Learning to Enjoy the Process and Stop Worrying About the Outcome

Happy

“Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you” ~John De Paula

Remember the Tasmanian Devil?

That crazed Loony Tunes cartoon character spinning out of control, crashing into everything in his path? Arriving in a blur. Leaving chaos in its wake.

That was pretty much me and my approach to “living my passion.”

This is hard to write but here goes (deep breath)…

Not too long ago I was seriously trying to accomplish all of these things at the same time:

  • Play in a rock and roll band of middle aged men living in New York City, rehearse regularly, play live shows, tour, and still play dad to a family of four.
  • Engineer and produce our own albums while simultaneously attempting to produce other artists to help them realize their artistic vision
  • Start my own blog to inspire awesomeness in other creators
  • Guest post for major blogs and write epic content regularly to help their audience and build up my own blog audience
  • Shoot my own videos, create graphics, and edit them (though I have little to no skills in any of these areas) for my blog
  • Write a novel and multiple eBooks
  • Design cool music themed apps
  • Stay gainfully employed (a day job I desperately wanted to quit to make more time for all of the above)
  • Practice meditation and find the deeper meaning to my life

The idea was that my brilliant plan would eventually pay off and sustain my family completely so that I could:

  • Pay a New York City mortgage
  • Put food on the table
  • Make time for my two young children
  • Spend some quality alone time with my wife and stay married
  • Have the freedom to create more awesome art

So how did that all work out, you might ask. Total disaster. Here’s a glimpse into my crazy Tazmanian lifestyle:

I would commute to my day gig and write blog posts while standing up on crowded subway cars. I’d come home and have a quick dinner, hang out with the children, and pretend to listen as they would excitedly recount their day. But I wasn’t really present. Then I would dash off after their bedtime to my studio man cave to work on my music until the wee hours.

Then I would collapse into bed every night, only to get up a few hours later and do it all over again. At the end of my self-imposed exile of several months, I would finally return home victorious, the proud father of a shiny new CD.

But there was no applause in my household. Only a very chilly reception from an ever more distant wife who understood my passion but couldn’t accept its all-consuming nature or my many frazzled creative endeavors.

Then I would spend the next few months trying to stitch back together our relationship. But the chasm between us was growing and heading to the point of no return, having repeated this scenario at least three times before since we had known each other.

I knew something needed to change, and quickly, if I was going to try and stay married.

How did I arrive here, you might ask.

Simply put, I became a casualty of the Digital Revolution. A world where faster is better, multi-tasking is the national anthem, and technology will set you free to be more productive and make you more intelligent.

Where you don’t need human interaction anymore. You can simply “connect” to your global audience, which was almost as good as being there with them.

Except that it’s not.

I was duped into believing that I could accomplish so many more tasks with all this technology and achieve incredible feats by simply sitting in front of a computer screen.

I was also following several successful bloggers and online marketers and learning everything I could from them. But this only amplified the delusion that I could accomplish all these things at once because they had done it.

Only all those marketers seemed very focused on just one thing and they were doing it really well. The problem for me was that I had many irons in many different fires and none of them were getting very hot.

I call this The Flailing Effect.

But thank God (or Buddha as it were) that somewhere in the midst of all this chaos I began practicing meditation. You could say I finally caught my breath. I quickly began to slow down and see a different perspective.

It didn’t happen overnight. There were no tectonic shifts in my crazy lifestyle. In fact, I had to get up even earlier to now fit my meditation into my already insane schedule.

But it was the best thing I ever could have done.

Slowly, through the practice of quieting my mind, I began to find clarity.

I clearly saw my attachment to this desperate need to accomplish something important in this life and be recognized by the world for it; and how these external accomplishments would somehow validate me as a person, as though who I was already wasn’t enough.

It didn’t take long before I recognized the insanity in my ways.

It became clear that I really needed to define what I wanted my life to stand for. Then I needed to eliminate everything else that didn’t serve that end.

But the most important discovery was learning to finally let go of all expectations that any of these aspirations needed to come true. Or if they were meant to be, I needed to stop worrying about when they were going to happen, which it turns out was a huge source of frustration.

Attachment, worry, frustration—these things don’t exist in nature. Things unfold as they are supposed to in nature.

Sometimes the rains come. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes one storm can change the course of millions of lives in just a few minutes.

A river runs its course based on the lay of the land. When it meets an obstacle, it doesn’t fight with it. It simply goes around it…eventually.

How long it takes is of little consequence. After some six million years or so, it might carve something as magnificent as the Grand Canyon. Nobody’s watching the clock in nature.

A tree is happy wherever it grows. It doesn’t secretly wish to sprout legs and run off to some other more happening part of the forest. (Robert Frost wrote a pretty great poem on this subject.)

In Buddhism, they call this patient acceptance.

Life happens in spite of your wishes. This is the nature of all things. When I began to accept this, my frustrations started to melt away.

When you can see yourself as a part of that nature, not separate from it, and start behaving as nature does, you will become more peaceful.

I’ve learned to embrace the work now.

The day to day. Nothing else matters, except my family. When I’m with my kids or my wife now, I try to really be present, to enjoy the now in each moment.

When I finish a post or a song after many hours of editing and polishing it to a fine shine, I can stand back and smile. Another child is born. Then I put it out into the world.

I do wish for it a happy, prosperous life as any father would. I just don’t worry so much any more about how it all turns out.

It all turns out fine.

Photo by Nguyen ST

Avatar of Mark Hermann

About Mark Hermann

Mark Hermann is a music producer, songwriter, and blogger with the occasional whimsy to create mosaic art. He teaches musicians & other creators how to unearth their inner rock star and deliver the soundtrack to their story. Read more of his stories about how to discover your own personal legend at Rock andRoll Zen. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

Why We Lie to Ourselves and How It Creates Tension

See Yourself

“That I feed the hungry, forgive an insult, and love my enemy…. these are great virtues.
But what if I should discover that the poorest of the beggars and the most impudent of offenders are all within me, and that I stand in need of the alms of my own kindness; that I myself am the enemy who must be loved? What then?” ~Carl Jung

Mornings are delicious in the desert. In a summer climate that pushes above 100 degrees day after day, you learn to appreciate lingering cool gifts of pre-dawn hours.

