Eight Important Lessons I Learned When I Lost Everything

Was there ever a time in your life when you lost something very precious to you … and became better for it?

This has been very much on my mind as I prepare for a media campaign around my book, Surrendering to Joy. I wrote it as I was healing from a year of losing everything – relationship, marriage, home, career, my child and then my mother.

What I am now realizing is that this total meltdown was an extremely powerful and necessary experience. I would even say my soul demanded it, for that is how it is with crisis and loss.

Breakdowns happen because something in our system demands it.

The status quo cannot go on; we are being called upon – even forced – to grow.

When all of this came down in my own life, I was lost. I was living in a sketchy apartment building in which the super was a prowler. The flu I’d had for 6 months made no sign of stopping. I was struggling to keep my head above water in a toxic relationship. And I had blindly gone into a brand new business partnership I didn’t need or even want.

None of it felt right. And yet all of it, magically, was very right.

Everything began to unravel and that is when things started to feel better — even though the circumstances were heinous. Into that void of nothingness I walked willingly, mainly because I had no choice. Immediately, even in my grief, I could see the integrity of what was happening.

Here are some of the realizations that landed then … and still resound every day in my life.

  1. I am not alone and I don’t have to heal alone. I have many supportive circles of friends around me now, even though I had few when my breakdown began. Supportive friends make the ride so much easier. In fact, I’d say they are critical.
  2. It’s OK to be in the Void for a while … The Void, while scary at first, is an enormously creative place. If you can tolerate the stillness, eventually life returns. Ideas drop in. Joy descends. Feel free to stretch out and hang for a while. It’s a great place to heal.
  3. I don’t have to know the answers right now. Or ever, really. I just have to know what I know right now. And know that I’ll be fine. This has been a particularly important lesson for this ‘information storm trooper’, who has spent her life actively chasing information and knowledge.
  4. Grace happens when you least expect it. Again and again I have been surprised by the incredible generosity of others, which always magically arrives at just the right moment – in ways I couldn’t even plan or hope for. This grace seems to be linked to me being in the flow, the enjoyment of life. Reminder: God wants us to be happy!
  5. I won’t get ‘there’ by striving (wherever ‘there’ is.) Instead, what if life was like a great take out delivery? You decide you want Chinese, you make a call, then sit down to watch TV. Suddenly at just the perfect moment the doorbell rings and in comes steaming Moo Shu Pork. While having goals and ideas is commendable, pushing doesn’t work. Making the request and allowing it to be delivered does.
  6. I am whole and perfect just as I am. Yeah, there are rough edges and every day I say a prayer asking that my character defects be removed. Meanwhile, I’ll take ‘em. They are me, just like my various scars and wounds. As long as I do my best to do no harm, I will work with what I’ve got.
  7. I truly do have everything I need right now. My own breakdown and subsequent inquiry has meant two years of not earning much and living very simply. Which has been an unexpected delight! I find I’m attached to low cost pleasures like living with a dear friend, consignment clothing, my dumb phone and camping. And … it’s fun! More importantly, I feel liberated. I no longer do things ‘just for the money’. I don’t have to and I don’t want to.
  8. Freedom is the point. Janis Joplin wails, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” But personally, I feel richer than I ever could have imagined since my breakdown. While I may not have much by some standards, i.e. a house, a mortgage, or even a family nearby, I truly love my life and I wake up excited every day. And isn’t that the whole point?

So yeah, there’s an end to the rainbow if you follow it. And ironically it’s about seizing what is here and now.

That’s my invitation to you in this moment, this hour, this day, my dear friend.

 

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