“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” ~Christopher Reeve
It all happened so suddenly that it felt just like a flash flood. One minute the road was clear and drivable, and the next it was a raging river. Before I knew what happened, my life went from being only slightly a mess to being a complete mess, my car teetering on the edge of the water, ready to go for a swim at any minute.
I had left a job I liked and found a job I thought I would love, but didn’t end up loving at all.
I had hurt a good friend who was extremely important to me, and is now out of my life for the most part.
I felt like a financial mess from constantly playing catch up and living paycheck to paycheck, and I was going to have to move out of an apartment and town I really loved.
It’s funny how when even just one thing is going great, all the other things that aren’t going so hot are manageable. But if nothing is okay, then everything seems insurmountable and completely overwhelming.
Faced with more doom and gloom than I could stand, I wanted to melt into my bed and never get back up. And honestly, for a few days I did.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone about what was going on. I didn’t want to admit defeat or ask for help. Even my very best friends only knew bits and pieces of what was going on inside my head. And honestly, the one person I would have bared my soul to, the person who I always ran to with stuff like this, was no longer speaking to me.
So now what? I realized that if I didn’t want to talk to the people who inspired me most, I could still apply what I had learned from them. They had taught me so much over the years through their advice, and their example, that through them, I found my way.
1. You can cry for five minutes and then you have to put your big girl pants on and deal with it.
One of my best friends, and someone whose strength I really admire, taught me that life isn’t going to wait for you to have a pity party; it’s going to go on without you.
She always says to her kids and friends, “Where does crying get you? Nowhere.” So, while it’s okay to cry a little and allow yourself some much-needed time to wallow, eventually that has to end.
Spend a weekend in bed with some feel-good movies and junk food, journal your feelings, take a long hot bath, cry and scream into your pillow, and indulge in some self-care and pampering. But don’t get stuck there. It is so easy to get stuck there.
Give yourself a cut off time to pull it together and start to figure out how you are going to get through this bump in the road. Becoming a blubbering mess isn’t an option, as tempting as it is.
2. Laughter is the best medicine.
You have to have a sense of humor about your situation. Laughter can bring down blood pressure and relieve stress. You’d be doing yourself and your health a favor to find some humor each day in the ridiculousness that you are going through. There’s even something called laughter yoga, which in and of itself is funny, but honestly, they are on to something. Have you ever felt bad after a good laugh?
If you’re so miserable you can’t think of anything funny, don’t go it alone. Hang out with a friend who can usually make you laugh, or call someone who does the same. I usually call my mom because she inspired this advice, and every time we talk about the crazy stuff going on in our lives, we always end up laughing about it.
3. What you did before won’t work now if you want a different outcome.
These next three pearls of wisdom, about taking action and setting goals, come from a mentor and dear friend who’s advised me over the years.
You have cried, you have laughed, and now it’s time to think about how you got here.
True, some situations are completely unavoidable, and life can deal us some horrible blows we could not have anticipated. However, if you contributed to your current situation, even in the smallest way, you have to reflect on what got you there.
That shouldn’t take long—it should be glaringly obvious where you went wrong—but the key here is to actually change that behavior. That’s the hard part, and honestly, something that has to be continuously worked on.
I eventually realized that I needed to change my impulsive decision making after it caused me to lose a relationship that was very dear to me, among other things. Consciously making the decision to work on it daily, and seeing the change that choice has made in my life gave me back a sense of pride, and makes the sting of that mistake more bearable.
However, it’s easy to do this while in the midst of dealing with the fallout of a miscalculation or mistake. You think, man I’ll never do that again, what was I thinking? I’m going to change! But then when all is right with the world and these troubles are a distant memory, you can slip back into old habits.
Unless you make a commitment to stay aware and work daily to change, and stay changed for the better, you will find yourself back here again, and again, and again.
4. A plan is only good if it is actionable, and you take action.
As you start to feel better, you will want to come up with a plan. It’s amazing how empowering it is to tackle the problem head on and figure out what outcome you want and what you need to do to get there. But is it realistic? Is it something that will make your current situation and your future better?
Here’s a tip: It shouldn’t be the first plan you think of. Usually that one is the easiest, “the quick solve,” and it won’t get you where you want to be in the long run. You have to think long and hard about what you really want, how you feasibly can get there, and if it is doable at this time with the resources you have.
Make sure your working toward what you want every day, and tweaking as you go if it starts to look like you aren’t making any headway. Checking in with yourself and staying grounded will help you stick to the plan and see success.
Usually when I make a plan I think a lot about what I want, not necessarily what I need. I decided to keep my head out of the clouds this time, and made a more realistic plan then I usually would have.
I had to accept some unwelcome changes (moving, new financial situation, loss), but knew those things were necessary to be successful this time around. In the process I found a new career I love, and am on my way to overcoming months of remorse over past situations.
5. Suck it up and do what you have to do to get where you want to be.
A few years ago, the good friend and mentor I mentioned earlier suggested that, to catch up on bills and get out from behind my current financial situation, I should give up my car. That way I would save money by not having a monthly car or insurance payment. After a few months of saving and catching up I could buy a used car outright. She suggested taking the bus and getting rides from friends when needed in the meantime.
Aghast, I told her there was no way I could do that.
“Why not? Because it would be too hard?” she had pointedly asked.
I just told her I wasn’t willing to give up my car, and instead, decided on a quick solve that fixed the problem for the moment, but not in the long run. I never got to exactly where I wanted to be financially.
Now looking back, I see the wisdom in what she was suggesting. Sometimes we need to make a sacrifice and do something unpleasant to get to a better future.
Nothing worthwhile comes by walking an easy, breezy path, and it shouldn’t. I thought about this a lot when recently deciding to move somewhere much cheaper so I could save money and catch up. Sure, it wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it was necessary to get on the right track.
It can be really hard to decide to bite the bullet and do something difficult that you really don’t want to do, but once your through it on the other side you will be glad, and proud, that you did.
6. Keep believing that the best is yet to come.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how wrong things have gone, there’s always potential for a better tomorrow. It’s not going to stay this way forever; it can’t. Don’t get so bogged down in the misery of today that you forget to get excited for the future, and what you’re doing to make it a good one.
A close friend and soul sister of mine had a bumper sticker that read: Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen. She helps remind me that you have to keep the hope inside you alive, because nothing is so far gone that it cant be fixed, or grow into something new and better. In the meantime, life is passing you by.
Find some good in your day and appreciate it in between all the wallowing, planning, and doing. You don’t want to miss out on months of your life because something bad happened and now that has become your entire focus.
It could even be something as small as a walk with your dog, or the smell of fresh air blowing in through your window. Every day has something to enjoy, even for a moment, before we get back to going hard after our goals.