Some days, pain rises to intolerable levels, whether it is emotional or physical. These are the days that we realize that the world doesn’t stop for our personal situations, which can lead to a very negative thought spiral; especially if a person is dealing with chronic pain, depression, grief, or other emotional issues. However, in any situation we have the choice to perceive either an opportunity or hopelessness. Most of us run along the spectrum, rather than in extremes, but some people default to the extremes. For a good portion of my life, I was one of those people, then I learned that there was another way to approach life. I found that if I put out the embers, they wouldn’t become wildfires.
I learned to live this philosophy for several years, and my life was on a positive, forward trajectory. Then tragedy hit my life and I found myself slowly dropping the very tools that I had needed to prevent those fires from taking over my life until I had nothing to insulate myself from the onslaught of those things that are a part of everyday life to which I was sensitive. I firmly believe that we create our reality based on how we step up to the challenges in our lives. Sometimes a breakdown or life-altering event become the catalyst we need to move forward in our lives… but here’s the secret: We alone are responsible for choosing our experience of those things.
When I hit the wall with the events in my life, I tried to stay aware and focused on growth. But I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into despair because the issues that I needed to deal with were being triggered on a daily basis, and I began to see myself as I had when I was a child… a victim with no control over life or emotions. What was worse was that I kept myself in that position much longer than was necessary because I was trying to change things outside of me instead of changing my thinking about them. The more I fought to change what I had no control over, the more dependent I became on tools and thinking that made me sicker, not better.
I would like to say that I surrendered… but that took another year. Instead, I came to a stalemate; My job could no longer accommodate my needs and I was no longer effective at that job. I ended up taking disability and returning to school. My life began to improve shortly after, but the biggest changes took a couple of years to really take root. I needed to see how I was creating my reality in a different situation… a relationship that was doomed from the start. In that relationship, I experienced the same levels of powerlessness for a brief time that I’d had the prior few years. But that relationship was a blessing, because it gave me a mirror in which I could see the future consequences of the path that I was on in another person. I found myself at a crossroad, and I finally heard the question that I needed to hear… What is it that I want from this person and situation, and more importantly, how does it fit with what I want for myself?
In the end, I decided that I didn’t want the same experience that I was seeing before me… addiction, chronic illness, powerlessness, and dependency upon others. The epiphany that I was the one who violated my core values hit me like a ton of bricks, and I chose another path. I ended that relationship and reset my life. The first few months were a whirlwind of personal revelation and energy. The world was wide open and ideas for what I could do flooded my consciousness.
Out of all of this, I was able to forgive the people who have hurt me in the past, and begin to forgive myself for abandoning my values and self-worth, and begin to deconstruct the beliefs that I needed to let go so I could re-frame my experience and see where I was responsible for my response to what life had given me. Now, after doing the work and taking charge of my circumstances, I’m back to the point where I was before that intial tragedy hit my life nearly a decade ago.
A note to those who are struggling: First and foremost, any situation that interferes with daily functioning needs a straightforward and honest evaluation of how it is affecting our lives, what our options are for change, and a reasonable plan for improvement. If we can’t remove the factors that are contributing to our problem, we will continue to fall down the proverbial hole in the road until we remove ourselves from that experience. It takes determination, a willingness to do whatever it takes, including losing our pride and sometimes our means of security, and the willingness to keep getting back up when we do fall. These are not easy, and we will often find that it seems that support is lacking when we need it the most…. those are the times that we need to turn our attention to whatever we find that is greater than our own mind… the spirit at the core of our being, our values, a higher power, whatever works for us. The support is there, but we may not be able to see it because we are blinded by our own pain and desire for something outside of us to change, rather than the desire to change our perception and to keep plodding through the obstacles. Once we shift our focus to our internal and spiritual resources, we can begin to see how we are creating our obstacles and draw upon the universal wisdom that runs through all faiths and paths that lead us back to our own heart.
There are many resources for help available, and not every resource is right for every person. If one doesn’t work, find another… but never be afraid to ask for help.
~ Stay Blessed