writer Danielle Render Turmaud states, “Survival mode is an adaptive response of the human body to help us survive danger and stress. Life can be busy and chaotic. Many of us are experts at being in ‘survival mode’ in that we have learned to go through the motions in life and do what we need to do” (June 2020).
That’s kinda the way I feel some days; like I’m just “going through the motions.” Some mornings I have to tell myself, “Just get outta bed, keep going, and don’t stop until you get home tonight.” Unlike some, however, I actually don’t find that emotional modus operandi depressing. Quite the opposite, in fact. With so many people giving up, I find strength in knowing I come from a family of survivors.
Since most define “survival mode” as “barely hanging on to the bottom rung of life; EXISTING, but not really living,” I’m referring to the way I live my life as “thrive mode.” That’s my way of saying we shouldn’t just be existing, feeling as if we’re being swallowed in darkness, but energetically SEEKING the light. THRIVING.
“Thrive mode” means not merely going through the motions, but actively chasing joy. THRIVING, not just “surviving.”
Before I go any further, it should be said that some define “thrive” as “gaining in wealth and possessions; to prosper.” This, however, is the second part of Webster’s definition. The first part is to “grow vigorously and flourish,” and the third section is “to progress toward a goal despite circumstances.”
Thus, when I say “thrive,” I’m not talking about getting rich, but rather, to find the RICHNESS in life by fervently pursuing satisfaction and wonder.
It should be understood, though, many of us start on this road by first getting into “survival mode.” Prior to seeking light and laughter, we must decide we’re going to survive. Our entire spirit must be set on enduring. After my suicide attempt (more on this in a moment), I was in survival mode, but eventually discovered thrive mode. I’ve went from surviving to thriving.
“Survival mode” first, then “thrive mode.”
In my attempt to not only survive but THRIVE, a few years ago I started a Facebook group for Christians who suffer from chronic physical and/or emotional pain, Broken People – Mended Spirits. It was my Uncle Aaron who came up with our group mantra: “Never give up, never give in, never surrender!”
Well, I think we actually adapted it from the movie Galaxy Quest, but it was his idea to use it for the group.
He’s been through so much, and is still fighting every day. Life has beat him down more than anyone I know, yet he still keeps shadowboxing the devil every day of his life. In fact, his story is so compelling I added it as chapter one of my book of crazy testimonies, We Whom the Darkness Could Not Overcome (available on Amazon for cheap, or free with a Kindle, and just like this blog, I don’t make any money off of it either).
I thank God I come from a whole family of warriors; a group of people who have steeled themselves to laugh when they should be crying, and to fight when they should give up.
Above is a photo of Uncle Aaron (seated on the right in a wheelchair) surrounded by his siblings: from left to right, my Aunt Ann (with the cane), my Uncle Bill (with the walker), my Aunt Sue (with a different type of walker) and my mom (Connie), just behind Aaron (who, since this Christmas pic was taken, also uses a walker following her hip replacement surgery, and especially with her upcoming knee surgery).
Get this: just between me, my mom, her two brothers and her two sisters, we’ve had nearly 30 surgeries! This doesn’t count their spouses, children (my cousins) and other, slightly more distant relatives. It’s crazy how much pain and suffering we’ve all been destined to experience, but we keep going.
I’ve written about this before, but when we get together, you RARELY hear us complaining. You’re way more likely to hear laughter. A lot of laughter.
In addition to the strength drawn from their faith in Jesus, they get that fighting spirit partly from their mama, my Grandma Stroud (below, with my grandpa). She suffered so much in her lifetime, going through at least five surgeries herself (I can’t recall the exact number), yet somehow managed to remain one of the happiest people I’ve ever known. She stepped into the arms of Jesus in 2009, and we all miss her terribly.
They also draw strength from their dad, Grandpa Stroud, who passed away in 1997 from cancer at a too-young 70 years of age. Talking about him also makes me sad, just like Grandma, but it’s necessary for this article. Grandpa told us he knew he had cancer for years prior to being diagnosed, but literally waited until just a few months before he passed to go see the doctor. He did this because he did not want to spend his last few months in the hospital doing chemotherapy, but rather, being with his family, just living, laughing and loving. Yep, that was Grandpa.
So that’s where I come from, but it’s still my choice to fight every day. It wasn’t so long ago, however, I was fully drained of my fighting spirit. In two of the first blogs I ever wrote, I discussed my suicide attempt in my early twenties. You can read about it “My Suicide, Part 1” (https://brokenpeople.blog/2016/12/22/my-suicide-part-1/), and “My Suicide, Part 2” (https://brokenpeople.blog/2016/12/23/my-suicide-part-2/).
I did not actually want to die, I simply wanted the pain to stop. This was the chant I kept hearing in my head as I ingested nearly 60 pills: “These are pain killers, they’ll kill the pain. I’m in pain. These are pain killers, they’ll kill the pain. I’m in pain.” Over and over and over, a thousand times it ran through my head.
Thankfully, God spared me.
I got to return home to my beautiful little girl, and my wife, Laura.
Ah, Laura. Talking about my “little princess” quickly brings a smile to my face. I met her in 1987, and she was so beautiful (still is), I figured I didn’t have a chance with her. About three weeks later, however, I threw caution to the wind and asked her on a date. For reasons still unknown to me, she agreed, and I was so nervous I asked my little sister, Annette, to go with us to Pizza Hut on a double-date.
Laura and I were married in May,1987, and have been together ever since.
When discussing what people go through, many seem to use the expression, “Through ups and downs,” but sometimes I feel like I’ve seen way more downs than ups. This battle I’ve had with terrible, chronic pain has been going on for nearly 40 years. Anyone who has suffered that much understands, sometimes you feel like you’re going crazy.
Again, for reasons which still remain a mystery, this vivacious lady has stood by me through thick and thin. She has never lost her joy or smile, and continues to encourage me every single day.
Sometimes I wonder how she’s kept her sanity over all these decades. I come from a family of fighters, but Laura is the reason I wake up everyday and make a purposeful decision to thrive.
I fully understand I am just one tiny drop of water in a vast expanse of ocean, but I am loved, by God and by my family. You are also loved, and you are special. We all have unique gifts which can be used to help others, and I feel it is our responsibility to get up in the morning and decide to live.
We must all live in THRIVE MODE every single day. It’s the only way we’re gonna make it, my friend. Make the conscious decision to not just survive, but pursue and discover the artistry in life. THRIVE.
Had I been successful in my attempt to end my life, I would’ve missed out on SO much. My son, Trey, would’ve never been born, and I would never have got to meet my daughter-in-law, Maria, or my grandchildren, Joshua and Jenna-Marie. Sure, I would’ve missed the heartache of losing Trey and Maria’s daughter, our precious Rosalee Mae, in July of 2021 when Maria was 24 weeks into the pregnancy, but I also would’ve missed the joy of their upcoming baby boy, Davey, among many, many other thrills.
As you know, we only traverse this big, blue ball one time, and I have decided to spend my life fighting the darkness, searching for beauty and love. That’s why I chose the picture below for the “feature image” of this blog. It is from a trip Laura and I took to Hawaii earlier this year. With my pain level being so high, travelling is very rough on me, but I refuse to stay home and die.
There is simply too much beauty and splendor in the world to sit at home on the couch.
Yes, this is life in thrive mode, and it’s a glorious existence. Keep living, laughing and loving; actively pursue joy, and the world will turn. I promise.
Many blessings to you and yours, and here’s to 400 more blogs!