I’m typically awake by 5am these days. It’s the best time to open the windows and door to the patio to let new air in.

On occasion, a sporty cactus wren has seen the open door as an invitation to come inside and have a look around. I delight in their curiosity and spunk, hopping from the doorway to the lamp on my desk, pausing to assimilate data before zooming out again.

One day, a bee flew in and did not have nearly as much fun as the wrens.

The bee went straight to the screened window, just a few feet from the open door, and stubbornly tried to will himself through. Up and down the screen, buzzing against it, the same spot many, many times with no success.

On the other side of the screen, a leafy shade beckoned, but he could not get through. I watched and wondered why the bee continued to try the same thing repeatedly with no success. Not even a hint of success.

Can you dig the metaphor? In what area of life could you be stuck in a similar scenario?

We say we want happiness, peace of mind, harmonious relationships, someone to trust us, a more fulfilling job, healthier body, less stress, substantial joy. We say we want that, but we are so often the bee in the window, flying into the screen between us and the place we want to be.

A fresh perspective may reveal a nearby open door.

Years ago, I was the target of an unpleasant display of road rage. It was a simple scenario: I was going seventy miles per hour in the far left lane with another car parallel in the middle right lane. A hulky pick-up came hurrying up behind me and wanted to pass.

He rode my bumper and flicked his lights to make sure I knew. To effectively get out of his way, I would have had to speed up past my desire and overtake the car to my right. It was a no-win situation for me, so I let it go and assumed he’d find another way around.

Eventually, he succeeded: furiously zigzagged backward then forward, crossed three lanes, and zoomed into the path ahead of me. It was an impressive, totally reckless feat. As he moved in front of me, he stuck his muscular, tanned arm out and gave me the bird with a stiff, angry fist and explosive finger.

Apparently, I upset the guy. Not only was seventy miles per hour too slow, it was personal; it was something I was doing to him.

Maybe he thought the other car and I were in on it together, conspiring to block his lane. Maybe he was in a crisis—though, why bother summoning energy to get angry at me when you’re focused on solving an urgent dilemma?

Why do we get so angry in traffic? Or in check out lines? Or in so many similar scenes played out with people we don’t even know?

Why isn’t seventy miles per hour (essentially a mile a minute) fast enough?

The challenge for me in that moment was to find the right question. Mostly, I felt bad for the guy, dosing himself with such an ugly gesture. His roar that did nothing to improve the spin of the planet or make his day roll smoothly.

From his perspective, I jammed his joy. From my vantage, he could have swiped mine. I chose to keep mine and wish for him to find his.

If we stop flying into the screen and look for a way around, much of the tension dissolves. Flipping me off with muscular anger may have seemed like a path to satisfaction for the guy on the road, but my guess is it took a painful bite out of his soul.

Watching an old episode of “House” adds another layer. Dr. Chase was preparing to speak to the hospital review board regarding a case of negligence. While the gist of the plot focused on ramifications from his mistake, the bigger story was about lying and truth telling.

I wish I could go back and count the number of times one character said to another: “You’re lying.” Every time, it turned out to be an accurate call. Everyone lied repeatedly, about big stuff as well as little stuff, and they constantly called each other on it until deeper truths were revealed.

We seem to lie because we fear consequences. If I tell the truth now, I’ll get fired, sued, rejected—consequences imposed by an outside force. It’s a convenient explanation for why we side-step honesty, even when we know being upfront is the most direct path to repair and clarity.

I believe we lie, not because we fear what “they” will do to us, but to avoid internal consequences; self-awareness unavoidably brings on a lot of responsibility.

In this particular episode of “House,” Dr. Chase lied and said he wasn’t tuned in to the patient because he had a hangover; in reality, he was grief-stricken by news from home.

Claiming he was negligent due to a hangover demands harsher consequences than the more human (and accurate) version of the story. So what advantage did the lie provide? When we deny the real cause, we relieve ourselves from having to do anything in response.

More often than not, our lies serve to keep us in the dark, internally fragmented from areas of self, unattractive to our conscious mind. Even more stubbornly, and more damaging, we lie to avoid the deeper reality of our greatness.

This is the part to watch out for. We don’t just seek to avoid negative consequences; we also lie to avoid the responsibility of our own loving nature, the full potential of creativity or expansiveness of an authentic self.

The guy on the road lies to himself when he says: we’re not all in this together; it’s me against them and they suck. That’s an internal lie designed to protect the self from having to accept the call to do good. Let off the hook in that regard, he’s free to throw his tantrum while a powerless power surges through.

Each of us has the potential to enhance this world and our experience of it, in any given context. Tapping that potential demands more discipline than we may be willing to cultivate.

It’s not easier to be mired in volatile emotions. It’s not easier to get from point A to point B in a sea of rage. It’s not easier to get to the nectar through the screen of our tired habits. It’s not easier; it’s just familiar.

Happiness is the exotic commodity in our world. True peace of mind, resonant joy, sparkling sense of self, and purpose—all exotic to our distracted sensibility. The many miles between us and this exotic honey are cobbled by dishonesty, fragmentation, and fear of responsibility.

But discipline isn’t “hard” and it’s not a leash restraining passion. Mindfulness is harmony. When all of our parts are working together, life hums around us.

The bee catches a breeze and is blown off course, through the open door.

The driver turns up the volume on a song, a good memory, a heartbeat and overlooks momentary annoyances. Then, arriving at his destination brings more of himself to the party. The doctor admits his grief—or his need for love—and the world is healed.

