I have this Timehop app on my phone that a lot of us are using lately and it strikes me in brilliant glaring color that I used to be very sad and angry and bitter. I used to complain a lot. I used to judge people. A lot. I used to condemn people's fashion choices and their behavior and their beliefs. I cringe when I see some of the things I posted on the internet. And that's just what I posted! Imagine the things I thought and said in my real life!
I got sober 13 years ago and that was just the beginning. Nothing magically gets better when you get sober. In fact, I don't want to scare you by saying this, but it gets worse. Sure the burden is lifted and you are lighter and free of the obsession to drink or use and THAT is a miracle. Don't ever underestimate that power. But then, you are left with you. Raw and ugly and without anything to numb you from the terrible things that happen in life. And it can be pretty grim for a while, which is why I believe some folks keep going back out. It's just too much to face with no buffer.
But then, some time goes by - and it can take YEARS for real change - but if you do the work, the hard work, you see change. Or sometimes others see the change before you ever get to it. Just the nature of growing older and hopefully wiser with life experiences causes us to change. Change our beliefs and how we interact with people and how much compassion we form from where we have been in our own lives.
Here's what I often think when people talk to me about how awful their life is and they don't know what to do -
I wish people great pain. I wish people enormous, swallow you whole, terrifying, life changing pain.
To clarify, I don't want people to be in pain. But I want them to experience what happens after the healing begins. The change.
It's inevitable that if we reach a certain age, we are going to have gone through some pretty traumatic experiences. And what I've found as I listen to people in rooms and just people in life talk about their experiences is that out of the darkest moments, out of the most unbearable pain, there is light. There is healing. There is forgiveness. There is joy.
For most of us the only way to make great change is when we are in enough pain. When we absolutely will crumble if we don't make an enormous change. You don't need to be an addict to hit bottom. You can hit bottom in relationships, jobs, just life. And then, it compels you to do something or perish. Metaphorically or literally.
I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels like I've lived several lifetimes already. Life is incredibly brief in the grand scheme of things, but in lifetimes, it is incredibly long. To say I wish you pain means only that I wish you the healing and the growing and the forgiveness that comes with it. I feel as though I've lived several lifetimes already and know if I live long enough, I will have several more ahead of me.
I wish you the strength to climb, claw, pray and work your way through your pain. I wish you courage to surrender.
Since I've been sober I've lived about 3 lifetimes. 2 of them were quite painful and I wasn't growing. I was still angry and sad. I was bitter. I was still clinging to things I thought I deserved and that wasn't helping me grow. I wasn't living life to the fullest and going after what I wanted. Joy. I wasn't grabbing joy.
When my husband and I were trying to start a family and were told we were infertile, another lifetime began. The journey of creating our family. This is the lifetime I'm in now and by far my favorite. It's been filled with giant fear and despair. Pain and frustration and extreme exhaustion. But more than all that, it's been filled with joy. All encompassing, bigger and wider than I ever dreamed joy. And it's because of the pain that I can feel the joy.
I am no longer bitter. I am no longer in despair. I've found my joy and will continue to search for it and grab it wherever I can. Because it doesn't just happen to us. We have to work for it and be willing to go through the shit to get there. AND WE HAVE TO GIVE IT AWAY. Life is balance. If someone's life looks too good to be true on the outside, just remember you have no idea what they've been through to get there and you have no idea whether it's real or not. Real comes from inside. Deep and dark and sometimes ugly. And there's no finish line. New lifetimes await us, if we are fortunate enough.
So when I look at that Timehop app on my phone each morning, I remember. I reflect on how sad I used to be - just less than 5 years ago - and give thanks for the joy and the ability to calmly go about my day now just spreading love and compassion instead of venom and jealousy and bitterness. It's a metamorphosis. It's a rising from the ashes that I believe we are all capable of. From terrible awful to joy and connection and freedom. In small ways every day we share ourselves with the people in our world. I for one, want to share love and compassion. That's all that matters. Am I regretful of my past. NOPE. Not one bit. It was a lifetime. It was what needed to happen and when I see it in others I hope for them. I hope that they are gifted with a new lifetime that will grant them grace and humility. That's how we grow. And it's a beautiful gift to be given another lifetime to grow and show love.
The change comes from within. Just because I don't shout from the rooftops doesn't mean I'm not mad as hell. I am furious about things I see every day. But I pick my battles. Just because I'm not living in fear today doesn't mean I don't still get afraid. I mean, look around the world for one second and you will find something to be afraid of. With good reason. It's terrifying out there. But I will not let it consume me. The people I admire most are the ones I see filled with peace and serenity and compassion who just don't feed into the chaos. I want what they have.
I share all this with you just to say we are capable of great change. We are still us fundamentally, but we are capable of not fighting every battle we encounter. We can choose our words and make them count. We can stick to our side of the street and we can find joy. Life doesn't have to defeat us. Not today. Today we can choose how we react and how we treat others and ourselves. We can choose love and compassion. Together.
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