“How did you get through it?”


Most everyone you meet carries a burden you don’t see.

You know this if you think about it because of what you yourself carry inwardly.

Plenty of travails are out in the open — health problems, break-ups, tumults large and small. Not as immediately visible are the scars and anxieties we take with us, the determinations we make in response.

This post has been percolating for a very long time. the result of thinking about how to shape a positive perspective from a buffeting past. I am grateful beyond description for the many wonders, good things and cherished people in my life. These are some momentary musings about the hurts in between. 

More than once in my life, slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have clustered together. Arrows from disparate bows — relational, financial, medical — shot straight into my peace of mind within a brief slot of time.

Early 2012 was one such period. I was let go from the most rewarding position i’d ever had (amicably but unexpectedly, due to funding issues). A long-term couplehood came to an end painfully, requiring me suddenly to set up a new residence. And more distressing than either of those, a person dear to my heart struggled with destructive substance issues — at the edge of the end several times in those few months.

People say you pick up the pieces. And that’s true. I did.

The reason ‘one day at a time’ has become so cliche through repetition is that it’s so useful and true — and in the hardest crises becomes one hour at a time.

I think 90% of getting through hard times is nothing more than just deciding to keep moving. Which is plenty — but not complicated.

A few years later, a new cluster of arrows hit. This time it started with a serious medical diagnosis, which led to the loss of the next job i’d landed — an even more satisfying position than the previous one, and which ended in a severely unjust way. In this grouping, the process of losing lasted longer, as the hope i’d clung to for returning to work despite repeated complications eroded over not months, but years, leaving me in uncharted territory outside of ‘the working world’ for good.

In the midst of the maelstrom (but not because of it), i lost two treasured relationships. One had been a friend from my teens, with whom i’d reunited only recently and then dated for nearly two years. The other was a woman-friend going back to our college days, with whom i shared many interests and enjoyed mutual confidences.

Though the reasons for the gradual wind-down of the first were not ultimately difficult to grasp, the process was deeply ache-filled.

The blow-up of the second blindsided me completely, and was shattering in a sharper way.

I mention these upheavals because, over the ensuing months and years, i keep coming back in my ponderings to the nature of transitions. To what it means to let go — and to thoughts of what can be both retrieved and newly discovered when i do.

I have been trying to come ashore on land that helps me face the present and future more peacefully.

Turns out it’s possible to transform these episodes in retrospect — from what felt like my little boat being tossed among the shore’s sharp rocks, into, instead, gently gliding it onto a sandy beach.

I suspect most of us can relate to having to make peace with things outside of our control. (In this regard, Niebuhr’s plea never gets old:  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”)

As disruptive as health problems and job losses can be — i’ve said this sort of thing elsewhere on this blog — it’s the wounds from misunderstandings, differences, and betrayals among family and friendships that for me have always taken the most to work through.

I wrote here about decisions to make in dealing with personal injustice.

But in this case, as for ‘changing the things i can’,  i’m thinking more of internal attitudes i take with me. The conclusions i draw and outlooks i choose that affect my openness toward new friendships, as well as toward potential reconciliations of derailed ones.

This isn’t a disquisition on what to do with life’s troubles, relational or otherwise — just a few notions that have stayed with me from my experience.

  1. Breathe.

Wait and observe your inward reactions before directing them outward.

  1. Let it hurt.

Keep this separate from the impulse to express the hurt to the other.

  1. Give it time.

The urge to explain and analyze is often not productive in the short term.

  1. Speak for yourself, about yourself.

It rarely helps anything to tell the other what you think they’re doing wrong.

(This is a big one for me — i’ve blown this massively more than once.)

  1. Let go…

…of how it was before the rift. Take it from here, as calmly as possible.

…of what you think they think of you.

  1. Keep it simple.

Know your priorities. Tangents and sidetracks fruitlessly complicate.

Meet each other where possible, let go of the rest.

  1. Try to stay open…

…to the new data the incident is revealing. Acknowledge you are in new territory.

…to the other person’s perspective — even though you just know it’s their fault this happened (another thing to let go of, even if true).

…open, but not dependent on things being resolved, or on hearing what you want to hear from them.

There may be healing, there may not — but there can be acceptance either way. And perspective always takes time.

Though i’m thinking primarily about difficulties between people, going back over these points, i’d say with a little tweaking that most of them can be applied in one form or another as well to other kinds of losses i’ve mentioned.

It’s commonly noted that our experiences shape who we become — in combination with how we choose to process them.

We carry our pasts differently.

My hope is to keep learning, to refuse bitterness, and to keep getting better at being there for others, whatever they carry and however they carry it.

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