How to Make Life’s Challenges Count for Something Good

No Regrets

“Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~Anais Nin

Many people have told me that I am a brave person. Mostly though, I think I just play the cards I’m dealt.

When I was twenty-one years old, I had a stroke. In a single moment, everything I had ever taken for granted about my health and about my youth flew right out the window. I felt truly vulnerable for the first time in my young life and it scared the bejesus out of me.

Following a full recovery, that fear quickly turned into intense bitterness and anger that stayed with me for months afterward. I felt an incessant need to regain control of even the smallest and most inconsequential things in my life, almost as if to prove to myself I was still there.

I was miserable and I made everyone else in my life who cared about me miserable with me. It was a rough time.

By hook or by crook, though, I finally realized that constantly punishing myself and those around me wouldn’t change the fact that my body had failed or that the failure had left deep scars. The only thing I could change was me, in the face of it all.

My stroke had affected me negatively, I knew that. A year after it happened, I decided that I needed to make it count for something positive too. I needed to learn something good from it all. Otherwise, what was the point?

So I did.

I learned that life is full of things I can’t control and that believe it or not, this is okay.

I learned that “bad things” don’t “only happen to bad people.”

I learned to accept help when I need it and not to isolate myself in pain.

I learned to genuinely respect and empathize with the personal struggles of others.

I learned to never to give up on myself.

I carried these lessons with me through my twenties, all the while aware of how much bigger of a person I felt I had become as a result of them. I ended up carrying them all the way to the infertility clinic eight years later.

If you don’t know, infertility and miscarriage are awful. Together, they are crippling.

You have no idea how many times my hands cradled my head in despair as I leaned against bathroom countertops, physician’s desks, exam tables, the steering wheel of my car, pre-op room gurneys. I barely have an idea. It was too many to count, too many to even remember.

My stellar husband, David, and I just wanted a family. We couldn’t fathom why it was all so hard.

In the span of six years, he and I supported one another through three intrauterine inseminations, two in-vitro fertilization cycles, two frozen embryo transfer cycles, four pregnancies, and three miscarriages. It was a long, difficult journey.

However, one very special little one, our daughter Molly, made it into the world and into our arms. We were amazed and overjoyed at her safe arrival then and are so grateful now for all the love and joy she has brought to our family ever since.

Our second child, Molly’s future baby brother or sister, is out there somewhere too. But he/she won’t be joining our family through the same means that we were gifted Molly. We are most definitely done with fertility treatments.

David and I have chosen Open Adoption to complete our family and we couldn’t be more excited.

We have yet to find the birth parent(s) with whom we will share our family and whose incredible child we will love and cherish with our whole hearts. But already, the tenderness and gratitude we feel in anticipation of this little one and his/her birth family is limitless and has no bounds.

Our experience of infertility and miscarriage was devastatingly difficult, but it was also good. I made it count. Again. We achieved Molly and discovered the beauty of Open Adoption. I also learned. A lot.

I’ve learned to be honest with myself. Always.

I’ve learned to honor the desires of my heart with no apology.

I’ve learned how empowered I feel when I take care of myself.

I’ve learned to make space in my life for my direction to change in ways I can’t anticipate.

And last, but not least, I’ve learned that the best things in life are worth waiting for.

I am a better person for all I’ve learned. I definitely know it’s made me a better mom, a more patient mom, a more connected mom. I will always be grateful for that.

We’ve all been through a lot, no doubt about it. But it’s what we do with our feelings and challenges that define us, not the experiences themselves.

I encourage you to find some time today or tomorrow when you can be completely alone with your thoughts. It can be while taking a walk or a run, lying in bed at night right before sleep, or sitting somewhere beautiful that deeply resonates with you. It doesn’t matter.

Look at your hands in front of you. Imagine that they gently hold each of the problems you are faced with, the worries, and the fears of the day. Accept them.

Then ask yourself:

Has this experience taught me anything about what makes me a strong person?

Has it taught me anything about my weak spots and how I can make them stronger?

Have I learned anything new about what I want or need to be happy and fulfilled?

Have I learned anything valuable about the people in my life and how I can make those relationships better?

Did I learn anything about life that will help and inspire me going forward?

How can I begin to apply these lessons starting now?

How can I help others with the lessons I’ve learned?

Dare to be honest with yourself. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with.

No regrets image via Shutterstock

About Ana Ogilvie

Ana, her husband, David, and biological daughter, Molly, are a waiting adoptive family with the Independent Adoption Center out of Concord, California. They live in Clarksburg, a small town fifteen miles south of Sacramento, with their two dogs, two cats, and five chickens. They eagerly await the completion of their family through Open Adoption. Please visit them at and on Facebook.

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  • HI Ana!

    Wow, thank you for such an inspiring read!! I loved this particularly –> “But it’s what we do with our feelings and challenges that define us, not the experiences themselves.”

    There is so much truth in that statement, and is something that I think
    many of us tend to forget in our daily lives. We are absolutely not
    defined by the things that happen to us, but rather by how we react to
    those situations.

    Hope you have a great start to your week!!


  • Hi Ana,

    I am learning more each hour that every experience brings us back to who we really are, and that being does not resist a darn thing. That being knows no challenge, and knows no struggle. It is open and unlimited and does everything with zero effort.

    I loved this post because, like Christine noting in the comments, that line about experiences and feelings is absolutely dead on. The post is dead on but your line resonates with me because as I shift a bit more each day I am learning how to observe, how to be grateful and how to move forward without resisting anything. I have spent most of my life trying, fighting, achieving and doing. Now, a little bit at a time, I am experiencing what I am experiencing from a grateful, loving space. Then I rush back to fighting and achieving and doing, trying to go from Point A to Point B, trying to set up challenges. Then, back to the whole and complete being that I really am.

