2015 was a rough year for so many of us. Relationships, jobs, and living situations blew up in our faces or simply evaporated. Many of our relationships were plagued by huge misunderstandings and explosive arguments. Most or all of our systems of security were decimated or, at the very least, severely challenged. I’ve dubbed 2015 The Year of the Exploding Relationships. However, though I’ve always known that though I can’t control life’s circumstances, I can always learn from them. I’m always make a choice on how I want to respond to life and to others.
A while back I wrote a letter to a dear friend while they were in the midst of a devastating financial crisis. I was touched by their heartache and grief over the losses that seemed beyond their control and I was prompted to share them a few things I’ve learned after going through my own financial challenges.
1. You’re always stronger than you think. Always. Even when I couldn’t seem to get out of bed all day, even when I was subsisting on a steady diet of glazed donuts and red wine, and even though I was exhausted and felt invisible to the world there was within me a tiny spark of desire that made me want to get up and try again. And, I did.
2. As painful as it is you will shed the things that no longer serve you. I had to let go of my pride and unwillingness to ask for help (kicking and screaming all the way!). Then, there were my judgments about what it meant to not have money and to not be able to support myself in an “socially acceptable” way. There is nothing dishonorable about being poor yet I was a harsh and unforgiving self-critic on this subject. Eventually I became much gentler and more compassionate with myself. I stopped struggling against the grief of my losses and found that simply in the act of letting go, a weight was lifted. Eventually, I would start over and go anywhere and do anything I wanted. I was no longer tied to a place or to my possessions.
3. You’ll find what is of real value in life. When you are left with little to nothing in material possessions it becomes quite clear what is truly of value in your life. These things, most of the time, are simple pleasures and are likely things you cannot buy at any price; a trusted friendship, the caress of a loved one, a walk in nature, a good cup of coffee with a friend, a beloved pet, the sun on your face, the sound of children laughing, your own beating heart, a brilliant sunrise or sunset. In the end, these are the things that really matter.
4. You’ve no idea how valuable this experience will be to you. You will learn many useful and resourceful abilities. You experience will change the way you look at and approach life. And, in turn you will also be able to relate to and counsel others going through this same difficult journey of loss. Many will be encouraged and comforted by the compassion and understanding that came as a result of going through your loss. You will be able to teach them about valuing what is truly worthwhile from a place of humility, a place of integrity.
5. You will love and appreciate yourself more. You are valuable, just for being you, not for what you can do for someone else. The uniquely creative being that is you is of immense value, far beyond what you can imagine. You have already touched so many lives, and they, in turn, they have touched others, and they, others ,and so on and so on and so on. You may never know how many lives you have influenced for the good. The world needs you. This world would literally not be the same without you having been in it.
6. You don’t have to own things to be able to enjoy them. There was a time when the only things I owned were my clothes and my laptop. I found that people generously offered me use of their possessions…a pool to swim in, a place to garden, good meals, a vehicle to drive, art to appreciate, events to attend, all without asking for anything in return. I could enjoy and appreciate many wonderful things without actually having to “own” them.
7. You will find a place to live in deeper gratitude. You will not wallow in your anguish forever, it’s not your nature to do so. You will find your own inner spark and get up again and walk toward your calling. Some people may press you to find something to be grateful for in the midst of your loss. While this may be very effective for some, I found a hollow ring to my forced words of “gratitude” for my experience. More often, I’d have to first fully immerse myself in the loss, to become vulnerable to my frustration and anger. I needed to embrace the dark emotions that lurked deep in my psyche before I could then forgive and come to a place of gratitude for my experience. Good news is, you’ll find your gratitude again. You’ll continue to experience your gratitude for this experience in new and deeper levels as your life continues to unfold.
8. You will be happy again. You will find that the sun will again touch and warm your heart. You will find a place of joy. You will find delight in the goodness of life again. You will find and renew your passion. You will. I promise.
You are not alone…
9. You are not alone. Early into a spiritual crisis I heard these words directed at me, “You are not alone!” It was a forceful command. And, though I experienced a deep, aching loneliness in those dark hours I now know I was never alone. People reminded me of this along the way but I sometimes found it hard to accept. There’s always a time, a dark night of the soul, that those on a spiritual journey will undergo, a dark night that must be faced in total solitude. Nothing and no one can go through it with you. (read the stories of Jesus and Job) It is a birthing process. Be as gentle with your self as you would a newborn.
10. You are more powerful than you can imagine. This one can be so challenging when you’re feeling anything but powerful. I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the grace of empowerment. I get glimpses of this power from time to time – enough to know it to be true. I learned that the most disempowering thing I have is my thoughts. Those dark and harshly judgmental mantras that I repeat over and over in my head… ‘I should have…’, ‘Why didn’t I…’, ‘I don’t deserve to…’, ‘What could I possibly have to offer?’ Underneath this dung heap of thinking is the true gem that is me. Because a gem is covered with dung, doesn’t make it any less valuable; it’s just harder to see its true value. You will stand up again, brush off the dust of your losses and find your true center again. You will. I promise.
Please remember to be gentle and kind with yourself. Pray for the willingness to confront and transform your pain, fear, anger and shame into compassion, wisdom into a renewed vision of God’s purpose for you. It will get better. I promise, it will.
With Much Love and Grace,
(c) 2015 Melody Harris