There are times when my heart aches and I question why I’ve had to go through so much hardship. Once I’m far enough past a difficult event I’m often able to identify blessings, recognize growth in myself, and sometimes even be thankful for the ways life has changed for the better because of the hardship. But sometimes life goes sideways in devastating and cruel ways, and there isn’t a silver lining. It’s not that I expect life to be easy, but my god, just because I’m strong enough to survive this shit and just because I’m able of learn and grow from each heartache, doesn’t mean I don’t wish for better.
In these “what if” moments I’ve even questioned why my heart wants what it desires, and sometimes wish that it didn’t so I’d be free of wanting, hoping, trying, and the inevitable losing and failing. Maybe if I could somehow care less or give-up a little I’d be happier? But I wasn’t built for half-ass anything, and I’ve had a desire for greatness, true connection and meaningful purpose since I was young. What I’ve discovered over the years is that the “thing” doesn’t matter as much as the passion and purpose behind it, and that has allowed me to find joy and success in multiple careers and adventure in the seemingly ordinary. I am a dreamer, visionary, trail-blazer. . . I want to exceed my own expectations, always grow and learn, and lead with my heart. I want to make a difference, leave a positive mark on the world, and bless the lives of those I encounter throughout my journey. I want to be loved as entirely and genuinely as I’m capable of giving love. When I evaluate my desires it’s hard to not ask “what’s wrong with me?” because my desires for life are pretty simple and pure, yet somehow I’ve been used, abused, lied to, taken advantage of, and left. I’ve put my heart into other people’s dreams, cared when I wasn’t cared for in return, and faced devastating losses while being “the bigger person” and “believing in the potential of others” and “holding onto faith that my dreams could become reality”.
This has been a massive year for me emotionally and mentally. I’ve experienced some of the darkest moments of my life – true fear, grief, and loss. I’ve also experienced some of the most beautiful moments – events that will be life-long memories and have forever changed who I am and what I want. I’ve had the space and freedom to create healthy habits physically, mentally and emotionally that will shape my next chapters and have created the best version of me (so far), and I’ve dedicated significant time to emotional healing and mental health. I’m thankful and hurting at the same time.
Maybe there’s a place for doubt in the human experience, like a check-in that causes re-evaluation every-once-in-a-while? Fear can be used for motivation, anger as a prompt to forgive, and sadness an invitation to love more deeply, so maybe doubt also has an upside. I want to believe that my hopes and dreams will come true, but so far my adulthood has taught me very hard lessons and attempted to break me a few a times, leaving me in a place of emotional exhaustion and fear that no matter my faith and no matter my efforts, I will always be left wanting. For the first time in my life I feel like having hope requires strength, courage and energy I’m struggling to find, and the experience of losing hope is completely different from letting go of something you once wanted or adjusting your purpose, vision and goals because it no longer servers your mission in life. . . it comes with heaviness and defeat that logically I want to fight against, but emotionally I’m weak. The interesting thing about the tension between hope and fear and is that some days I feel unstoppable, and some days stop me. It’s the most difficult experience, and while there’s a sweet little voice in my head reminding me that there are better days ahead, the hardship I face day-in-and-day-out is heavy and very difficult to overcome with hope.
So how do I live with all this and navigate my daily life? How do I make sense of the contrast between laughter and sadness that often exist in neighboring moments? Counseling, mediation, prayer, fitness, family and friends. I stay busy enough to have purpose but spend much more time in silence than ever before. I’m learning to comfort and love myself with more patience and care, while communicating my needs to those closest to me with more transparency. I deeply appreciate the times when my heart feels light, I focus on gratitude all day every day, write lists of thankfulness to show myself the extent of good in my life, and I pay close attention to how I’m feeling while accepting the highs and lows equally. In my youth I had an expectation of arriving at a life that would include all the happiness I envisioned; a place where my dreams lived as reality. My “happily ever after”. That life would include adventure, success, purpose, love, family, friends, laughter, and safety. When simplified to a list, I’ve experienced and/or am currently experiencing all of those things. I just wasn’t prepared for all the betrayal, loss, brokenness, starting over, loneliness, grief, and healing that comes with living, and never thought I’d see a day where dreaming would feel foolish, my heart would be guarded, and I wouldn’t recognize myself. But here’s a truth about my history – I did everything in my power to force my dreams into existence, and there is a massive difference between dreaming and pretending! I refused to see reality, with hope that time, hard work, and holding-on would somehow connect the puzzle pieces. I didn’t know, trust or value myself, and I placed my trust in people and situations that didn’t care about me. My guess is that everyone can say the same about some piece of their own story because falling down is part of learning. It’s a condition of the human experience to rise and fall, and like a heart beat requires a constant and consistent up and down to keep us alive, our journey through life needs variation to challenge and develop us, to continually show us the depth of our heart, and to redefine our purpose.
It is a remarkable, wonderful thing that as people we are able to heal, grow, learn, change, and adapt. Otherwise we’d crumble under the weight of loss and never see the light again. I’ve had to rework the vision for my life multiple times, some from a place of joy and enthusiasm, and some from the necessity that comes out of devastation. I am an ever-evolving work in progress, clinging to faith as I live my life heart-open. While it’s easy to doubt and question, that is a form of looking backward, so when those thoughts arise I’ll thank them for their perspective and then move forward. I write affirmations often, typically on my bathroom mirror to easily read and remember, and this is today’s commitment to myself as I move forward with a restored hope for my life: I will begin each day on purpose with joy for another opportunity to experience, dream, and love. I will celebrate my victories and grieve my losses as they arrive. I will focus on daily gratitude, and fuel my belief that life is a wonderful adventure worth showing up for with an open heart. I will dream and hope without fear, live in the moment, and adapt throughout my journey so that the summation of my life is rich with meaning. I will honor myself by loving deeply and genuinely, with faith that my desire for a loving partnership is in my future, and I will feed my spirit with connection, adventure, and growth daily.