5 Lessons from Hitting Rock BottomWhen we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~Viktor Frankl
When you try to hinder the growth process, life has a way of making things very uncomfortable for you.
I learned this because I was extremely uncomfortable in my skin, in my mind, in my physical world for a while before the temporary realities of my life came crashing down around me – in a huge way.
Before I was forced to make a series of big changes, I had resigned myself to this idea that I would just have to muscle through the hardships, that I would need to exert all of my energy into holding on or things wouldn’t turn out the way they were supposed to.
I was exhausted, but I believed that this was just a period of my life where I would need to swim upstream.
The reality was that the universe was stripping me of the things I thought I needed, the person I thought I was, the lifestyle I thought was best for me. At the time it seemed cruel.
Now it feels like a beautiful, empowering process.
Yesterday, as I thought about how I would celebrate my upcoming birthday, I suddenly had the realization that my 25th year had been both the best and worst periods of my life.
I had six solid months of heartache – a horrendously sad breakup, a struggle to find a better job, a brief stint living back home – followed by six months of a happiness I never thought was possible – an amazing new job, a place of my own, and a startlingly bright light at the end of the tunnel.
So what happened in the middle?
I laid back, turned my feet downstream, and allowed life to carry me to where I needed to go. I surrendered because I had nothing else to lose and everything to gain.
Here are the important lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. Stripping things bare creates a world of possibilities.
I recently came across this quote, and wanted to plaster it all over my house: “When nothing is sure, everything is possible.”
Looking back now, my life hadn’t been easy for a significant amount of time. I was shutting doors that were opening for me because I didn’t trust that they fit into my bigger picture. I needed to interfere because I didn’t fully trust in life’s ability to iron out the kinks, and create a path of least resistance.
Without attachments – without much of anything, really – the possibilities were literally endless. It was terrifying but thrilling at the same time.
2. No matter how big the storm, the dust always settles.
I recently revisited the wounds that I had been carrying for months, and I found that they had healed. The scars remain — reminders of what was and what would never be — but they are now something I observe, not something I feel at my core.
They had healed because I cried and threw things and didn’t get out of bed for days at a time. They had healed because I had surrendered to the process, allowing new experiences in and expelling painful memories out.
When I look back, I can see that every other major heartache I’ve felt throughout my life has also healed – they always do.
3. There’s a bigger picture that we don’t have to see.
When I was deep in the trenches of my misery, I begged for just a glimpse of what might come of all of this – a dream about where I might end up, an inner knowing that there was a purpose to all of it.
The truth was, the knowing already existed within me, and any glimpse into the future would have halted my growth. I needed to work with what I was given, molding the muck into something that I could at least honor and recognize as a stepping-stone.
I don’t need to know what is going to happen next in order to feel like everything will be ok.
4. Things feel right when they’re right.
Our mind – a part of ourselves that’s comprised of our past experiences, societal cues, and practical knowledge – likes to battle with our intuition. But our intuition is always right.
If a situation or life path feels wrong, it almost always is.
More importantly, if you are willing to tap into it and trust that you will always know when to adjust your course, things will undoubtedly begin to slip into place as if the resistance never existed at all.
If you quiet your intuition, life goes back to making things uncomfortable. It’s not a punishment, it’s a prodding. When things are uncomfortable, we are forced to shift – my shift just happened to be a major one.
5. Painful processes pave the way for a smoother path in the future.
Walking through intense heartache and reaching the other side is generally something we don’t forget. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
If I’m ever faced with a situation of this magnitude again – which is entirely possible – I don’t believe that it will have quite the devastating impact as it did this time. Because I now also have the memory of the deep joy I felt after working through it.
I know that there is another side because I’ve seen it and believe in my ability to get there – and I choose to hold on to that memory.
Out of grief I’ve found my silver lining. And at this point, that’s all that matters.