Podcast 031 - Moments
Today I want to talk about a pretty heavy topic, but one that is worth exploring because it touches so many of our lives. The topic is overcoming life changing moments – you know those things that happen in your life and leave you feeling lost or uncertain if you can even go on.
These are things that define us as a person by shaking us up, demanding our full attention and changing how we view both ourselves and our world.
The cause might be an accident, a diagnosis, a loss, a death, a divorce (or break-up), serious challenges with your child or something slower moving, but still all consuming, like a complete slide into darkness. I've shared some of my life changing stories with you already, like when I fell off the chairlift at the ski hill or when my husband and I were financially strapped and lost our house to a flood. I've also had some people very close to me receive a life-threatening diagnosis, lost a close friend to suicide, been working in a bank when it was robbed at gunpoint and been involved in a serious mini-bike accident that totally messed up my face.
What's common about these situation and the many others that you might be facing, is that they force you to really take a look at what is important to you, to focus your attention on healing (which means put yourself as a priority) and, in many cases rebuild your life in a way that can accommodate the new you who arises out of the ashes.
These are not life transitions that we look forward to, in fact we often want to deny they are happening at all and they are certainly not something we consciously choose to have happen. This means, when they arise, we see them as a 'bad' thing. Perhaps as punishment, often as unfair, or maybe even embarrassing. This way of looking at them actually adds to their heaviness, makes it hard for us to see the opportunity in the mess while making our journey much harder than it needs to be.
A different perspective…
What if life changing moments were actually opportunities for us to soar? Like in the game of snakes and ladders…it would be as if we've come across a giant ladder that can actually take us higher and where we are headed faster than we ever dreamed possible. When we're playing the game, this is an awesome moment – yes! Right on! I got the biggest ladder out there!
But since life doesn't necessarily feel like a game and we're dealing with some really touch situations, we tend to stand at the bottom of the ladder looking up at it and thinking that looks too hard to climb…I'm not sure I want to go up there. What if I can't make it, what if it's too hard and my limbs start to shake and burn before I get to the top…what if I fall?
If you knew it was a ladder and an opportunity to climb higher than you've ever been in the quickest way possible – you'd likely look at it as a bonus in life. Of course, since it's such a big ladder and if you're like me your legs really might not be up to the climb, you would spend some time building up your muscles, eat right, sleep well – take care of yourself so that you could make it through the whole journey.
You would not wallow in self-pity at the bottom thinking now what? I can't do this, I want to be at the top, I want to cash in on this opportunity, but they need to give me an elevator or I can't go.
But when feelings like embarrassment, hurt, betrayal, grief are present, that's exactly what most of us are tempted to do.
That’s an interesting piece about situations we label as bad…we can only really feel them when we’re in them and it’s the feelings that make them real. That’s why we can look at another person’s situation and say – that’s terrible; I feel so bad for you [and then we see their face and we quickly backtrack] – oh! I mean – that’s great; I’m so happy for you.
But here’s the point…how bad our situation is will always be a matter of perspective. AND that perspective is always based on how the situation makes us feel!
As a social worker I have worked with women and kids who have been abused, raped, parents who have lost children and children who have lost parents, people with major addictions or life threatening illness, people who’ve lost everything to fire, flood, war…some come through it relatively easily while others are ruined for life.
To be a vibrant and powerful being, you need to fully embrace your own resiliency and know that you can handle whatever life throws your way…the ladder might look too tall from where your standing, but if you start to climb it, one rung at a time, you have a really good chance of making it to the top. BECAUSE life doesn't give you things you are not equipped to handle!
Often, on a journey such as this, you won't have a clue how you're going to take the next step. Sometimes you need to call upon all of your supports…totally drain your resources and do it all without knowing how much further you have to go to get there. If you see it as a ladder taking you towards something you really want and need in life, you will find that trust, faith and perseverance are enough to keep you going. If you view it as a punishment, an embarrassing or shameful truth, a huge loss that you cannot possibly endure, then each step will get harder and you will spend more time looking back than gazing forwards.
Part of surviving any life changing moment is acceptance (which is often put out there as letting go), one of the easiest ways to do this, is to adopt the perspective of positivity and see what you attract to help you on your climb.
So what do you do?
That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? There is no answer for that question because it is different for every single situation, for each unique person and for every time it is experienced!
Interestingly there are some major commonalities that I've put together into a 90 day program called my TUCK'N ROLL system. Obviously my podcast can't go on for 90 days, but I can give you a few tips from it.
