“You may not have signed up for a hero’s journey, but the second you fell down, got your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment, screwed up, or felt your heart break, it started.” -Brené Brown, Rising Strong
Everyone has those days that challenge our ability to feel safe.
It’s the interruption of what you thought was your life, into the reality that things can happen in a way you didn’t expect.
It starts with something that happens, and it can be small, but it quickly grows into a big, bad, scary place. It feels like you can barely keep your nose above water, and your head goes into a tidal wave of “what if” scenarios.
Your mental health suffers and so does your quality of life.
How well I know these scenarios…
I’ve experienced them many times in my life, and likely… so have you. Just when I think I have my future outlined perfectly, some plot twist throws my whole life into chaos.
I’ve discovered that life is one cycle after another. There always has and always will be an event that begins the next cycle of your life. It’s the moment we’re forced to course-correct for something that broke our expectations of the way it was going to be.
Our first response might be to feel anger, frustration, disappontment, blame, shame, resentment… and it goes on.
Why did it happen, we wonder? Everything was going great.
You may feel disheartened, left wondering what’s next? You might also feel deeply vulnerable and fear sets in.
Is this how it will always be? Can I count on anything?
You may not feel strong enough to drag yourself out of the murky waters, but trust me, you will because that’s the nature of your spirit… the nature of rebound, and we are all capable of reclaiming our lives.
It may not be what it was before, but when you let go of expectations, you open your life to something more.
It’s the birth of change.
Personal challenges no matter how much we resist them, force us to grow.Things like divorce, health crisis, job loss, heartbreak, or loss of a loved one.
It will shake you up, but eventually you regain your emotional strength and continue on, even when you can’t possibly imagine it at the time.
I tragically lost my son when he was just 16 years old, and I never thought I would be happy again. How could I?
He woke up with a fever and was dead the next morning. The doctor said it was the flu… but it was something we didn’t expect… Bacterial Meningitis.
Some say losing a child is the greatest loss a parent could ever experience. And it is. It was not survivable… or was it? I still woke up the next day, and the sun was shining. My three living children needed breakfast and love, even though their beautiful brother was gone.
Where do all those expectations for your child go when you’re stripped of seeing them grow up? Every chapter of my book of life was changed in one moment of time when my child left this earth.
I reluctantly discovered that life doesn’t stop when you experience such a loss. There is still more life waiting in the chambers of a broken heart.
It’s not easy, but it is survivable. Yes, my son’s loss broke me, but not all things in my life were shattered. It sure felt like it. I was in a cycle of grieving for a long time, but I made a conscious effort to be present with my living children. They deserved a joyful childhood, and that became my new binding contract with myself… to give them a whole mother.
Is there something in your life or business that feels insurmountable today?
Within my history, I knew there were other events in my life I’d already survived. I decided to curate my life in a way that could help me see what I’d already experienced, the joys and the sorrows, the achievements and the failures.
I wrote a timeline detailing my life events and experiences. It was a remarkable map of my journey! I couldn’t believe how doing this helped me clearly see the cycles that repeated themselves in one way or another. Each time, my life regenerated in a new form.
The very nature of being human means we’re going to experience a tumultuous life. No one is immune to the ups and downs of being alive.
In my training as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, I learned there are over 40 kinds of loss we grieve, and within those categories are things we don’t expect… like moving for a new job, getting married, or graduating from college. Those experiences seem exciting; yet require saying goodbye to an old part of your life and opening the door to the new chapter. It opens you up to change and it’s not always easy or what we expect it to be.
What can we expect?
The thing we can count on is that life will be ever-evolving. It will always change, with sometimes great opportunities and joyful moments, but it will also toss in some really tough challenges.
But know this, you are fully capable of rebounding. Your timeline is proof of that.
Nothing stays the same.
You’ll meet people, be in situations, take part in groups, and then you’ll stop seeing those people, those groups, and those situations. Think about what brought you to that place in the beginning.
What need was it filling? A broken heart? A desire to be loved? Career advancement? Common interests? Not only were you filling your own needs, but you filled a need in someone else’s life, too. Maybe for just a short while, but it still served a purpose.
Don’t feel guilty when you outgrow the need. It happens to all of us. Accept it for the gifts it gave you, and that your presence changed others, too.
Growth and change are inevitable.
