Does it ever seem like you have more challenges in your life than most other people? As if every time you persevere and turn a corner something else is waiting there to deliver another crushing blow? You are wondering, “Why does this always happen to me?”
We’ve all been there. Myself included. It can be awful. When adversity lines up over and over again it’s easy to feel defeated and respond negatively; and it’s easy to keep the negative momentum spinning, to see yourself as a victim and wonder if you are worthy of goodness and happiness. As humans, we usually experience the setbacks in our lives similarly. Whether we are dealing with divorce, death, layoffs, legal issues, disease, business failure or financial disaster, losing something that’s important can leave us feeling emotionally demoralized, unloved, and hopeless. There are the terrifying physical effects too – depression, head-aches, lumps in the throat, and that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach that consumes us. When we go through something that shatters our world as we know it, it’s understandable to be focused on the pain.
HOW I TURNED THE TABLES ON ADVERSITY
I faced one of the biggest unexpected setbacks in my life a little over a year ago when I was let go from a job I loved. Out of the blue I was let go and my world came crashing down. With a son in college, and my husband himself laid off six months earlier I felt tremendous fear, loss and anxiety. On top of that, I soon received a health diagnosis that threw me into a battery of tests, surgery and several more months of recovery. I felt like the world was out to get me. How was I ever going to regain my balance and my joy? I was afraid to be excited about anything new – not even a new job, because all I could see were the downsides. As I became aware of the effects of hopelessness overwhelming me with each subsequent circumstance piling up on the previous one, all I wanted to do was fast-forward through life; to somehow escape it all.
With some time on my hands I started to recognize a pattern of waking up each day in dread. How had I become that person? At one time I had believed that life is to be enjoyed and I could create an amazing life for myself. After six months of wallowing in blame, hurt and misery I began to meditate again. It also happened to be early springtime and the earth was coming alive again; the birds were back and the sun shone a bit longer each day. I found some hope in nature’s rhythm of renewal and took it as a metaphor of my journey.
Meditation created a few cracks in my mental and emotional armor where the light of my inner spark could start to shine through. I started doing walking meditations and found that I looked forward to the feelings of peace and balance I achieved for twenty minutes a couple of times a day. Meditation gave me the small win I needed to feel like I could handle things. I realized that I had completely folded under the pressures of my life and it was up to me – not anyone else – to find the meaning in my life again.
After meditation, my next step out of the abyss was acknowledging my personal responsibility for how I was feeling and responding to the events of my life. If I have the choice to get past my all-consuming reactions, I could use the challenges I faced as opportunities to start over and do it in a way that put being happy, satisfied and fulfilled as my priorities. This was the start of the most amazing journey of personal growth, healing and spiritual awareness that I have ever experienced. I explored the deeper feelings of hurt, betrayal and self-worth that showed themselves in my emotional and behavioral patterns, but I did so because I saw the limitations and blocks I was creating through the beliefs they triggered, and I could now let them go. I become aware of when I was thinking, talking and acting negative, and how that had been coloring my perceptions of my life. When I let go of what was clouding the sun to shine in me I opened a new portal to connect with an inner truth – a more authentic me. I have learned to listen and trust my inner self – my connection to who I am – instead of the outside world, as the source of my happiness. This big shift has empowered me to share the fruits that grew out of devastation and adversity in hopes that it inspires us all to lighten up on ourselves and feel a little better.
THE BEGINNING OF EACH NEW JOURNEY
I now know that the challenges I have faced – and perhaps will continue to experience (although not as scary) as part of life’s ongoing adventure – are really only an opportunity to start a new (and exciting) journey. As they say, it’s how you respond to the events of your life that make them what they are, and we all have the power to improve how we react. Building the habit each day of listening within, connecting with those ideas and thoughts that bring us joy (Joseph Campbell urged us to “Follow your bliss”) and believing in our own power and freedom to choose how we will feel in each moment is the keystone of not only withstanding challenges, but of thriving. Some call this having a growth mindset and being resilient, but for me it gives rise to a conscious advantage; to be able to ride the waves, to recreate myself and my life on an endless journey, renewed in the potential joy unfolding each day.