- Recognize that your situation is an important part of your life journey and take full responsibility for it. I’m not saying there was no way it could be avoided or blaming you that it happened, there is no judgement here, but I am saying the moment you take responsibility for what has occurred, is the moment you start taking back your power.Unfortunately, most of us have been taught that we must take responsibility because it is the mature and therefore 'right' thing to do. As a result, it can be tainted with a sense of self-blame and that doesn't help us heal when we are hurting.I want to shine a different light on this idea. You see, to me taking responsibility shows you clearly where you could have made a different choice. Seeing a choice helps us recognize that there are things we could have done, which means the world is not spinning quite so wildly out of control…it resets the predictability factor which is a critical part of moving out of crisis and back into having a sense of control.
- Throw away your shovels. Resentment, regret, bitterness, blame, hurt, anger…are all digging you deeper, let them go. In order to take full responsibility, you've had to get your ego to calm down and allow higher-self to step in. Feelings like those I just mentioned will only flip you back into that unhealthy space. Really tune-in to the story you are sharing and notice the feelings that arise as you tell it. If you can taste bitterness when you share your story or feel waves of regret about how you wish it had turned out, you are still holding strong to the emotion of the experience. Sarcasm can be a slippery slope black into this zone as well.Notice how you feel. Change your story to focus more on what you wish had happened, what you've learned or how you would do things differently in the future…be very careful that the person you are sharing it with doesn't try to shove you back into the hole by riling you up.
- Once you've taken full responsibility and let go of the shovel, you can start focusing your energy on what you can do to get yourself out. This might involve things like taking stock of your strengths, figuring out where you can find support (people, books, courses, teleseminars, coaches), or even focusing all your energy on pleasure.What you're doing through all of these steps is helping to shift yourself from Victim to Hero which is not an easy task. Compassion is a key word when something life changing happens, which unfortunately is not something that comes easily, especially when it comes to caring for ourselves.Recognize that progress might be slow. You won’t be able to just jump out of the hole and go on about your life as it was before. Real growth happens slowly and healing works in cycles. This means, just when you think things are back to normal, you'll find something happens to push you back a step or two. This is not failure, but part of the process to help you heal. .
These are not easy things to do and that’s really the point of this podcast – life and the opportunities for change that it offers are not easy (which is why our ego fears them!). This is a journey, take baby steps where possible – reach for one better feeling, take one course, set one-two goals at a time, and recognize that set-backs are simply part of the experience.
What about when it's not you in the hole, but your child, colleague or friend?
No matter how badly you might want to, you cannot lift someone else out of this kind of hole. If you do, she will fall back in, or dig another deeper one. So instead you might sit on the rim and keep her company, offer her some ideas to think about if she asks, accept that this is happening to her and love her unconditionally.
So here's a quick overview of what you can do:
- Be as non-judgmental as possible and recognize you cannot possibly know what it's like for her in her unique situation. Shovels are heavy so don’t add to the load she’s already dealing with by giving unsolicited advice, telling her where she went wrong, demanding she 'smarten up' or throwing every resource you can find in the hole with her. These things will not help her or your relationship.So if you’re going to toss someone a shovel when they are already down in a hole, do it in a way that can help them uncover the many treasures their situation has to offer and then be there for them when they climb out.
- If you really need to do more…Help her put down her shovel and shift her focus from what’s been done to her, to what she can do for herself (move from the Victim to Hero). Little things like pointing out what you've always admired about her (careful because done wrong this can create guilt), offering to drive or accompany her to a difficult appointment, giving a hug or holding her while she cries (because she's not really in a hole), can all help her garner her strength and realize she is not alone.It's a fine line between supporting and enabling, so pay close attention to how much your doing, if you are taking on her battles and maybe schedule some times when you are unavailable and see how she does on her own.
- As soon as she begins to climb out of the hole – be there for her, in the same way you would for someone just learning to walk again. Don't try to do everything for her so she doesn't have to walk, but be there to support should she need someone to lean on while she catches her breath. Help her integrate what she has learned from this experience AND most importantly…see her and treat her as the resilient hero she is while accepting how she has changed as a result of the process.
I thought I'd end today's podcast with a short story that is just too perfect not to include:
An Autobiography In 5 Short Chapters By Porsche Nelson
Chapter 1 I walk down the street and there's a deep hole in the sidewalk, I fall in, I am lost, I am helpless, It isn't my fault, It takes me forever to find my way out.
Chapter 2 I walk down the same street and there's a deep hole in the sidewalk, I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again, I can't believe that I'm in the same place but it isn't my fault. It takes a long time to get out.
Chapter 3 I walk down the same street there's a deep hole in the sidewalk, I see that it is there, I still fall in, it's a habit, my eyes are open, I know it's my fault. I get out immediately.
Chapter 4 I walk down the same street there's a deep hole in the sidewalk, I walk around it.
Chapter 5 I walk down another street.
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