32: Uncovered

32: Uncovered

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive


While we try to teach our children all about life, Our children teach us what life is all about.

~Angela Schwindt

I consider myself to be a fairly positive person now. I wasn’t always that way. Living in the attic of your sister-in-law’s home in the middle of July without air conditioning and only a twin-sized mattress for a family of four can bring out the worst in you.

I remember the night very specifically; it was July 12. The clock read 2 a.m. and the temperature gauge 105. The sweat was pouring down my forehead — and not just because it was hotter than a sauna in the attic — but because I was dejected. Earlier in the day I had received news that I didn’t get the job. That made it three jobs in a row where I had been one of the final two candidates — only to lose out in the end.

Friends and family kept telling me that they “understood” because they had “been there.” Did they really understand and had they really been there? Had they really had the carpet suddenly pulled out from under them? Everything that is comfortable: job, health, house, car, freedom, future security — GONE!

Despite the heat, I pulled the covers over my head and curled up in a little ball. The tears started streaming down my face, dampening my already dampened pillow. I felt so alone, even though I was sharing a twin-sized mattress with my wife, three-year-old daughter, and one-year-old son. I started punching my pillow and obsessing over what I was going to do.

I can’t remember how long I lay in that position trying to hide my tears from my family, but I remember it seemed like an eternity. I stayed there as long as possible because it was the only place that felt safe and secure from the world around me. Those were the darkest moments of my life. As a man I can’t think of anything worse than feeling like you aren’t measuring up, that you can’t even take care of yourself, much less your family!

I grabbed another pillow to throw on top of my head to hide further and further from the “real world” out there. I must have fallen asleep because I woke up to a little bit of light creeping under one of the pillows. I heard a bird chirping outside the only attic window. I rolled over because I still didn’t have the energy or the emotional stamina to pull the covers down.

But then I heard laughing. My two kids were having a tickle fight on the other side of the tiny mattress. They stood up and started jumping up and down and smiling and laughing and carrying on as only kids can do. Or, can adults do that too? The kids grabbed two pillows and started relentlessly clobbering me and wouldn’t give up until I picked up a pillow and fought back. I couldn’t. I couldn’t face another day “out there” so I pretended to be sleeping. Another strong blow to my lower back. “Daddy!” “Daddy!” “Wake up!”

After a few minutes of trying so hard to hide my feelings of shame, disappointment, and discouragement, my kids started pulling down the covers and wouldn’t stop until they could see my face. They pulled harder and harder. I pulled harder and harder to stay in my little cocoon of safety and security. I heard more laughing. My kids thought this was one big game of tug of war. Didn’t they know that Daddy was a loser?

More pulling of the covers until finally more light appeared. More laughing. I finally gave up. My kids had won, but not just at our tug of war game. They had won because they had reminded me that they didn’t care whether or not I had a job, they didn’t care how much money I made, and they didn’t care where we slept. They only knew there was joy in the moment.

If you want to learn how to stay positive, spend a day admiring your children or grandchildren. Watch how their joy isn’t dependent upon their circumstances. Watch how they love without strings attached. Watch how carefree they are and how even the simplest, most insignificant experience can make them so happy. Thanks to my children, I have learned how to stay positive even when life has taken its toll.

~Tom Kaden

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