You secretly knew it anyway. That unidentified someone that you’re secretly hoping will sweep in and swoop you up and away to your perfectly envisioned “new life”—the life without the messy problems and unresolved issues—isn’t coming. I know. I’m with you. Most of us—even boys and men—experience, at least once in a lifetime, the wish to be “rescued.” And in that moment, reality sucks. No knight on a steed of any color, no fairy godmother, not even a 21st Century life coach with all the answers is on the way. No one is coming.
I hit that phrase like a brick wall during a “Rescue Me” moment a little more than a year ago. I was in a desperate place. It felt like a shrinking island at the center of a crumbling world. It was the low-point of several years of ego-bruising career non-starts and dead-ends, of painful personal rejections, of life-shifting family illnesses, crises and break-aparts; and I, with a propensity for melancholia (the Victorians were so much more poetic) anyway, was truly down and out. I was tired. I was 50 years old on an unbalanced teeter-totter, feeling that the baggage behind me far outweighed the hope in front. Looking for a jumpstart one day, I turned to one of the blogs I frequent for inspiration and guidance, and the title that answered my quest was, literally: No One is Coming. You can imagine my Happy Dance (not).
Yes, hoping as I was for an answer both gentler and more magical, I was wounded again. But only for a few minutes, while I sat still and absorbed the message, felt my way through it, and finally recognized the undeniable wisdom and Truth in it. No one was coming to solve my problems and make me feel better. No one could. No one else had created them, and no one else’s magic wand could wave them away. Certainly some of the situations in that moment were no one’s “fault,” anyway. They were just life events, the sort of thing we all face in some guise at some point. But much of the “baggage” that accompanied me at that point was mine: I had packed it full of my own choices and non-choices, and I had handcuffed myself to it. I had to own it.
On first glance, that moment of awareness just made my shoulders slump further. On second glance (Note to self: always look again.), I recognized the empowerment in it. I had made my own way into that crappy place; now I got to choose the window out. Think about it: What if, for instance, Cinderella didn’t really want tiny glass slippers? What if, deep down inside, she longed for hot pink Jimmy Choos or clunky Doc Martens? Either one of those, and you’ve got yourself a very different tale. But she didn’t choose for herself; she took what came with the wand wave.
I don’t know about you, but choosing for myself, though powerful, is hard. It takes time, lots of introspection, and probably some trial and error. I had gotten trapped in the first place by choosing what I thought was best for others, because that was easier for me. But it had left my self-esteem so shaky that I quailed in the face of the necessary transmutation ahead of me. While for some go-getters rushing in to tackle the big wave is invigorating, for me it feels like getting washed away and taken under by a tsunami. I am a “swim steadily out to the buoy in stages” kind of gal. Brave, yes; unquestioningly optimistic, no. So here are the key small steps that I fell back on to jumpstart a New Start:
First: Break it Down: Instead of trying to figure out how to devour the entire “Oh my God, I’m miserable” pie, I break it down into circumstance/relationship slices. This also helps to uncover hidden issues—and solutions—that aren’t apparent in the big picture.
Second: Accept that it will take time: I will NOT be all better/all happy by tomorrow. It find it helpful to set an overall timeline goal, which can be reached via shorter-term goals applied to each “slice” of the scenario. Bonus: It is also a good time to revisit daily meditation and mindfulness. If I’m consciously living each moment, each hour, I cannot be suffering “OMG Life Sucks” misery.
Three: Ask for help: Yes, I have to own it, and ultimately the resolution is in my hands; however, none of us is on this journey alone. If I know someone who has a resource or skill that I don’t—or even just good listening skills—I am kind to myself by reaching out. Also, if relationships are among the slices, the other person(s) in the relationship has key input and an inherent investment in any solution decided on or action taken.
Along with these steps, the big-picture journey can call into play many valuable daily life skills that will not only aid in any transformation but serve me well lifelong. I remind myself to make time to be outdoors, listening to Nature and my own inner Guides while I’m soaking up sunshine; to journal in whatever way suits me, asking myself questions to illuminate how I got to where I don’t want to be and, more crucially, what makes me happy—in other words, how do I want my new destination to look different? (For one who has previously placed more emphasis on making others happy, this is the big-money question.)
I also continually remind myself that if I stay mindful, with the hands of my Soul actively on the rudder of my Life, I am less likely to end up adrift on the rocks of broken unhappiness. And I am more likely to know that I—and only I—can effectively redirect my course if I temporarily veer from center. I can learn to rest easy in the knowledge that no one truly has the power to navigate my journey but me.