Photo by Hector Garcia

Avatar of Laurie Perez

About Laurie Perez

Laurie Perez (Joybroker) is a mentor, mediator and guide to enlightenment in everyday circumstances. Author of Inner Garden and WakeUP and creator of leading edge events like Arizona Tempest, Vivid Dinner and Head Over Heels, Laurie builds bridges for cubicle slaves to cross into the lyrical world. Like Joybroker on Facebook or tweet @joybroker on Twitter.

The Power of Breathing: 7 Helpful Ways to Use It in Your Daily Life

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
Marcus Aurelius

One of things we may often take for granted in life is the simple act of breathing.

Sure, we know that without it we would not live.

But it is one of those things that happen unconsciously, automatically as we go about our lives. That’s all that’s to it.

This is at least what I used to think. But I have in the past 8 years learned that by consciously breathing when needed I can in the long run reap big, big benefits from extremely little effort.

It has become one of my favorite and most often used habits.

In this article I would like to share 7 ways that I have learned to use my breathing to improve my own life.

But first, here are the steps I usually use to breathe more consciously and to make a positive change within:

  • Slow down and stop. I slow down my movements. Or the pace I am walking in if I am not on a chair or in bed. Then I stop.
  • Breathe. While sitting down or standing still I focus on taking deep breaths with my belly (not with my chest). I breathe in and out through my nose. The breaths I take are not super-deep. But about two or three times as deep as my regular breaths.
  • Focus. While breathing in and out I – in most of the situations mentioned below – focus on just that. Nothing else. The rest of the world melts away. I only feel and focus on the air going in and out.

1. Find or regain focus when working.

I am sometimes unfocused when I start my day. Or I get confused or my focus starts lacking as the day progresses. I sometimes start getting lost in busy work.

When I become aware of being or moving into such a situation I follow the steps listed above and I focus on just my breaths going in and out for 1 minute.

By doing so my mind becomes clearer before I follow up with asking myself a question like:

What is the most important thing I can do right now?

Then I take a small step forward based on the answer I get.

2. Reduce nervousness in social situations.

I used to get pretty nervous before many meetings in the past. When I had a date I usually got really nervous. One the things that really helped me to turn that around and to have more fun and success in social situations was to use conscious breathing.

Here is exactly how I did it before a date in case you want to try the same thing:

A couple of minutes before I was to meet my date I slowed down. I stopped. I stood still or sat down on a bench for about 2 minutes. I focused on just my breathing.

By doing so I was able to calm down both my body and mind and return to the healthier present moment. Instead of being lost in destructive thoughts about possibly being rejected or looking like a fool.

3. Calm down before you say something you don’t really mean.

When someone criticizes you or makes a verbal attack then it is sometimes so tempting to quickly shoot something back. To maybe say something even worse. To escalate the situation into something really negative.

So instead, when someone says something like that, just take a few belly breaths and focus only on them. Just 3 or 5 deep breaths help a lot. Then reply to what was said or to the email or message you got.

It will save you a lot of trouble and anger. And it will help you to take the high road in many situations and give a level-headed answer or to simply let go of what was said and move on.

4. Truly listen and be here.

It is so easy to get lost in your own head and thoughts during a conversation.

I have found that if I before a conversation focus on my breathing for 1 minute and then follow that up with just focusing on what is going on around me with all my senses – the smells, the sounds, what I can feel on my skin, what I can see – for 1 minute then I become a lot more outwardly focused and alert in the conversation.

And so I listen better.

5. Get back to sleep if you wake up too early.

Like most people, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night. Usually I am able to get back to sleep within a couple of minutes. But sometimes my mind becomes active right away and starts thinking about ideas for new blog posts. Or an issue I am dealing with. Or it starts planning for the future.

This can keep me awake for quite some time.

The best thing I have found for getting my mind to let go of the thoughts bouncing around in there is to focus on my breathing. Because when I focus on just the air going in and out my mind cannot focus on the thoughts on the same time. And so my mind becomes empty. It and my body calms down. And after a minute or a few of them I drift off to sleep again.

This simple thing has helped to get my well-needed sleep during quite a few nights over the past 3 or 4 years.

6. Appreciate the little things around you in life.

During the summer and fall I spend some time almost every week with hunting mushrooms in the woods where we live.

I do it because I love the treasure hunt of looking for the mushrooms. I do it because I greatly enjoy cooking and eating them. And I do it because it relaxes and recharges me.

When I am out there among the tall trees I usually pause from time to time. I stand still, look around and take a few deep breaths. This helps me to clear my mind of distractions and to fully enjoy the nature around me.

I highly recommend taking small breathing-breaks throughout the day. Just take a few deep breaths before eating a meal to focus and to appreciate it more.

Or after you have taken the breaths ask yourself: what are 3 things I can be grateful for in my life today?

These breaks will help you to live your life more consciously, fully and recharge you with a boost of positive energy.

7. Let go of overwhelming situations in life.

Life can simply get overwhelming sometimes. Maybe there is too much happening at work and/or in your personal life and you just feel overwhelmed and want to escape.

Breathing can be very useful in these tough situations too.

It can calm you down and let you shed the mental weight of all those jumbled up thoughts and emotions. It can help you find focus again. It can help you to ground yourself and to find a healthier perspective as your mind becomes clearer and more level-headed again.

So if you feel overwhelmed during your day breathe deeply and focus only on that for a minute or two. It is in my experience usually a more helpful choice than escaping onto Facebook and getting lost in procrastination.

Image by Tess Mayer (license).

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It’s Not Over: Failure Is Success in the Making

Looking at the Sun

“A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” ~James Joyce

Everyone has a story of failure and disadvantage—those things we wish were done differently, better, or not at all. Take these stories for instance:

A speaker intending to be unifying and encouraging onstage leaves the audience disappointed and bored instead.

A lone manuscript is rejected by publishing houses over 27 times, dismissed as too fanciful, fake, and “never gonna sell.”

A poor 11 year old, deprived of toys his entire childhood, trudges through sleet and snow on his newspaper route in order to help support his family.

An author struggles to write a novel while a divorced, jobless, and homeless single parent facing a deep depression.

