“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yes, well, when it rains it pours, and all the cats and dogs plop down in puddles, and some bricks too, and it sucks real bad. I don’t really want to think about all the roughest times, aka great storms, distant and near, that I’ve experienced in my own life (and a very privileged life at that)…times of bitter struggle, loss, hopelessness, deep hurt, overwhelming fear. Nope, that would be waaaay too depressing. And besides, you have your own heavy stuff to recall should you feel inclined to go down that memory lane.
Ever the enthusiastic problem-solver, I must admit, I’ve lost enthusiasm and hope a few times. Like really bad…no gold in no hills…in fact no hills either, and who the heck cares about any hills. It’s a matter of simple physics…not so simple for me, I was a chemistry genius. There’s only so much a beam, even a steel one, can handle. Physics noob that I am, I looked up mechanical properties of materials…and found out about kilo-newtons per area…yeah, scary stuff. The point is, there’s only so much mental and emotional area we each have, and if it gets pounded on too much, it will, well…you know, metaphorically speaking.
So…when whatever nasty equivalents for kilo-newtons get overwhelming in life, we kinda collapse. And when we do, usually it’s stuff around us that is falling or fell first, and knocked us down in the process. Important stuff we invested a lot in…homes, careers, savings…the lot. And that’s a really tough spot to be. Because what is falling (or about to) needs to come down, which reality is a brutal one to take. Usually we all go through several attempts at trying to stop the process…nothing more than placing bandaids on a dam, but still, for a while it feels like at least we’re doing something…paying some bills, salvaging a job, cutting expenses, making sacrifices on every level. When finally we stop and accept the inevitable, you’d think life would give us a bit of a break…but it doesn’t. It is then that the real work actually begins…lots and lots of it, as all the debris needs to be cleaned up, and a new structure rebuilt, a new direction found and taken…and most importantly, trusted.
So, bruised and aching, exhausted and discouraged, we somehow have to muster up enough strength to get up, and tackle everything. I had a tiny taste of how that feels this morning when I stepped outside, half asleep and with a nasty headache, in that blasted heat (yes, 100F at 9 am) to clean the mess from the palm trees that will officially and properly get trimmed next week, and the mess from other trees I love but curse with a passion every few days for their bountiful droppings.
Last time I was knocked down completely, it had to do with something I had poured all my enthusiasm, effort and considerable funds into, only to discover a technical mistake had been made…a fundamental one. At first I was in shock, then angry beyond anything I can describe, and then numb. I wanted to strangle everyone around me who suggested that no matter how great the apparent failure, I needed to look not at the door that closed, but search for doors that opened. What doors! One was just slammed in my face and everything I worked for was just smashed to pieces. Yes, I was innocent but that didn’t matter, because the loss was costly in dollars, irreversible and that was that. Everyone could take their positive messages and stick them you know where, pardon me, but they helped my situation about as much as that proverbial jam sandwich helped the drowning rabbit…or was it a mule?
It is times like these that I find fascinating. And no, I’m not a masochist. I just think it’s rather easy to do the right things, reach for the right resources and gain momentum when you’re shipwrecked but at least floating. Not so easy when you’re an inch from the bottom of a very deep creek, you know the one, and with no paddle. What do you hold on to when precisely what you’ve been constructing for you to hold on to just fell in a heap, and buried you underneath in the process?
I hated to admit it at the time, but getting up after a huge blow is a choice, and it is this choice we must fight for when we are, yes, ironically, at our weakest point. And all the positive thinking, all the hope and trust do not instantly return, although they do, almost magically, start to slowly emerge and grow. As with any injury, we need a bit of time to recover. And while it hurts, we all need a gentle hand, love, and a soft place to rest.
I also hated to admit it, but despite being slammed down by what had happened, other doors did open. The extreme challenge made me stronger and called upon all my resources and creativity, forcing upon me a diet of enthusiasm, humility, hope and gratitude. In the beginning it felt like I was swallowing cod liver oil from a ladle. And then I began to float, and gained momentum. And soon I saw the open doors.
It’s infuriating to realize at the worst of times that new opportunities await and all isn’t lost. It’s exasperating to look around and wonder how on earth to begin the clean-up, and count how many contractor bags we need to get from Home Depot to fit everything in. It’s annoying in the extreme at times to even accept the love and support we desperately need from those around us who care and would do anything to make it easier for us to recover. But as hard as it is at first, eventually the sky clears, cats and dogs and bricks stop falling, our own bruises heal, we clean things up, and we can walk again. Because there IS gold in them hills…always. And as the song says, although the message may seem obnoxious to us when we most need to hear it, sometimes it is those things that are most difficult for us to deal with that prove to be the greatest gifts.
“And our problems will crumble apart, the soul blow through like a wind, and here where we live will be all clean again, with fresh bread on the table.” – Pablo Neruda