There will always be another tough situation to face. It may be painful, but in the end, nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you emotionally do not belong. I knew if I allowed myself to be held in grief, it would deeply affect those I love. I also knew my son in heaven would be heartbroken if he knew his death had robbed me of all joy.
Everyone has a creative mind… but leave the horror stories to Stephen King
When you are treading the murky waters of your mind, usually it is your mind telling you what might happen, not always what is happening at the moment.Try to avoid that little voice inside your head by recognizing it as the voice of fear. It forces you into imagining the worst.
Recognize your story-telling mind as an attempted assault before you know the actual plot your future holds… shoo the mind shark away by affirming that those thoughts aren’t real. They come from your creative mind telling stories… and those stories might never come true.
Ignore them and think about the present moment, then just take the very next step.
Every day you wake up to a new you.
You are not the same person you were yesterday. Every day you’re adding to your life experiences and knowledge that give you a new perspective. Try not to hold on to old beliefs that keep you stuck.
Break free of expectations that restrict you and open up to the possibility of dreams beyond anything you can imagine. Oprah said, as a young woman she couldn’t have dreamed big enough to imagine all that she is today. She just put her faith in living one day at a time with gratitude.
Complaining stops the flow of energy.
“Those who complain the most, accomplish the least.” — Marc Chernoff
When you complain, your brain feels it has solved the problem because you feel momentary satisfaction, possibly even a little glee.
I complained a lot when the real estate market crashed. I thought I was a great realtor when times were good! But, when the market failed, I complained about the terrible economy and how my income had crashed with it.
However, some agents were still doing well. They had figured out how to ride the wave and sustain themselves.
I had “niched” myself too small for the new market; I had to learn to diversify. My business partner and I set out to create a whole new business plan… and we thrived.
If you believe in something, keep trying, but don’t complain. Take action instead. Regardless of what happens, remember that true happiness grows when you stop complaining about your problems and work toward feeling grateful for all the problems you don’t have.
The happiness in your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.
“The mind is your battleground. It’s the place where the greatest conflict resides. It’s where half of the things you thought were going to happen, never did happen. But if you allow these thoughts to dwell in your mind, they will succeed in robbing you of peace, joy, and ultimately your life.” — Marc Chernoff
A beautiful day begins with a beautiful mindset.
Those days when you spill coffee, the news is upsetting, and you’re late getting out the door, you say “It’s going to be one of those days.”
You’ve just set yourself up! The mind shifts quickly into the negative and attempts to fulfill that prophesy.
Instead, When you wake up, take a second to think about what a privilege it is to simply be alive. Think about the people who love you. Appreciate how good it feels to be in a warm bed, and get ready for a cup of coffee or tea to start your day.
One of the things I changed in my morning routine was to make a beautiful ritual out of making my coffee. I set my timer on the automatic coffee maker to go off 10 minutes before I wake up. The minute my feet touch the stairs, I can smell the coffee brewing. I love ritualizing the process… first heating my mug with hot water, then foaming the milk in the frother, pouring the fresh brewed coffee into the hot mug, then drizzling the frothy milk ever so gently, floating the foam on top.
That first sip is absolutely divine. I crawl back into bed with inspirational reading and a meditation of gratitude.
I’m grateful I have a ritual every morning that I love so much. (Author, A J Jacobs decided to learn about gratitude by thanking all the people responsible for his morning coffee and shares it in this: Ted Talk. I think you’ll enjoy it)
I think the final lesson in all of this is that life has cycles no matter what.
There are things we can do to help heal the fear, to keep our heads not only above water, but out of the water completely… ready and willing to take the next step. I use the words “take the next step’ quite often because I find trying to figure out the whole picture is too daunting. Often you don’t know what to do until you’ve taken the next step, then the next. It’s much more doable.
If you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone.
Gratitude is an excellent tool for acknowledging what IS right in your world. It helps heal the fear and the false belief that all things are broken. They are not. Today is survivable and so is tomorrow, and for me it all begins with the aroma of my morning coffee.
Call to Action
I urge you to write down your life events in a timeline. Below you can see a brief recap of mine.
When you see the cycles of life you’ve already survived, it will give you a new look at your strength.
You’re not broken at all… you’re changed by every single thing that happened to you.
And you survived.
(This article was previously published in Thrive Global on Medium)