Maybe your story sounds a lot like one of these? Is your situation cause to give up or is it motivation to keep pressing forward?

I, myself, press forward past my bouts of feeling like a failure. Like when I ran for student body treasurer in the seventh grade and lost to my opponent. Or when I got fired from my first job after college. And especially when I had to dissolve my two-year old, bankrupt business at the turn of the 2008 recession.

No fun.

Fast forward. At the end of junior high, I graduated valedictorian. Weeks after I lost my job, I found work with a company that was a much better fit for my skill set and personality. And after shutting down my business, I went back to school, earned my Master’s in Business Administration, and graduated with honors.

Not having perspective vast enough to see how failure could actually help me, I thought I met my end during those painful days. Each event felt tragic. But I consistently came to find there was something else to be enjoyed after one door closed.

Looking back, I see it was all good, everything that happened.

What if we had that hindsight now—amidst the difficult times? Wouldn’t our experience be much more bearable (if not enjoyable)?

The opportunities that arose after the so-called failures made what I wanted before pale in comparison with what I eventually got. I just had to be patient to see it unfold.

You and Failure

Failure is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the action or state of not functioning.” In other words, failure’s something that stops; gets you nowhere. Do you stop moving, stop breathing, or stop living when things don’t go as planned?

This body only stops when its heart stops beating. So every day it keeps ticking is another chance at progress.

Don’t you always take another step, even if it was just to pick yourself up out of bed today? Even when you think you failed, you haven’t because you’re still taking in air.

Failure is a misnomer. It is an attempt to describe an event that leaves us with nothing—no opportunities, no chances, no understanding. When is that ever the case?

Failure is only failure if you say it is. It only exists if you’re not willing to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and walk on. Besides, success depends on those struggles, those attempts, those defeats. Success requires that climb up.

You and Success

Success is a journey; it consists of every trial and triumph combined. And the best kind of journey…

  • makes you stronger
  • teaches you more about yourself
  • gives you insight and answers
  • is an opportunity to evaluate and do different
  • is better than the regret of not doing
  • puts your goals within reach

Everything that happens contributes to a new awakening, a new way of life, a new way of being. We just have to see it as such.

When we don’t stop at failure, we’re bound for success. So really, failure is success in the making…

Which brings me back to the four stories I mentioned earlier. They didn’t end there. Their journeys continued:

The speaker was Abraham Lincoln delivering the (now legendary) Gettysburg Address.

The manuscript was eventually published. It was one of many books written by Theodor Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss.

The boy, Walt, went on to create the childhood he never had and opened Disneyland, a take on his last name.

The author finally finished the novel. Using the pen name, J.K. Rowling, she wrote of a boy wizard named Harry Potter.

Batteries fail, people don’t. We’re always full of potential to do different, do more, and do better. Failure is what you thought you couldn’t be; what you thought you couldn’t do; what you thought you couldn’t have. Change that thought.

Start looking at life in terms of what you can and will do from where you are with what you’ve got right now. Start looking toward success no matter what…and make lemonade!

Success is our lesson learned. Success is our silver lining. Success is our second chance.

What failures have you overcome only to find yourself living your own success story? What keeps you pressing forward?

Photo by Walt Stoneburner

Free Yourself from Regret and Transform Your Life

Im Free

“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.” ~Marianne Williamson

I always had a hard time accepting all of me. As early as I can remember others defined me by saying “You are so weird.” Not in a malicious way but more in a “you don’t fit into our familiar box” sort of way.

I spent most of my teens and twenties attempting to conform to others or numbing myself to a point of not caring what they thought. If someone would have told me that forgiveness and compassion would lead me to inner peace and wholeness I would have asked them what they were smoking.

So how is it that I came to learn that freedom lies within the forgiving and compassionate heart?

I can assure you that it wasn’t because I have some super powers or a secret knowledge that you don’t. My discovery came through a real and messy life, no different from any other.

Childhood

My dad drank a lot. He was the obvious thorn in the family—the one that everyone else used as a distraction to keep from looking at themselves, the one that needed the love the most but we were too afraid to give it.

I was six or seven years old when my dad was pacing back and forth across the street from my grandparents’ house, yelling, “I just want to see my kids.” I thought to myself, “Why can’t he just come over and give me a hug? My daddy just needs a hug.”

Someone in the house was assuring my frightened grandmother that it was against the law for him to come any closer to the house because of the restraining order, which didn’t make much sense to me, so I hugged my doll and disappeared into the background.

As my father’s drinking and raging progressed, I too began to fear him. Afraid of my father, afraid of how people treated him, afraid life could actually be the way that he seemed to experience it—it was all so terrifying.

It wasn’t easy watching my dad struggle his whole life, blaming his family, his job, my mom, and eventually me for his pain.

Occasionally he would have a reprieve. Like the time he sent me a dozen roses for no reason. When I asked him why he sent them, he said, “My daughter is going to get a lot of roses in her lifetime and I wanted to be the first to give them to you.”

He could be so charismatic, loving, and kind. I loved him with all of my heart.

Growing Up

In my twenties I found myself caught between a deep love and a desperate fear of my reflection. I fought a good fight not to become my dad. But as the saying goes, “what you resist persists,” and voila: I woke up one day and realized that I wasn’t like my dad. I had become him.

Now in my twenties I was the one blaming others for my unhappiness; if only my childhood wasn’t so screwed up, if only my father was a better role model and had been there for me, and so on.

Using relationships, alcohol, food, and whatever else I could to drown out daddy’s little mirror, I found myself plagued with the reality of not being able to live successfully anymore than he did.

Healing begins when we can stand still and face ourselves in the mirror of another.

The one thing that I had never witnessed my father do was take responsibility for his actions, which were the culmination of his life experiences. Knowing that I was just like him, I knew I needed to make a different choice, but how?

Intuitively, I knew that I had to ask for help in learning how to become responsible—learning how to respond to life in a new way.

