“One day she finally grasped that unexpected things were always going to happen in life. And with that, she realized the only control she had was how she chose to handle them. So, she made the decision to survive using courage, humor and grace. She was the Queen of her own life and the choice was hers.” -Queenism-
We all have major themes that define our lives. Our lives are not chaotic messes as it appears they are sometimes. There is a rhyme and a reason for everything that happens. No coincidences. No event or situation without merit and value.
These repeating themes are there because these are the things we need to work on or work through for our personal spiritual growth. Maybe they keep repeating because we don’t deal with them in a productive manner and we have to keep facing them over and over again until we figure out a better way to respond. A more loving way to respond. Both to others and ourselves. Perhaps we face them repeatedly because we aren’t understanding the lesson we need to learn from them. Nothing happens in our lives randomly. Nothing.
If a vinyl record gets scratched, the needle will get stuck in the scratch or in the groove it is traveling in as the record spins on the turntable. Painful events in our lives are like the scratch in the record. Sometimes we get stuck in the gouge made by the painful event in our lives and we just can’t move on. Or we think we have moved on but we make a rotation and there it is again. Anger. Grief. Betrayal. Heartache. Loss. Insecurity. Sometimes our needle gets stuck in one of those grooves and it just goes around and around and around, never making any progress for years, never going on to finish the song. Never moving along to the next song on the album. Spin, skip, spin.
In dissecting the cataclysmic events in my lifetime, I have discovered that regaining balance seems to be one of my major recurring themes. Coming back to center after being knocked out of orbit. Finding my footing again after tragedy. Regrouping and moving forward stronger and with even more determination to live out my life’s purpose with clarity, passion and meaning. I have also discovered that I don’t recover well from grief and loss. I hide from it. I construct elaborate defense mechanisms to make sure that a certain challenging situation never happens to me again. I pretend that everything is okay and I’ve moved along just fine. And I have moved along. Moving along “just fine” has meant grabbing the situation by the throat and choking the living daylights out of it by micromanaging and controlling anything and everything that could remotely appear to be leading to similar circumstances. This makes it appear to myself that I’ve got everything under control and exponentially lessens the probability that THAT will not happen again.
When I begin digging around in my own head, I don’t always like what I discover about myself. I believe myself to be one way because I tell myself I am, but in fact, I have pulled the wool over my own eyes. I want to remove the wool. I want to see myself as I truly am, not just what I want to believe I am. I want to know why I do the things I do and think the things I think. I suppose that is why I was drawn into an education and career in psychology. If I can understand why I am the way I am, I can learn new ways of thinking and being in the world. The events that have completely knocked me into the middle of next week have been the very pivotal points in my life that have provoked me to dig deeper into my own soul for answers.
Out of those things have come a lifelong quest for spiritual meaning in life. Not the religiosity that tells me exactly what to do, how to think and how to be, or face being banished to the pit of hell for eternity type of thing. That doesn’t interest me at all. The type of spirituality that looks for the answers to the bigger questions. Why am I here? Just what exactly is it that my soul intended to accomplish in this lifetime? How does it all fit together in the big scheme of things?
I don’t pretend to know all the answers to these things and I don’t think anyone has all the answers. It’s impossible to grasp completely how God and the Universe functions. My little glob of grey matter behind my eyes and between my ears doesn’t have the capacity to completely sort out concepts so vast. But I do know I have a much better handle on it than I did decades ago.
A biggie for me in learning to bring myself back to an even keel after a huge shift in my life circumstances is learning to trust. I have a very hard time trusting that everything will be alright. Some of the situations that I have lived through were so horrendous that I honestly didn’t think I would live through them. And to be honest, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live through them at the time. The delusion that I have lived, in order to keep any of this from happening again, is that I can micromanage my life into being safe. What I’ve done in actuality is micromanage my life into a ditch. I stopped dreaming. I stopped daring to defy gravity. After all, if I get up too high and an engine goes out what happens next ain’t pretty. But you know what? That same engine probably will never go out again in the exact same way. Statistically it’s just not significant enough to be having this much of a major impact on how I choose to live my life.
Sometimes I choose to participate in situations that I know will fail simply BECAUSE I KNOW they will fail. Better the Devil I know, than the Devil I don’t. I know what to do when the predictably bad thing happens, so go for it. At least it’s familiar. At least I think I have some kind of control over how to recuperate afterwards. This dysfunctional thinking came from deciding a long time ago that lots of really bad unavoidable things happen in my life and it is much better if I can just see them coming. I have consciously and subconsciously refused to take risks on really great things and truly wonderful people who would have brought me happiness, peace and a sense of fulfillment. Down deep inside I believed that it was arrogant to believe I could have stability, because when that engine unexpectedly drops out way up above the clouds somewhere… well, I just might not make it out alive again. Don’t tempt fate. I’d rather the endings in my life be predictable. If the endings are predictable, I can control and temper my emotions and reactions to that ending. I can already see around those corners and have Plans B, C and maybe even D in place before Plan A even starts to smoke, much less explode.
This all sounds absolutely insane. And it is. But it’s a lot more common than most people know.
I see people all the time who have never lost anyone significant to death or those they have lost were on the periphery of their lives and the absence was not really felt on a daily basis. The pain was short-lived and easy to ignore. I know women who never suffered through multiple miscarriages. I know women who have never been sexually traumatized at any stage of their lives. I know people who have never been through divorce. There are even women who have never been punched in the face and had their noses broken and their eyes blacked. But guess what? Those women aren’t me.
I have lived through each and every one of those things and more. A toll has been taken.
It actually astounds me that my intelligence hasn’t disintegrated to the level of a bobble head doll. That many blows to the psyche has the potential to rend and shred the strongest of dispositions until all that remains is a blank stare and a psychotropic shuffle. I did do 8 years worth of antidepressants after my husband was killed but so what? “Better living through chemistry,” is a mantra in sophisticated circles.
A very long time ago I got the idea that all this stuff somehow hooked together and if I studied enough, thought enough and analyzed enough, I could make sense out of the seemingly random, chaotic, brain bashing events of my life. I’ve been looking ever since. And yes, I’ve found answers that make sense to me. The searching doesn’t stop and I doubt it ever will. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. That’s how I survived and how I continue to survive. But I want more than that. I want to thrive.
I’ve also learned something else that makes a lot of sense to me. None of it matters if I don’t continue to challenge myself and to reach back and help someone else who has taken a beating both physically and mentally. I can’t “fix” anyone. I’m still daily working on myself. What I can do is talk about what I’ve been through, what I’ve learned and maybe, just maybe make it a little easier for another soul wandering through the maze that is life on planet earth. I will never have all the answers. This is just life as I know it.