Life Health

PROULX: 'Life happens for you'

Melissa Etheridge told Shaun Proulx about her cancer diagnosis and said that we should look at challenges as gifts. GETTY

Melissa Etheridge told Shaun Proulx about her cancer diagnosis and said that we should look at challenges as gifts. GETTY


Many months ago, I was in conversation with Melissa Etheridge, the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter. She was telling me about her cancer diagnosis and how she handled it; and I was telling her about my HIV diagnosis and how I handled it. Both of us, each now healthy and happy, agreed that appreciating life's turmoil as a gift - especially big turmoil like health issues - allows you to grow into the next better version of yourself.

"Life doesn't happen to you," Etheridge said to me. "It happens for you."

I repeated her words to someone dear to me just the other day, as I looked into eyes filled with regret, confusion, self-judgement and heard them say how disappointed they were in themselves.

They had a lightbulb moment: "This nightmare is going to make me a better person," they said, as truth dawned.

Much of our society operates on a false premise that life is meant to be lived from a feathered nest, with magic and rainbows and nary a care. No mayhem, no shocks, no worrying, no sadness, no unfairness, no tragedy, nothing we would call negative ought to happen.

Parents especially see it as their job to protect their kids from all things we label bad or wrong. Because of this, they can often feel like failures if their family breaks in half, if their kid does drugs or starts dating that wretched brat from the mall. And yet, all parents want their kids to be open-hearted, wise and strong adults one day.

Don't we all want to be open-hearted, wise and strong? If so, what must we all face in order to grow these wings, along with wings of courage, fearlessness and self-belief, and any other strengths we envision as we seek to fly high in life? We have to face pain. Struggle. Seemingly insurmountable challenge. Disease, addiction, divorce, broken promises, disappointments, betrayal, job loss, financial upheaval, etc. Marinating in nothing doesn't grow us. Yet we try so hard to protect ourselves and others from the gifts life gives us to grow us into who we dream of being, who we are meant to be.

Not only is it not our job to protect ourselves and others from drama and conflict, we have zero right to do so. Have you met any of the children that are the result of parents who have somehow been quite successful in shielding their kids from life? Awful, useless, entitled young adults who can't operate a doorknob.

What we are each on the hook for is knowing and teaching that our challenges were tailor-made just for us and that we should glean new confidence from those hurdles. And while some of the experiences we will look directly in the eye may hurt like hell, those are the very ones designed to enable boldness, strength, and wisdom beyond measure.

Life isn't safe but it can only become something to be proud of when you take risks and get your hands dirty. Run fast from any bird-song sunshine picket fence ideal you're asked to buy into.

The worst thing that can ever happen to anyone is nothing and so they say of their latest challenge: "Bring it on. Bring them all on."

Shaun Proulx hosts The Shaun Proulx Show on SiriusXM Canada Talks channel 167. He is the publisher of TheGay and leads a #ThoughtRevolution on