When life knocks you out, it’s easy to get stuck in despair and all of the reasons why things will never change. It’s tempting to sit down and allow the immensity of the impending clean-up task to overwhelm you. But you stay there at your own peril.
Life knocked me on my ass last August. The beginning of the school year is always the hardest for my extra needs son. Then hurricane Irma came along and shook things up right as we were about to hit our stride. After a new diagnosis, a week of no school, and cleanup efforts, I had a hard time getting back on my feet.
Just as the world lay dumbfounded in the wake of Puerto Rico and Las Vegas and the unsettling state of affairs that implied, I found myself on my knees trying to remember what the goal is and where the joy can be found.
There’s a time and place for grief and anger, but when the morning comes, there is work to be done. It starts in your head. You can either let your thoughts reinforce your place on the ground, or you can intentionally shift them one at a time to help you move forward.
If you’re stuck in whatever life has thrown your way, you might be making these mistakes.
1. You’re focusing on the wrong things. There’s this weird thing called negative pleasure. You get it by focusing on victimhood and all the reasons you can’t succeed. For a while it might feel good to become obsessed with your own misery and lack, however justified it may be. But it’s a thought pattern that leads nowhere fast.
Remedy: Focus on what you can control and what you do have.
2. You’re letting your imagination run wild, and not in a good way. Are you exaggerating your circumstances? On top of life’s uncomfortable moments, it’s tempting to add unhelpful thoughts like “I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life. My child will never grow up and move out of the house. I’ll never figure out how to make enough money.”
Remedy: Acknowledge how things are now and deal with that—not the worst-case scenario.
3. You’re trying to do it all by yourself. As a single parent, you’re it. The buck stops with you. Those statements reflect the reality that many of us live. But just as dependence can be a recipe for disaster, fierce independence is likely to leave you wasted and lying horizontal on the floor.
Remedy: Aim for interdependence in relationships and communities that are mutually beneficial.
4. You stopped trusting life. When bad things happen—and keep happening—it’s natural to lose hope and faith. You’re allowed to go there, but it’s a really depressing place to hang out.
Remedy: Trust that something new and more real will arise from the ashes, chaos, and emptiness of the now.
Healing is a spiral, and life is literally a circle of birth, death, and renewal. It doesn’t always flow at the pace or in the order we expect. Our challenge is to find our strength and stay open. Even if you’re not ready to stand up, see if you can manage to shift and find your way to your knees.
What has life thrown your way lately, and how are you coping?