What happens when your world is upside down, and you feel like you are holding on to the edge with your fingertips? How do you manage to get back on top or at least get a better grip?
The other day I received a message from a young man who I hadn’t spoken to in about 30 years. The last time I saw him, he was 16 or 17, and I was his Youth Leader in church. Some of you may be doing the math and maybe don’t consider this a young man, but time and memory are funny that way. Your memory keeps those snapshots of the way it was, and in this situation, we both found ourselves the way we were.
He was never your typical Choir Boy or Boy Scout. In truth, he was the proverbial black sheep of his family, but he had a good heart, and one could tell he just couldn’t get out of his own way. Although his mother was a leader in our church, her son was out of reach to her and his immediate family. The rest of us tried to bridge that gap during those turbulent years and so when he reached out, I was there for him- his youth leader again.
He got straight to the point. Since I had last seen him, he had continued with his self-reported “craziness” for several years but when he met someone with “good sense”; he fell in love, and his life began to turn around. They’ve been married for twenty plus years; have three lovely children-already finishing college. He went back to church for a while, bought the house with the picket fence, the furnishings, the cars and the dog. A few months ago, without warning, his wife announced that she needed space and wanted to separate for an indefinite period. He felt he couldn’t go on without her; everything he’d accomplished had been for her. I reminded him that this was what he had always wanted and he achieved it. Not just for her, but for himself.
I listened carefully with my third ear, trying to hear what was actually going on. I don’t make assumptions, I don’t know his wife, and although I believe our core stays the same, the chances are that so much time has passed, that I don’t truly know who this young man has become. In my experience, things never come out of the blue.
When he was done, I asked a few questions. Some he wasn’t ready to answer, but he listened. He was briefly able to step back and recognize some of the things I was talking about. Naturally, when it was too painful, he deflected, and we moved on. Put in on the back burner, I told him, and I shared some of what has helped me in times of trouble or distress. The trick to survival is using your tools.
• Take care of yourself. Stay healthy. Get out and move – exercise. Keep your mind clear and grounded with mediation or prayer or both. If you know substances like alcohol or drugs are a trigger, don’t reach for that as your life saver. The chances are that you’ll go under to the dark side quicker.
• Be open to self-reflection but don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes, just be honest with yourself. Are you doing the best you can? Is this your best self?
• Try to walk in the shoes of the other person but don’t judge. Don’t take it personally. Each one of us is dealing with our own issues, battle scars, and fears. Yes, even your life partner may have difficulties communicating some things. Don’t push. Be ready to accept and respect the other person’s decision.
• Remember each day is a clean slate. We can make it what we want. Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my favorites said “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” from Brainyquote.com
It happens to all of us. How do you get back on top when your world is upside down?