Contagious. It’s a word with a negative connotation, often tied to viruses. It’s meant to alarm and warn. If a human comes in direct, or even indirect, contact with something that is contagious, it can spread and affect others.
But it also has a wonderful meaning, if the thing being passed is positivity.
Let me explain.
My life, on paper, is not the stuff of a perfect life.
My roots run deep from a small town in a valley of the Boston Mountains of northwest Arkansas. Southwest Missouri is now where I call home after a nine-year pit stop in Oklahoma.
Growing up I was taught about working hard and always being kind. I am surrounded by people who lead by example; my husband, children, parents, grandmothers, pastor, friends, and co-workers. Years of good people living life the best way they know how.
I am not perfect. I can be stubborn and impatient. I have lived a life on some of the highest mountains with joy, peace and happiness. But I have also experienced the deep, dark valleys of grief, disappointment, and pure sadness. But even in the valleys, I have believed in the importance of laughter. I know a simple smile can change your day, and kindness never hurt anyone.
Being the mom to four boys (two of my own and two bonus) has brought me the happiest moments and the stinkiest car rides of my life. (#boymom). In 2017 I married the kindest and most patient man I could ever imagine. (With four boys and me, he does not have any other option than to be patient.) He helps me be a better person. Every.single.day.
I do not have a degree or a fancy title, but I can share with you how I made it out of the valleys with a smile on my face and loving life. I have experienced situations that shook my family; illness, death, weight struggles, financial lows, and the ending of a 17-year marriage that was rift with unfaithfulness. The divorce that ensued was full of hurt and sadness.
I have always loved life even, even though I have not always loved where I was in my life at different times throughout the years.
By nature I am a caretaker, unless you throw up and then I am out. Caring for others brings me happiness. But, the one person I could not take care of was me. I neglected me. I thought it was selfish to love myself. I didn’t know how to love myself. It has taken years of encouragement from others, prayer, time, and work, but I can honestly now proudly say “I love me.”
During my valley’s, I felt very lonely. I longed to hear another person’s story like mine. I felt alone. In my search for this, I mostly found groups or people bashing others and complaining. That’s not who I am and not what I wanted.
While at the darkest of moments, I had a co-worker say ‘I had no idea you were going through a divorce. You are always so happy. Your smile is contagious.” Four years later, a friend sent me a text: “It was good to see your smiling face and bubbly personality today!!! Your positivity is infectious!”. Another time a student at work also used the word contagious to describe me.
That is when I started to think about the word and its meaning. I started praying about how God could use my experiences for positivity.
We all have our stories and what we choose to do with that story is up to us. We are all contagious. We can spread negativity or we spread a good feeling, attitude, or emotion.
I choose to tell my story in hopes to encourage others. My hope is that if just one person benefits from hearing my journey, it was worth sharing.