The Most Painful Letter I’ve Ever Written You

Shortly after I finished last week’s letter to you I shucked, jived and stumbled across my living room and crashed into the corner of an open door.

The impact of such Swayze-like dance moves broke my 5th metacarpal bone in my dominate, right-hand. The small bone below my pinky knuckle. It’s a break commonly known as a boxer’s break. But I wasn’t boxing. I was dancing.

Sometimes, without a cue or a catchy drum beat, my brain disease wheedles my body to bust out a spontaneous dance which involves off-beat, unnatural gyrations rivaling movements of primitive, half-naked people chanting and whooping around a spiritual campfire outside a dark cave.

Before my most recent injury I was struggling to write (with two good hands) the “Afterword” in my upcoming book It Builds Character. The final chapter that directly addresses that pesky, age-old question: “Does adversity build character?”

It wasn’t the inspiration I was searching for, however I was forced to slowly type–with a clumsy left-hand and a broken right-hand– and truly consider my final words about overcoming adversity.

As I write this letter to you, my available right-hand fingers are swollen and sore. Keystrokes are painful. The cast is clumsy and like a careless child, slams the wrong computer keys at the wrong times littering the first draft with so many numbers and symbols it looks more like a complex algebraic equation than coherent prose.

It’s ironic and frustratingly poetic and like a final exam, testing me hard on everything I claim to have learned about adversity.

Jim Carrey, Jay-Z, and Tony Robbins all have famous Youtube variations of, “Life doesn’t happen to you. Life happens for you.” I’ve learned the same could be said about adversity.

Adversity doesn’t happen to you. Adversity happens for you.

Our capacity to transcend our adversity is stronger than the adversity itself. And the antidote to adversity is to accept it and know it entered our lives at a pivotal moment to teach us, to build our character.

Now I understand, sometimes we run like hell from our adversity. Sometimes our adversity wrecks us. Sometimes, instead of becoming more resilient, more resourceful, we become bitter and resentful and a glob of self-pity.

However–as weird as it sounds–the timeliness of breaking my right hand put me in the right condition to write a meaningful, reflective final chapter on how and why adversity builds character.

Do I wish I never broke my hand? Of course.

Do I wish I never, EVER had this damn dancing disease? Of course.

Do I wish I could build character without confronting adversity? By simply sitting on my couch, drinking coffee and watching TV? Of course.

But after some reflection (which involved sitting on my couch, drinking coffee and watching Dirty Dancing) I realized I needed to find the maturity and perspective to know that pain, adversity creates opportunities for growth. And it’s my responsibility to recognize such opportunities.

If you’re like me, you don’t like adversity. It’s uncomfortable. It forces us to ask for help. But, you do have to appreciate that adversity is one of life’s finest teachers. It’s instructing us on how to move forward. Avoiding acceptance or being present with adversity causes us to miss some of the most valuable life lessons.

Because no one puts adversity in a corner.

This letter was painful to write.

I didn’t want to write it.

But I did.

Because you are important to me.

Because your life, like mine, is hard and not for the faint of heart.

Because sometimes you and I need to be reminded again that adversity builds our character.

Be well,


Greetings to everyone who found me on the University of Pennsylvania’s Ataxia Clinic’s website! Thanks for stopping by. Though I’m not a doctor, I hope my words comfort, encourage, empower, and serve as good company on your journey.

Buy Here!

May Book Promos for You:

Are looking for inspiration? Are you searching for a better version of yourself?

This month I joined literary forces with some best-selling authors in two awesome book promotions. Click the link below:

Book Haven

LINK: Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take…

A few months ago, with low expectations, I took a shot and entered “Bedtime Stories for the Living” in the highly regarded, highly competitive international book contest presented by Readers’ Favorite. Readers’ Favorite is an established force in the publishing industry. They have worked with Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors.

Anyway, just before I was about to take a midday nap, I was informed that this suburban dad had won…

First Prize, the Gold Medal, in the Non-Fiction/Parenting genre!

Here’s what I’m currently reading:  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman 

If you like this post, you may also like:

It Takes a Village to Stay Alive


The One Thing We Need To Be Happy


I’ve Never Seen a Wild Thing Feel Sorry for Itself


Jay Armstrong is a speaker and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life.

For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)

Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time. 

You can also visit Jay at

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