We are, from the earliest of ages, programmed to plan. We start mapping out our entire lives before we’re old enough to spell. We knew then, without a doubt, what we wanted. Whether it was in the short term (sleep, candy, or attention) or in the long-term (to be an astronaut, or a superhero) – we were absolutely certain that we would get everything we wanted. The first time something didn’t go our way, we immediately resisted. The confusion and anger we experienced at these moments symbolized the atom-bomb caliber clash between and our preconceived notion of our world and the uncontrollable reality we live in.
However, life is a complex series of moving parts, an elaborate behind the scene process of people, places and things coming in and out on a schedule of their own. Our personal reassurances of programmed serendipity act as nothing more than an elaborate illusion of comfort and permanency.
And still, as adults, we struggle with the understanding that everything doesn’t always go according to plan. We naturally prefer to believe that what we experience is fixed and absolute. This provides us with the promise of safety and permanence. I will finish my studies, build a successful career path, have a perfect marriage and 2.5 children, travel the world…
And then it happens. We get slapped in the face with a seemingly lethal dose of reality. We lose a loved one. We experience financial crisis. Our health takes a turn for the worst. A long-term happy relationship turns sour. Our once certain future becomes riddled with confusion, chaos and doubt.
These are what we can call “truth moments.” They come into our lives to let us know that we are not in control, that in fact, we haven’t had control since day one, and our plan has been nothing but a silly musing of the ignorantly blissful. Sometimes we received hints along the way, little whisperings in our ears that a truth moment was just around the bend. Maybe we didn’t pay attention, or chose to look the other way. Other times they appear to come out of left field. Regardless, when the truth moment comes, it hits you like a swift punch in the stomach.
After the truth moment comes the stages of transition. First there is loss. You have shed an old behavior pattern, part of your identity, status or a relationship. The realization of this loss predicates the next stage, uncertainty. That’s the “what the hell am I supposed to do now” moment. It’s that deeply terrifying moment when you think about tomorrow and see nothing but a blank screen.
Uncertainty is preceded by discomfort. It hurts. The energy from your outdated persona is being released in a painful birthing process, a necessary step to prepare you for what’s to come. When you are deep in this phase, you think the pain will last forever. But nothing lasts forever, not even pain.
Afterwards, we experience insight, understanding and finally, integration. The crisis becomes sewn into a revived and resilient new version of ourselves, slowly but surely fading into a relic of the past.
As my girl Marilyn Monroe says, “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall back together.”
A lot of what holds us back around a truth moment is anxiety about the future. Suddenly what we thought was so familiar and clear became foreign and masked in a dark cloak of mystery. Little do we realize, but this unknown place is the place of greatest human potential. When all anchors, comforts and road maps are stripped away, we suddenly realize that the person we previously referred to as “me” was merely a reflection of all that was around us. We were a compilation of the external things that make up life as we knew it. When they are removed from the equation, what’s left is who we really are.
So now what? Well f*ck if I know. But I’ve been told the key to building positive momentum is by exercising serene patience. Sounds paradoxical, but in reality, patience within crisis begets wisdom. It allows us to welcome difficulty with strength and endurance rather than letting it drown us with fear, anxiety and the most dangerous of all: avoidance. So what do we do? The only thing we can: weigh the options and put one foot (slowly) in front of the next.
Ask around. The only way out of a breakdown is through.