When you've reached a bad end, choose to make it a middle instead.
How often do we despair because of where we've "ended up." As in, "I never thought I'd end up divorced." Or "I never believed I'd end up the wife of a philanderer."
The thing is, we haven't "ended up." We're here...sure. That's the bad news. The good news is we don't have to stay here. "Here," isn't where it ends.
It's an important thing to recognize. It's what keeps us moving forward – this notion that we're in a hellish place but this isn't the end. And it's something that's all too easy to forget. We get stuck in thinking that life will never get better. He'll never stop cheating. You'll never be able to trust him. Pretty soon you've gone down the well-worn psychological path that leads only to a life lived alone, homeless, with nothing but feral cats for company and plastic bags for shoes.
So much of healing isn't about what's actually happening...but rather what we tell ourselves. And telling ourselves that it will never get better is disempowering ourselves in the worst possible way.
If there's one thing I've learned through all this, it's that the only thing I can control is myself...and that includes my thoughts.
Yeah, I know it's hard to stomach that when your husband seems to be the one pulling the strings. Our healing seems dependent on his behaviour. And there's no question that someone else's crazy can seep into our own lives...especially when we share a roof, bank account and possibly offspring with that person. But the way to survive – and certainly the only way to thrive – is to control your own story.
I recently read about a woman who was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Well, she thought, this is the end. She fought the disease but only to buy herself a little more time. The thing is she beat the cancer. Completely gone. Her end...wasn't. The story she'd told herself turned out to be wrong and she felt discombobulated with this new reality.
None of know what our ending will be. We only know the chapter we're on right now. And we're the ones controlling the letters on the keyboard. Keep creating your own story, with you as the triumphant hero who overcame tragedy to create a life rich with meaning and moments worth savoring. If someone else is trying to write your own, push his aside. Relegate him to the second-man status. See his behaviour as what it is – his own story full of failings and missteps. He controls his story...and you control yours.
Friday, March 9, 2012
It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. ~ Wendell Berry
Most of us hate feeling lost. From childhood, the sense that we don’t know which way is home is terrifying...and to be avoided at all costs. We are warned from a young age that we should know where we’re going, what career we’re planning, where we’re going to live and how we’re going to pay for it. Society encourages absolutes – and looks at wanderers as untrustworthy, shifty, indecisive.
And so we make our choices as if they’re guarantees. The right job, the right home, the right husband. It will, we believe, lead to happily ever after. Until the day it doesn’t. Until the day we lose the job, the home turns out to be anything but happy (or affordable), the husband acts like he isn’t one.
And we feel so very lost.
And yet, as Berry points out, when we let ourselves drift, even briefly, we might just see a direction we hadn’t considered. In the midst of confusion, if we don’t drown out our voices and dreams in “shoulds” and “musts”, we can discover what really fires up our soul.
It might be a different job. A different home. A different husband...or no husband at all.
It might be a marriage that is rebuilt on different principles. A home recreated in different values.
It might be a sense of self that is rooted in a feeling of “home” – a self that feels safe and secure, no matter what’s going on beyond our own skin.
That, ultimately, is the gift that being so lost has held for me. I’ve learned, after a lifetime of trusting everyone but myself, that I’ve held within my own heart the wisdom to know what is right for me. And what is right for me is not necessarily what’s right for anyone else.
I have a 13-year-old daughter making choices about high school. She’s chosen one that I, frankly, wouldn’t choose. And it’s so tempting to tell her she needs to choose differently. However, I’ve spent her lifetime urging her to trust herself – to listen to that gut feeling that tells her when something feels right...and when it doesn’t.
And so she chose. Without regret. As she puts it, “When I think of that school, I don’t have a knot in my stomach.”
I’m reminded, yet again, that “right” is not one-size-fits-all.
Lost isn’t a forever feeling. It’s a temporary reminder that where we are is not compatible with our dreams. And, if we pay attention, it can offer up a compass pointing us where we want to go.