I began reaching out for guidance through counseling, books, and learning from people around me who seemed genuinely happy. I soon discovered the power in connection.

Connecting with people that were living life as creators, rather than victims, showed me a whole new way to live.

I began to change inside. Compassion and self-forgiveness swelled. The principle “as within, so without” proved true as my newfound experience poured out and into my world.

Forgiveness

My thirties were a time of forgiveness during which my father and I were estranged because of his active drinking. At that time I didn’t know how to grow while simultaneously keeping my father in my life.

Unfortunately, by the time my relationship with my father was healed, he had been dead for about five years.

During those years I had made several attempts to make amends with him, once by spreading his ashes on Father’s day at a place he used to take my brother and I as children.

I’d written and read aloud two letters I wrote for him at different points of time.

Interestingly, the action that created the ultimate healing came to me in meditation one morning.

Sitting in silence I became aware of unkind and dismissive behavior I had displayed toward my father’s fourth ex-wife, Ann. Her only crime was that she loved him and was a kind step-mom. I blamed her for my father’s alcoholism, which made no rational sense.

When I called Ann she was as gracious to me as she had always been.

“It is so good to hear from you,” she said.

I responded, “I’m calling because I have become aware that I somehow held you responsible for my father’s alcoholism, and because of that I was unkind and dismissive toward you. I wanted you to know that I am sorry for the way that I behaved and am extremely grateful that you were able to love and accept my father all those years, especially when I was unable to love him myself.”

Her warmth traveled through the phone lines as she said, “Your welcome, I understand. Your father so loved you.”

Immediately after our phone conversation I felt something physically leave my body. I will never forget it. Beyond my understanding my relationship with my father had been healed.

The Lesson I Wish I Had Learned Before It was Too Late

After my father died I tried to convince myself that I had no regrets about never healing our relationship. The truth is that years earlier I intuitively knew that it was time to call my father and make things right, but I made the choice not to do it for one reason: fear.

It is the one thing in my life that I would do differently if I could.

Although I believe in a higher plan, with things always happening as they should, my actions play a vital role in the equation. Being responsible for my life has taught me to acknowledge my regret and the choice that I made which created it.

Lessons I Learned from a Forgiving and an Unforgiving Heart

  • It is impossible to fully accept ourselves until we are at peace with our greatest fears.
  • Our greatest fears are easily detected by looking at those we are yet unable to love.
  • When we are willing to make things right in our life, regardless of appearances, seeking inner guidance will teach us how to heal.
  • If we still have breath, we can grow.

Today when I find myself restless I ask, “Am I being stingy with my forgiveness?” And if the answer is yes than I ask, “What can I do now to make things right with myself or between me and another?” knowing that they are one in the same.

Forgiveness is a warrior’s journey where we grow into compassionate human beings. Regret surfaces when we know within what we need to do but we don’t do it. Forgiving is our opportunity to limit regrets.

In our willingness to practice forgiveness we move from seeking acceptance to resting in our wholeness.

Photo by Sara Jo

There’s a Gift in Every Problem: Finding the Good in the Bad

Dark Day

“Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.” ~Richard Bach

I bought the magazine because it had pizza on the cover and the headline read: “Yes, you can eat pizza.”

At that point, the idea that I could eat pizza was as absurd to me as the thought of finding a tiny dinosaur living in my flowerbeds.

But oh, how I wanted a slice.

At thirty-two years old, I’d been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It scared the hell out of me, and I was determined to take perfect care of myself so I could be the best mom possible for my two-year-old daughter.

I had unleashed self-discipline previously foreign to me. My doctor and nutritionist praised me incessantly for my dedication.

And at first, my blood sugar improved.

But a year and a half after being diagnosed, I was still doing all the right things—eating healthy, counting carbs, exercising like a maniac—and the right things weren’t working. My blood sugar levels (which I monitored religiously) were still too high and getting higher.

I was drowning in anxiety and I felt like a failure. I would end up blind and on dialysis with no feeling in my feet. My mind ran through catastrophic scenarios by the hour.

That magazine for diabetics, with its siren’s call of pizza on the cover, saved my life because it also happened to feature an article about latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA).

It told the story of a woman in her thirties who was thin and diagnosed with type 2. (Type 2 typically strikes older adults who carry extra weight and have a sedentary lifestyle.)

Gee, I thought, this sounds familiar.

After months of trying to manage her condition, she ended up in a specialist’s office. The endocrinologist took one look at her—young, thin, with a family history of autoimmune diseases—and diagnosed her with LADA. A blood test found antibodies that confirmed the diagnosis.

LADA is essentially type 1 diabetes, with an onset in adulthood instead of the more typical childhood onset. The immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.

Game over, there’s nothing you can do to reverse it. You’re insulin dependent for life. (Though people with LADA can make at least a little insulin for months or years, which is why diet and exercise can seem to work for awhile.)

Alarm bells began exploding in my head. If this is what’s going on with me, I thought, it explains everything.

After a few days, I managed to convince myself I was a hypochondriac. Who was I to think I was special enough to have an obscure form of a rare disease?

But my increasingly high blood sugar levels still needed to be addressed and that little voice in my head kept nagging me about the possibility of a more serious condition.

I called my doctor. I told him I wanted a referral to an endocrinologist because I was worried about having LADA. He said he would write the referral for me, but that it was extremely unlikely and I shouldn’t worry.

I sat and talked with the endocrinologist for about three minutes before I blurted out, “I’m a little worried about LADA.”

“I think that’s exactly what’s going on,” she said. A blood test confirmed it.

That evening I injected insulin into my belly and woke the next day to the best blood sugar reading I’d had since I started testing.

These days I wear an insulin pump, which allows for precise insulin dosing and gets rid of the need for taking multiple shots a day. It’s my favorite piece of technology ever.

And, I have to tell you, my life is so much better now than it was before I was diagnosed with any kind of diabetes.

