I can’t think of anything more devastating than an earthquake that causes loss of tens of thousands of lives, loved ones, limbs, livelihoods and homes for an entire country. The initial response is to sift through the rubble looking for any signs of life, then useful objects and mementos. Finding the spirit and determination to pick up the pieces and start anew takes enormous courage and fortitude. Our Haitian friends have weathered revolutions, hurricanes, government suppression – and yet there continues to be a spirit and will to start over.
We all face losses and disappointments throughout our lives, ruptured relationships, unsatisfying jobs, no promotion, missed opportunities and lost dreams. How can we emerge from our plight with a renewed vision to start down a new path, embrace the hope of creating something new, and forge something better?
When things go awry or we experience loss, our minds can flood with a downward spiral of painful thoughts ranging from rejection, worry, fear, to regret and low self-esteem. Our mind utters familiar messages: “I’m not good enough,” “not loveable,” “not talented,” “not successful.” “I’ll never find love and companionship, a good job, fulfillment, peace – or be free of pain.” “Why me?” “Why has God forsaken me?” “Why do I have to suffer?” “I can’t bear to be alone in the world.”
Could have, should have thoughts can ruminate constantly. We tell ourselves, “Surely this is all a dream. He or she will change their mind or the situation will all go back to the way things were. I’ll wait. The phone will soon ring and things will all be better.” When the phone doesn’t ring, more hurt and even anger sets in. It can become a never-ending vicious cycle, like a hamster on a treadmill that goes nowhere. That is your fate until you face the finality and decide to step off the treadmill.
Make peace with your past
The spirit to start anew is available to everyone when we learn to let go of the old – relationship, job, way of life or whatever has you tied to the past. It’s not easy and it takes courage. But the payoff is finding that life still holds joy and gifts that abound and that can free your spirit to soar in unimaginable ways.
As I reflect over my own life, it is filled with losses – relationships, jobs, creative projects, endeavors that fell flat or for some reason just ended. Looking back with today’s eyes, I know I could have handled many things better. But I also know that I did the best I could with what I was capable of at the time. Each loss has taught me lessons making the next disappointment a little easier to handle.
I truly believe that we all do the best we can in any given situation. The challenge is to know when and how to let go so we have the resilience and strength to channel our energies in a new direction.