“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard
Imagine that we have a bucket of resilience that we are able to dip into when life gets tough.
That is the bucket we would rely on to get us through loss, grief, hardship, or significant change.
What happens if we ignore that bucket? If we don’t stop or slow down long enough to fill the bucket back up? What happens if we keep on trying to persevere when our bucket is empty?
The universe will get our attention one way or another. When it is time to slow down or stop, she will definitely intervene.
I was enjoying my “put together” life—a husband and two kids, one about to graduate from high school; a good job with a good salary that allowed us to take vacations and pay the bills; friends, family, and a level of comfort that I thought meant I had overcome anything that might have been an issue in our life.
I was overconfident. I thought I had beat the universe at her own game. Sure, there were issues I should probably have dealt with, but I figured I would just keep going and deal with those later.
I was a workaholic, and proud of it. I encouraged everyone around me to be relentless, and I worked from the moment I got up until I went to bed.
I used food and alcohol as a socially acceptable way of handling stress. A loaf of Italian bread and a bottle of red wine were my typical Tuesday rituals.
I will admit that I was in need of a wake-up call. I had lost touch with all the things that I said I valued, and I replaced them with work. And the universe was watching.
The thing about the universe, or God, or the spirit, or whatever you believe in, is that you can’t fool Her. Those little lies we tell ourselves don’t work with Her. Everything we need to deal with comes back to us in one way or another. My “stuff” was all about control—as in, I think I have some. And I don’t.
So, in rapid succession, I experienced loss after loss after loss. It was like a prizefight—I tried to get up, swerving and bobbing, but I had lost my footing. I was still swinging, but I was surviving on sheer will. And I didn’t check my resilience bucket. Big mistake.
Then came the knockout blow: I lost my job.
Pretty much my entire identity was wrapped up in work. It was where I felt like I was really myself and doing work that was of benefit. I felt like I had friends at work and that people knew me and cared about me.
But, because my resilience bucket was empty and had been for some time, I wasn’t seeing how different I had become through all of that loss. I hadn’t seen that my needs had changed, that I had changed. When I stopped crying and wrote in my journal about what I needed from work, I wrote, “Flexibility, to make a difference, to use what I’m good at, and to pay my bills.”
I also wrote this:
I get it. Enough.
We have to make space for big changes in our lives. Clean out our emotional attic, so to speak. I have a long way to go, but here are some things I am doing to be open to and to deal with wherever my path takes me:
Start each day with gratitude.
I struggle with this, but it makes such a difference. When I start my day with mindfulness, take the time to center myself, recognize and appreciate the positives in my life, and breathe in a spirit of gratitude, I have a very different day than when I start the day by checking my phone and letting myself get right into my to-do list. If I start the day with mindfulness and a grateful heart, I am able to keep that with me throughout the day, instead of getting stuck in self-pity and frustration.
Have a friend I can be totally honest with.
This might seem like it’s pretty obvious, but there has to be someone to share the dark stuff with. I have a wonderful friend who has been through some of the same things that I have, and I regularly text her at 3 a.m. when I have let my funk take over. She is supportive, and she pushes me to think about what I can do to move through it. Having a friend who can see that you are going to get through it and who can understand where you are at the moment makes a world of difference on this journey.
Let go of what I can’t control.
There is probably no one for whom this lesson has been more difficult than me. We can keep asking ourselves, “What can I control about what is happening right now?” We tend to find that the answer is always exactly the same—we can only control our own reaction. So, breathe in, breathe out, and let it go.
Whether we write for ourself, in a journal, on a blog, or publish the next great novel, writing is an incredibly cathartic way to process whatever life throws our way. Becoming a part of Elephant Academy was transformational for me and has provided me with a community of other people who care about writing and growing and the world around us. When I write, I think about this quote from Natalie Goldberg:
“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”
I am learning to let go, to be split open to the feelings of loss, and to be ready for whatever is next. I am writing to be of benefit, to share my story so we all feel a little less alone. I am learning to bring a sense of gratitude to even the hardest challenges.
I am filling my own bucket.
Thank you, universe, for seeing me, my potential, and my future as more than a series of missteps. Thank you for seeing it as a journey of healing and discovery, and for giving me the opportunity to know myself in a different way.
And, P.S., any time you are ready to send that abundance stuff my way, I am ready!