Glad No Matter What

By Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy   |  15Comments|

After many years of resisting change and grieving losses in my life, I embarked on a journey of choosing to be – Glad No Matter What. This choice sprang from how dreadful the alternatives seemed, and also from burrowing into my own psychology for many years, and finding out that weaving the dark and the light together creates a rich, fertile “middle ground” to live in. From this middle ground came my gladness.

So what does it mean to be “Glad No Matter What”?

It does NOT mean feeling glad when you don’t. How annoying.

It means finding the gladnesses in all of your feelings. I still feel all the challenging kinds of feelings; I just don’t spend so much time there. I call this way of living “practical gladness.” With a basis of practical gladness, the cup is both half empty and half full at the same time. Our lives are made of all of the feelings, not just the happy or sad ones.

Most of us were not taught how to hold or have multiple feelings. In the family I grew up in, you could only have one feeling at a time, and you’d better go to your room to have it, and come out feeling “better.” Better was applied liberally to feelings, especially complex ones. So I learned to hide the complexities and present a “happy face.” Beneath this happy face was rage, but everyone else was doing the same thing, so it seemed okay, or at least tolerable. It became intolerable when I tried to actually live that way.

Feelings are always there. I believed I could control, deny, avoid, resist, or just stop them. This belief system persisted for years with some success, until I attempted suicide in my mid-thirties, and I entered psychotherapy to try to understand why. The suicide prevention line person asked me, “Did you really want to die, or did you just want the pain to end?” I realized that I just wanted the pain to end, and this pain was related to my resistance of the feelings I was actually having. So I very reluctantly went to therapy. My reluctance was directly related to having been in family therapy when I was 8 years old, due to being abused by my older brother, although that abuse was not uncovered in the therapy. The therapist let me sit on his lap during the session, and then asked me to step outside so he could talk to my parents. I listened through the door and heard him say, “You have a very seductive little girl, and all the problems in your family are because of her.”

I carried that sentence and the feelings that came with it until I was 35 years old and started having flashbacks of the incest, which lasted for weeks and I couldn’t eat or sleep. That was why I wanted the pain to end.

In therapy I learned to just experience my feelings, and a brand-new world materialized. In the brand-new world, my feelings were important to and acknowledged by me. I created a “family of choice” where it felt safe to express feelings and hear others’ feelings. I also learned to trust my male therapist, and repaired so many of what felt like the broken places inside me. There is a marvelous quote by William Stafford: I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.

That’s how I feel now.

I also feel glad and grateful for all the love and care I did receive in childhood, and have forgiven all involved.

Being Glad No Matter What is both a choice and a commitment. I commit and choose to feel all of my feelings, and alchemize and transform them into being glad more often. In that way, I’ve become a “transformational change agent.” I have invented processes to support this, and talked with hundreds of people about the subjects of loss and change, and what they’ve learned and experienced. After the deaths of my parents, cat, and loss of significant love relationships and dreams, I wrote a book about my experiences and processes of growth.

The book is called Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity. Every loss has within it significant gifts, every change has many opportunities. Our losses and changes happen so we can transform, and we have the chance to do our transformational work. And it does involve perspective shifts to allow those transformations to take place. Before my mother died at age 80, I asked her what wisdom she would like to pass along. She said,

“I just wish I hadn’t resisted everything so much.”

As a former all-star resister, I took her words into my being and chose to do it differently going forward. I’ve created a lot of support for doing this, and I’m practicing with all the things I write about in my book.

When my friend Isabel died at age 90, I asked her what wisdom she’d like to share, and she answered,

“Every single change in my whole life, without exception, was always for the better.”

I now experience every change that occurs with a different set of eyes. My eyes see with practical gladness, and I know that whatever has happened, is happening, or will happen, I choose to be glad as often as I possibly can. I choose to feel all of my feelings, all of my life. Which does not make me a mindlessly-positive person who tells people to just “look on the bright side.” Those people annoy me.

Go to to sign up for my free, colorful handwritten eLetter and receive news about my upcoming book: Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity, being published by New World Library in Fall 2010.

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15 responses to Glad No Matter What
  1. Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy aka ….sark …
    Is AMAZING ! wow each article I read, each time I hear her she touches a new spot …. I would HIGHLY recommend ANYTHING and EVERYTHING she has written and all her classes … Thank you SARK
    athena (agp)

  2. what a well written article. I love the part about feeling one feeling and you better go to your room to do it and come out feeling “better”. Our family was that way as well. I am learning to just feel my feelings with no judgement or guilt. SARK explains this very well.

  3. Thank you for submitting your article to this blog. I have been in a funk since I flunked my electronics exam in automotive school. I thought my world and my potential career ended. I felt like an outcast as all of the guys (I’m the only girl in my automotive group) passed and were a lost for words for me. Reading your comments help alot. I don’t think of this as the end of the world or dropping out of school. I am going to stick it out and embrace what happens next. Thanks again.

  4. Great post! Thank you for your honesty and wisdom. This was touching!!

  5. Just what I needed to hear…

    My money for school ran out one semester before graduating. It was kind of my fault though…I believe it was some kind of self-sabotage.

    I’m trying to see the break from school as positive. I own up to being totally afraid of change, but this has to change fast!

  6. Very nice article. I’ve been trying to employ some similar principals in my own life lately.

  7. I use a similar mantra in my daily life. I choose happiness. It’s not that I don’t get angry, overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, or just downright melancholy, but I’d discovered that choosing happiness works for me and some others that have tried it. It’s been a monumental struggle to just let things be as they are. Worry just puts what you don’t want out there on the table. There is a distinctive difference in the peace I feel now that I’ve chosen to be happy. I’m content. I do make goals. I’m not stagnating. I’m feeling everything both good and uncomfortable, but I’m happy. All happy. Isn’t it great!?

  8. P.S. I added you to StumbleUpon so more people can find the message.

  9. It’s like being anchored to the ocean floor where it’s calm. Rather than the surface water with the fun, but often turbulent and chaotic waves. I am slowly learning this.

  10. this is a great post and i can’t wait for the new book!

  11. I think we all forget that being happy is a choice it is not something that happens by accident. I choice joy. Period. If life is not going my way then.. I just go with it and joy never lets me down. Great post. Callie

  12. Indu said on May 29, 2010

    To not repress but express.. Amazing.. Love the twinkle in your eyes :)

  13. You are so great. I can’t wait to see you speak in Chicago! I’d love to support your continued fantastic work and see you in person!

  14. This post is a gift. Thank you SARK. You are a blessing to us all. Can’t wait for your new book!

  15. I would LOVE to read this book. I’ve recently been trying to cope with all of the feelings that I have from a recent death in the family. I have so much joy, pain, sadness, happiness, etc. all of the time for what has happened. I think that learning to appreciate all of the feelings you have and becoming more aware of them would help so much. I will look for this book, definitely!

    -Jamie M.