Do you ever go through periods when you feel like every decision you’ve ever made was somehow wrong?
It’s the cruelest, most insidious sort of self-punishment we can put ourselves through: comparing our lives against the image we once imagined for our future, and beating ourselves up because a handful of pieces are simply not there.
Sometimes those pieces are missing because of chance. Sometimes they never fell into place because, whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we are better off without them. Sometimes they’ve been snatched away by the actions and decisions of others, or by other circumstances beyond our control.
In all cases, when pieces that are important to us turn up missing in our lives, it is not due to any lack of effort on our part. All of us do our best with the gifts given to us, especially when we are fighting for something, or someone, we love. But even when we’ve done everything possible to keep a dream alive, sometimes the dream simply falters and crumbles, and all we are left with is emptiness.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, we blame ourselves. We look in the mirror and say, It’s your fault. Yours alone. You were inadequate, unaware, incapable. Unable to recognize what needed to be done, to respond in a way that might have secured what was so important to you.
We feel undeserving of the grace of the universe. Or worse, we begin to suspect that the universe is conspiring against us.
I’m not new to these storms; they have come and gone all my life, and over time, I’ve developed strategies for weathering them.
Weathering a storm, unfortunately, is not the same thing as avoiding the pain. When the loss is real, there’s no way to avoid pain, because pain is the emotion that defines the depth of our love and passion. But I’ve found ways to stay afloat when relentless tides of pain are generated by harsh disappointments in life.
What do I cling to? A conscientious awareness of the blessings I do have. The company of friends and family. The distraction of work and hobbies. The escape of my stories. The healing power of dance. The whisper of trees on a cloudy day. The messages in my dreams.
None of this – none of it – deadens the pain of that one crucially important piece of my world that has been lost to me. But all of it keeps me afloat, and helps me get up to face each new dawn, despite the tears that I continue to shed.
One day at a time, I tell myself.
One day at a time.