So many gifts come to us through adversity. I challenge you right now to identify your biggest problem and then think through all the good things in your life and see if you can draw a direct line between them.

I wager that you’ll find relationships strengthened, personal empowerment, and a clearer sense of yourself, all thanks to the scariest thing you’ve even been through.

And if you don’t find it yet, just hang on, you still can.

For me, being misdiagnosed with type 2 forced me to learn about diet and exercise. I started caring for my body and tapped into my self-discipline. Yes, there can be blessings hidden in a medical mistake! 

I learned the power of my intuition, which helped me get the diagnosis and medical care I needed before I ended up with a life threatening case of high blood sugar known as diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diabetes is also the perfect way to practice vigilance without its all too common companion, anxiety. The constant demands of managing the disease can lead one to a near constant state of panic unless you learn skills to overcome it.

Not many people realize this, but apart from trying to avoid long term complications, people with type 1 diabetes must constantly work to avoid acute conditions that can cause death—too much insulin can cause a low blood sugar that can kill you and too little insulin causes high blood sugar, which can also kill you.

Which leads me to the biggest gift of all: an appreciation of my own mortality.

It’s up to me to infuse every day with meaning—to truly feel the joy of laying in a hammock reading a story with my daughter or exchanging salacious texts with my husband.

Yes, we all know that in theory, we could get hit by a truck tomorrow. But now I really know.

And I use that knowledge to make decisions about where to spend my energy. For example, I always wanted to be a writer but I never did one damn serious thing about it until diabetes lit a fire under me. Now my writing is my second career.

Having type 1 diabetes isn’t easy; in fact, it can be hard as hell. If researchers have a miracle breakthrough tomorrow, I’ll camp out overnight to be first in line for the cure.

But I cling to the revelation that there are many gifts to be found in facing our biggest challenges and we’d be fools not to accept them because we hate the wrapping paper.

Photo by Cornelia Kopp

Avatar of Sue Campbell

About Sue Campbell

Sue Campbell is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon. Her newest blog, Chronic Shmonic, is designed to give you the loving kick in the pants you need to put life in front, chronic disease in the back.

When You Fear Things Might Not Work Out: 3 Helpful Tips

Hands in the Air

“Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.” ~Mark Victor Hansen

This summer, after three years of dreaming, my daughter and I moved from the city I’ve lived in all my life to my dream city six hours north.

The season of summer is known as a time when plants fruit, grow, and bloom. In order to harvest new crops we have to have a clear field and clean soil to plant in, right?

Before we can grow new things, we need to look hard at what isn’t working for us, what isn’t serving us, what needs to go to make space for new, better, more deeply satisfying things to come. That could include work, relationships, ways of spending time, and beliefs.

Then we need to clean and fertilize our own fields and soil so we can intentionally plant what we want to grow.

This move was preceded by such huge old beliefs, fears, and heartache that I had to face and work through for us to be able to make this move.

I felt terrified that I wasn’t seeing things clearly and might not make a decision that would work out well.

Do any of the below feel familiar to you?

  • Where you are isn’t working, but you’re not sure how to change it.
  • You’re drained and exhausted by a part of your life—a relationship, your work, not enough self-care, no down time.
  • You know the change you want to make, but you’re afraid you can’t do it, you’ll be alone if you do it, or you’ll have no money if you do it.
  • You know a change has to be made, but the path isn’t clear. Maybe you’re not even sure what needs to change; you just know something needs to.
  • You’ve decided to make a big change, but the fear and doubt are making you feel stuck and miserable.

Having grown up in NYC, I have a natural fear of apartment hunting. In NYC you practically have to commit a crime to find a good, affordable, safe place anywhere near where you want to be. For this reason, I had a deep fear around searching in Portland for our perfect home, even though I knew it wouldn’t be as difficult as looking in New York.

So I did what I always do when I want to call something into my life: I made a want ad.

I thought about what I wanted in a home and how I wanted it to feel for us. My ad looked something like this:

A safe, cozy home for my family, in an aesthetically beautiful part of town, that feels amply affordable, has two to three bedrooms, allows dogs, and has space for us to grow, where we can walk to most things we need, with parking for my car.

Then I started apartment hunting while in Portland for a week.

Two to three bedroom apartments in the neighborhoods I wanted were more than I could afford, and most wouldn’t allow any “pit bull type” dogs, like we have.

After running into this over and over again, I got worried. I had given July 1st as the date we’d be out of our current place. It was June 1st and we were about to go back to NYC, leaving me unable to keep seeing new apartments.

It would have been easy to get sucked into a place of fear and self-doubt—worrying that we couldn’t find the right place, that I couldn’t afford any of the apartments I was seeing, that my dogs wouldn’t be welcomed, that we’d be homeless in four weeks.

However, instead of staying in the fear place, I decided to use this situation as a wonderful opportunity to practice having faith.

I did this by using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) videos from YouTube, visualizing myself finding the apartment, and believing the apartment was out there.

Then a friend connected me with her friend who lives in Portland.

Portland-friend knew someone who was showing an apartment rental for her father-in-law. It was the neighborhood I wanted and the price I wanted but only a one bedroom, which was too small for us.

But I talked to Renter-Lady and liked her, and she said there was a weird little room on the second floor that had a low ceiling but could possibly be a kid’s room, so I decided to go see it just for fun.

The house was exactly what I wanted.

I filled out the paperwork and gave impeccable references. Her concern was that her father-in-law didn’t want dogs there. I assured her that our current landlord would vouch for my pups, and I’d be happy to give them a security pet deposit.

I filled out the application and walked away. I waited on pins and needles for five days and heard nothing.

Five days after I’d last heard from her, I texted her to tell her how much I loved the place and asked if I could give her any further info. She texted back that night and said she was so sorry, but it wasn’t just wasn’t going to work.

Her father-in-law worried that as a single mama with my own business I wasn’t making enough to cover the rent and utilities.

I sat up in bed and texted her back furiously. I told her that their place was $600 less a month than any other place I had looked at—that it was $50 more than half of our rent in NYC.

