It’s often during the most unexpected circumstances that “light bulb” moments happen, and they can dramatically shift one’s perspective on life. I had such an experience on an airplane, headed to Costa Rica recently, and it turned my life upside down. In some ways, it surprised me that I had one of these moments on an airplane, and it also didn’t. Costa Rica is magical for me and has opened my world to new possibilities that I hadn’t imagined prior to my travels there. Also, I was watching a film that was a musical, which tends to elicit an emotional response. This time, the “light bulb” moment kept me awake through the entire 5-hour red-eye flight.
Many people grow through adversity, and yet, even when we feel as though we have overcome the worst of circumstances and learned from those experiences, we fall back on old habits and narratives, which leaves us feeling as though we’ve failed once again. I’ve been in this exact place more times than I can count, and as much as I want to know why, I’ve learned that “why’s” aren’t always helpful for change.
This may appear to be counter-intuitive for creating long-lasting change; however, if we are at the point of having already made a change, then falling back on old habits is more of a relapse than anything else. The word relapse is often associated with alcohol addiction and/or drug use and tends to hold negative connotations. What’s missing from this viewpoint is that it’s a normal part of the change process, just as much as growth. Normalizing behavior removes the power it has over us to induce shame when our expectations don’t match reality.
My “light bulb” moment was realizing how much power written word holds for me, and the reason that I’d been hitting a roadblock on creating this very blog. I want to share my life experiences with people because my feeling is that much is lost when we hide our adversity from others. Hiding it leaves too many people feeling desperately alone, just longing to find someone who understands who they are and what they have overcome in their life to get to the place they are in the present moment. My roadblock felt like a 100-foot brick wall that was impermeable and indestructible, yet it crumbled with three simple words; life isn’t linear.
I was trying to tell my story chronologically, which wasn’t working because the connection from my past to the present resembles a complex spider’s web. The growth I’ve experienced, walking alongside my therapist, has never been linear in nature. Just like a spider’s web, every aspect of my life is interconnected, and every experience I have changes the shape of my existence.
There have been many occasions where I’ve spent a long time rebuilding a part of my life, just to have someone tear it down and rip it to shreds right in front of my face. At that moment, it’s easy to go to the old narrative of “why bother”, because the old way feels safe and it’s frustrating when I must begin once again. Honestly, though, I don’t have to begin again, I could be angry and give up; everything is a choice, even if it’s not one that will deliver what I want, it’s still a choice. I choose to begin again and have agency in my life.
What I’ve recently come to embrace is that those experiences force me to be vulnerable, creating a new web that is stronger and more beautiful than before. It may be in shambles for a time, but in the end, the growth that comes from that adversity has more value than coasting through life in an inauthentic and disconnected manner.
I want to give up, almost every day, and it often feels like the only viable option. However, if I look beyond the hurt that I feel at that moment, most times I can find at least a sliver of hope in the direst of circumstances. It can be elusive and difficult to grasp; there have been many days, especially when I’m in pain, that I’m unable to find that sliver. Thankfully, I have others that hold that hope for me, when I’m not in a place to find it. This provides me the space I need to heal, with support, so hope won’t feel so elusive.
Vulnerability, authenticity, hope, and love are the foundation for living a life filled with joy, especially in the face of adversity. That’s what I wish for others to discover in themselves through my writing. I’m so happy you’ve made the choice to join me, as I walk through this beautiful and often very messy world.