When bad things happened, or things didn't go my way, I felt defeated. Especially when there were those periods that everything seemed to go to hell at once. When I look back at the things that went completely different than what I thought, I realize that it was exactly what was supposed to happen. Other than deaths of those that you loved and will always miss, you bounce back. You find another love, another job, you make a serious commitment to health after an illness and yes, even after losing someone, life goes forward and you find a new normal.
I thought of this this morning when I received an email asking me how to make it through when things looks bleak with no hope of getting better. I thought back on how things have unfolded in my life. There were difficult periods where I felt like I was barely holding on but then I realized that the doors that closed at certain times in my life allowed fresh air in and a change that led me to who I am today. I believe in prayer. I believe in guardian angels and God. I believe that during my worst periods of grief that God was the one holding me together until I could see through the darkness.
Like I said to a new friend this morning, whatever you believe in, hold onto that and believe that good will come again. It may not be the good you were expecting but you will get happy again. The thing is, you have to embrace it and be open to the fact that life is different than you expected.
Pray, if you believe in prayer, meditate, walk, get that blood moving through your body. Be open to what will come. Believe that if you expect goodness, it will be there, just on the other side of that door.
This week I said goodbye to a situation that didn't serve me anymore. It's funny (not haha funny but more like, "Hunh, I'm finally aware that this situation is ridiculous" funny) but even though I knew it was a break I needed to make, it was still hard. Saying goodbye can feel like an impossible task, an irreversible, impossible feat.
I think sometimes we build things up in our heads and the anticipation of an event is often so different that what actually happens. What would happen when I made that break? I had finally had enough though and it wasn't a choice anymore. It didn't matter what the aftermath would be. It had to happen in order to move forward. So, I made up my mind, set a date and said a brief goodbye to what didn't work in my life.
As I sat there in the autumn sun, right after, I thought "Goodbye goodbye goodbye, good bye, good." Sometimes, we're not lucky enough to see the good in goodbye immediately, but saying those words over and over I realized that there is good in goodbye. If you don't see it right now, in the moment, hold onto the fact that you were strong enough to break away from a situation, a person, an addiction, a crutch, a job, a habit that kept you from being less than your ideal person. Soon, when you are filled with relief that you are closer to the person you want to be you'll think "Good good good" and forget all about the "bye."
Traveling for Microsoft in the 2000's, there was a long period that I couldn't take a flight without seeing at least half of the female passengers on my flight carrying Elizabeth Gilbert's book, "Eat Pray Love." This book seemed to touch something in people. It created a powerful movement as well as a film. Liz Gilbert's experience in changing what didn't work in her life, set people off on their own experiences changing their lives. Mine included. When you feel lost, you need a North Star. For many people it was Elizabeth Gilbert.
Since "Eat Pray Love," a lot has happened in Liz Gilbert's life. She's written several other books, including "Big Magic" and she recently changed gave up what wasn't working in her life in several areas and embraced what did work. She dove headfirst into love love love. Last week, she did a Facebook Live chat about her book "Big Magic." I happened to be online at the same time. I asked her a question:
How do you choose happiness when you've lost your happy? Do you still believe in happiness when you've felt loss?
Here is what she responded:
Well, I must have ‘cause I stayed. I was actually thinking about this the other day. I was looking-I was with a friend who was packing up her house. We were reading her old journals. She’s really happy. I think of her as a really happy person. She was just reading through those journals that we have all had in various times of our life and she was saying “Happinness is a treasure that apparently will be eluding me for my entire life.” Apparently I am not going to be receiving that. Apparently it’s not for me and I said to her “But you must not have believed that because you’re still here. You stayed. Why did you stay? You could have left. People leave. You know? Why did you stay? Because something in you, some stubborn deep deep rooted kind of beyond reality sense of yourself was like “unh, unh.’ This is the suck that I am in right now but this cannot be how it is always going to be. You don’t know how you’re going to get from where you are to where you need to be but there is something in you that must believe that because you are still here. Otherwise there would be no reason to say.
I think that Rob Bell puts it really well, my friend Rob Bell says, his definition of despair is “The mistaken idea that tomorrow is going to be exactly the same as today." When you start to believe that, that is when you fall into despair. When you start to think none of this is ever going to change that tomorrow I’m going to wake up it’s going to be just like this and a month from now it’s going to be just like this and ten years from now it’s going to just like this when all evidence, literally every single molecule of evidence in the universe points to the fact that everything is changing constantly. There is no such thing as tomorrow is going to be the same as today. It doesn’t exist. You’re not going to be exactly the same as today. Five years from now every single cell in your body will be replaced by different cells. You’ll be a totally new organism. The seasons change, the thing’s turning, the whole thing is churning. If you can sort of tap into this idea of paying attention to change and seeing how it’s happening all around you and being willing to take the risk to step into the river of change that’s the only thing that will take you out of despair.
So, how did I believe it when I was in the suck? I both did and did not believe that my life was going to get better but the part of me that did believe believe it, believed I guess a little harder than the part of me that was certain that tomorrow was going to be exactly the same as today. So, I would say that you somehow shake that myth. It’s not true. It simply is not true. Look outside. The wind is blowing. Leaves are moving. Everything is moving. This moment is over now. Boom. There is another one and with every new moment comes the possibility of change if you are willing to participate in it.
Elizabeth Gilbert on Twitter and Facebook.