I texted, “How can I show your father-in-law that I’m more than capable of affording this place? Would you like to see three months records of my income?”

She wrote back that that might help, so I jumped out of bed, ran to the computer, and emailed her my last three months of income.

The next morning she wrote back: “The house is yours! I’ll email a lease tomorrow! Thanks for jumping through all those hoops!”

Little-cottage-whose-windows-I’ll-decorate-with-window-boxes-dripping-with-flowers, here we come. 

What made the difference between the fear place where everything seemed scary and difficult and an uphill battle, and the flowing place where it all worked out?

1. Clear vision.

I had a clear vision of what I wanted, what it would look like, and how it would feel to have it.

2. Belief in my value and worth.

I fought to convince the owners of house that yes, I do have enough income to pay the rent. My attitude was, “How can I show you how successful I am at what I do?”

3. Energy management.

I didn’t stay in a place of fear and doubt, but instead practiced faith, using tools like EFT, prayer, and visualization to focus my energy on what could be, rather than what might not work out.

You could easily say, “Well, what if I do all these things and don’t get the house, or don’t get the job, or that person doesn’t want to be with me?”

Energy management is a long-term, sustainable, inner piece of growth. It doesn’t mean that it’s a magic wand that gives you what you want. It’s a growth tool that helps create inner peace and grounding, no matter the outcome.

So even if I hadn’t gotten this specific house, energy management would have helped me stay positive, which would have kept me focused and proactive, increasing my odds of finding a home.

Can you think of a situation in your life where you can apply some or all of these tools? What small step can you take today to create something new in your life?

Photo here

Blindsided: 7 Ways to Cope With the Grief of Heartbreak

sadness

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” ~C.S. Lewis

Shock. That was the first feeling. Shock and disbelief.

This isn’t really happening. Denial.

Look into her eyes. Slow realization. I’m not dreaming. Fear.

Wave upon wave of torrential sadness. Messy.

We’d been in a long-distance relationship, and as far as I was aware, everything was inutterably perfect. I was as happy as I’d ever been; I was in love.

For months, I’d been planning to travel across the country to see her. We talked about it endlessly, fantasized about its possibilities, gazed longingly upon the shimmering sapphire-memories we were sure to make.

It was as if we were already nostalgic for what we imagined would occur, for what we were certain would be one of the best times of our lives.

I waited and waited, and finally, the day came. Brimming with excitement and anticipation, I boarded a plane and flew over 1,200 miles.

Everything seemed to go wonderfully until the third day of my visit. I remember it clearly, how she looked at me with those caring eyes—irises the color of melted caramel—and told me something wasn’t right. She couldn’t explain it, but she didn’t feel the same way anymore.

Blindsided. I could hardly fathom the truth—that our gleaming vision had been fool’s gold, our immaculate castle a house of cards.

Perhaps I overlooked something obvious, some subtle-yet-pronounced signal. I don’t know. To this day, I’m still not entirely sure why she ended it.

What I do know, though, is how it felt. I had invested so much of myself into ideas of a future with her that it was like a piece of my identity had been amputatedThe sunlit future I’d treasured had been blacked out before my eyes in a proverbial nuclear holocaust.

I felt purposeless, stamped out, alone.

Thinking back now, it strikes me that all people probably experience heartbreak in relatively the same way. Maybe some feel more anger, while others feel more depression, but in general, a sudden loss is like a tsunami of confusion, regret, and sorrow.

It’s something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, but if you live long enough, it’s unavoidable. Chalk it up to this peculiar circus we call the human experience—sometimes gravy, sometimes gauntlet.

I firmly believe that pain is necessary for growth, but that knowledge doesn’t always make it any less crummy when you’re neck-deep in swamp-muck. You mostly just press on, search for hope, and let Father Time do as that old adage says: heal the wounds.

And amazingly, after a while, things do improve. Eventually, you’ll be surprised to notice that you went all day without thinking about it, that you’re enjoying yourself again, that you’re no longer wallowing, that you let go. 

But in the early stages of the healing process, day-to-day life feels about like staggering seven miles through three feet of elephant ordure.

If you’re in that place right now, I’m writing this post for you. You’re stronger than you know. Keep going. Things will be better.

7 Ways to Cope With the Grief of Heartbreak

In my experience, there isn’t any magical antidote for that immediate, pressing sensation of grief, but these simple steps will make it all a bit easier to swallow.

1. Know you’re not alone. 

When my girlfriend dumped me, I turned to the Internet to read about break-ups. What I found were countless stories of people who had suffered precisely what I had. Reading those stories was therapeutic because I no longer felt so helpless or worthless.

I felt connected to the billions of other people who’d felt equally awful. I gained respect for my ancestors and my contemporaries, for the strength of the human race. I started to have faith that I too could find the resilience to survive and reconstruct my world.

2. Take it one day at a time.

Or, heck, one breath at a time. One moment at a time. When I was down and defeated, I couldn’t imagine how in the world I was going to survive, let alone do all the work that I knew was coming.

Thinking about the future was entirely overwhelming. I couldn’t do it. Instead, I just concentrated on single days.

The present was painful, but I stayed there. I stayed with the pain as it ebbed and flowed through the days. And the days crept by, each one a small victory.

3. Reach out.

Internet stories can be wonderful, but it’s your loved ones who will be a godsend in times of grief. Don’t hesitate to contact your friends and family immediately when something tragic has occurred. This is why we’re here—for supporting one another, or as Ram Dass says, “walking each other home.”

I remember calling my mom, dad, and several of my friends shortly after my break-up. They couldn’t make the pain go away, but they listened and said what they could.

I knew I was cared for. I knew they were concerned. Feeling that love reminded me that I wasn’t worthless. I was still the same me.

4. Create.

After she told me the bad news, I felt an eruption of emotion that was unlike anything I’ve ever felt. There was just so much of it. I needed to let it out somehow, so I wrote.