    Your post helps me to continue that fun, enjoyable journey back to where I have always been. If that line makes sense. Really, all challenges are lessons to ease up because I do not need to overcome anything. I already am everything, even if I don;t think it at the moment. Ditto with everybody reading this post. If I can see how each perceived challenges was a call to let go, to not resist, and to allow the experience to happen as it was happening then I will become more aware that the solution sits in the challenge, and that the solution is basically, the challenge itself. Meaning that all resistance I have faced is simply a call to surrender to the resistance, to feel it, and to allow Power to seek out the quickest, speediest solution.

    It’s almost like we never need to dirty our hands solving anything if we’ll just embrace resistance, surrender, and allow things to move along from a grateful, and more detached, and loving, space.

    I feel that you experienced a massive breakthrough with your Open Adoption choice because you were open to all of the wonderful possibilities out there. As for me, a bit of a different journey recently but I vibe with you because openness helped me to see the world of possibilities around me, and I have rarely felt more at peace in my life.

    I had written 122 short, helpful eBooks covering blogging tips, law of attraction, online business topics and basically, all of the practical stuff I’ve done to retire to the tropics as a pro blogger. I barely promoted them, and my sales – when I last checked last month – showed how I barely promoted any of the eBooks. I felt despondent, angry and upset at first but by embracing these feelings I could let them go, and when I let them go I saw the possibilities around me. I could write like crazy – which I love doing – through blog commenting, and I could comment extensively on top blogs relevant to my eBooks, and I could connect with so many people, and I could inspire a bunch of folks, and I never had to push things or force things again, because if I could just be grateful for most of the day, and present, all would proceed at a graceful, prospering, abundant space, and all challenges would disappear into gratitude, and all resistance would dissolve, as long as I learned how to be present, and how to not fight anything or anyone.

    A huge challenge for sure ;), yet, I am slowly but surely observing, breathing and relaxing into challenges, instead of fighting. This has helped solutions to sprint to me and more than that, I am detaching a bit more from outcomes. At least here and there. Once we stop trying to manifest a certain outcome, being full of gratitude for what is, a weird thing happens; we’re not concerned with the outcome and something infinitely more freeing, inspired and fun comes along in our lives, leading to increased freedom, increased growth, and a sense of peace. I am seeing this a bit more each day, and when I am really present, I am seeing this a bit more each hour.

    Case in point: I am a blogging tips guys so on 1 level, it’d make no sense to comment on a blog like Tiny Buddha BUT I have written 30 or 40 eBooks on self help topics and I am being guided to do it, so I do it. It makes so much more sense to do things which do not make sense 🙂 If I feel a challenge arise in my mind, telling me that I am making a mistake, or that I am wasting my time, I am learning how to embrace it, how to breathe it in, and how to release it from a grateful space. Tough process at times but with practice I find things flowing along more easily, and I find myself creating fewer challenges for myself every single day.

    Ana, I loved following your story. Keep on inspiring the masses.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Signing off from Paradise,


  • TM

    Hi Ana, your article really touches my heart… and I only wish nothing but the best to you. Just so you know – I have been following Mixandmatchmama’s adoption process and I think you can connect with her too for any useful information?

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  • Ana Massey Ogilvie

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate them. I will look up mixandmatchmama! Thank you for the recommendation!

  • Ana Massey Ogilvie

    Thanks Ryan for your super thoughtful response. I really appreciate it. I loved that you wrote “Your post helps me to continue that fun, enjoyable journey back to where I have always been”. I could not agree more. Its amazing what happens when you love and accept yourself and your circumstances. It doesn’t mean you give up on your dreams, just that you decide what’s most important and start getting creative from a loving, grateful place. Thanks so much for that <3

  • Ana Massey Ogilvie

    Thanks so much, Christina! I’m so glad my story resonated with you. I hope you have a great start to YOUR week too! >3

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Ana. I would like to thank you for sharing your story. It definitely touched my heart. I’m teary eyed.

    Life is full of unexpected surprises. None of us will NEVER know what’s in store. I feel it’s important to remain optimistic, and hope for a better outcome.

    I wasn’t expecting my ex-best friend of disrespecting me, just because his “girlfriend” has a problem with the friendship. There was no need for him to blow up my cell phone, and call me horrible names. He could have asked me for my side of the story, as well as apologizing for the incident. Friendships shouldn’t have to be worked on, despite the disagreements. I didn’t see the point on wishing my ex-best friend well, since he doesn’t deserve it. At least he gave me plenty of opportunities to make new friends. I wished the outcome could have been different, but I can’t control what happened.

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  • Ana Massey Ogilvie

    Hey there LaTrice. Sorry to hear about your friend. That’s terrible. I hope his place gets filled soon by someone really special. Thanks for writing and for your comment. I’m really glad my article meant something to you.

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  • Diana

    Im so glad I found your article. I too had a stroke at a fairly young age. 1 month before my 30th birthday 3 years ago. Although I’m not done with the ” recovery ” process I found your article both relatable and motivating. Thank you for sharing.

  • Ana Massey Ogilvie

    Wow Diana, thank you so much for commenting. I’m so sorry you had a similar experience and that you are still dealing with its repercussions. I hope your recovery moves smoothly from this point and that you can begin life “post-stroke” soon. Keep your chin up and I’m so glad my story was helpful to you. Love, Ana.

  • Thank you Ana for your beautiful article. It’s full of compassion and wisdom. I wish you all the best with your adoption. I have several friends who were luckily adopted into wonderful, caring homes. Life is indeed what you make of it. I’m glad you’re making yours the best it can be. 🙂