Writing was a rock, something that had been there before and was still there, something I could turn to. I wrote poetry and letters and stories. Translating the experience into art was a type of catharsis.

It was a way to channel the energies, to release them, to cleanse myself. Whether it’s painting, singing, dancing, drawing, or sculpting, perhaps you will find solace in an art form as well.

5. Find comfort in music.

After the split, I remember sitting in an airport, listening to “Hailie’s Song” by Eminem, crying quietly to myself as oblivious people walked by. Sure, that’s a sad image, but it also felt good to let it out. It was part of my healing process.

Music was another constant, something that wouldn’t let me down. I think I probably listened to every sad song I’d ever heard. It wasn’t a way to feel sorry for myself (okay, maybe a little) as much as another means of knowing I wasn’t alone.

It was a way of feeling more poignantly the pain in the songs and lyrics of others, a way of empathizing with them and knowing they understood how I felt too.

6. Maintain your normal routine.

This was perhaps the hardest thing to do after what happened—return to my routine. Honestly, I felt like locking myself in a dark room with ten pounds of ice cream and sucking my thumb for the next few months. It didn’t seem possible to return to my day-to-day life.

But I did, and after a while, I realized that it was my routine that was renewing my sense of purpose. Actually doing things took my mind off of the hole in my chest and reminded me of my value.

7. Believe.

It takes a certain measure of faith to fall into a black hole of pain, grope around aimlessly for a while, and eventually emerge. My situation felt devoid of anything positive. It seemed like there was nothing to hang my hat on.

But somewhere, deep within me, I managed to find the courage to believe that things would be better again. I believed that life would not forsake me.

I believed I could weather the storm, and after a few months, the horizon didn’t look so bleak anymore. I began to leave the past where it was meant to be—behind me—and to find satisfaction in the present.

Reflecting on Now and Then

I think about her some days. I read the letters she wrote to me; sometimes a song reminds me of her, and sometimes, for no good reason at all, that face I knew so well inexplicably materializes in my mind’s eye.

I still feel the slightest pangs of sadness, a sort of vague wistfulness for a future that never was with a person who was so dear to me. I imagine her out there somewhere, living out her sunrise-to-sunsets, and I wonder if she remembers me too.

But then I smile, because I’m okay. I experienced the bliss of unconditional love, and it brings me joy to remember it. I’d never take it back, not for anything.

I’m at peace now, with her and with what happened, with myself and with this moment.

I hope she is too. I hope she’s happy and without fear, smiling that beautiful smile.

Photo by Roy Chan

Avatar of Jordan Bates

About Jordan Bates

Jordan Bates is a tenacious fellow who wants to change the world. He’s a writer and activist who’s made it his quest to broaden the minds of others while cultivating more kindness in the world. You should check out Refine The Mind, his online mecca.

3 Ways to Know When a Relationship Isn’t Right for You

Couple Sitting

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” ~Lao Tzu

I was going out with a wonderful man. He was generous and caring and had a great sense of humor. He treated me well and attended to my every need.

But something just wasn’t right. I battled with myself for over a month.

Every time a fear surfaced about how quickly things were moving, I smoothed it over with a shrug or a hug or a reminder of how lucky I was to have found someone with whom to share my life.

My logical mind told me that he was perfect, that I was self-sabotaging, and that I was afraid of commitment. Yet another part of me questioned the depth of my feelings for him.

I worried about our different beliefs and how they could cause problems down the line.

I was exhausted. I started biting my fingernails. I got sick. I even experienced random pains all over.

But I wasn’t listening to my body because I was overwhelmed with the noise of the chatter inside my head.

I could not stop the thoughts. And then, one day, I decided that I had a choice. I could simply stop thinking. I would listen to my intuition instead. Immediately, I felt calmer and more myself. I was able to enjoy life again.

Above all else, I was relieved. In that moment, I realized that the relationship was over. Well, according to me it was.

Now, all I had to do was break it to him. Of course, it was difficult. We were both hurting.

I hated letting him down, but I could not live a lie. So, I mustered up the courage to finish a partnership that appeared perfect on paper.

It wasn’t what he wanted. But a couple of weeks later, he texted to say that, although he wished it hadn’t ended, he was also glad that it had. In other words, despite the suffering, he now realized that we weren’t well suited. 

Looking back, perhaps he had had a similar gut feeling but wasn’t aware of it or had chosen to ignore it. Either way, I did both of us a favor by listening to myself and bringing the relationship to an end.

I closed the door on an apparently perfect partnership but now I am open to something else, which will be more in alignment with who I am and what I desire.

If you’re agonizing about whether or not to stay with your partner, follow these three steps: 

1. Sit in silence.

When life is loud and fast and nonstop, it’s easy to slide into the next month, year, and even decade with someone you’re not sure about.

Take some time out to sit with how you’re feeling. Are you happy? Healthy? Enthusiastic about life? Or are you ill, moody, or depressed?

When you know how you are, you’ll know how best to proceed. You don’t have to figure out all the answers the first time you meditate, but the more you slow down and pay attention to how you’re feeling, the more authentic your life and your relationships will become.

2. Listen.

Now that you’re getting in touch with your body and emotions, you can listen to what they’ve been trying to tell you.

Life Coach Cristina Merkley says that, luckily, we have a built in system that alerts us when we’re in alignment with our Inner Being (and what we truly desire) and when we are not. This invaluable system is our emotions.

For over a month, I was mostly unhappy. I was tired and sick and in pain. When I finally started listening to myself, I was able to acknowledge that I wasn’t in alignment with my true self. I’m grateful that my body (and my emotions) won’t allow me to stay in a situation that isn’t right for me.

And never underestimate the accuracy of your intuition. I’ve rationalized things until my brain was ready to burst but it’s effortless when I go with my gut.

3. Check in with yourself when you’re with your partner.

And ask yourself the following questions:

When you’re in the company of your loved one, do you feel energized or drained? This is an excellent indicator as to whether or not to keep him or her in your life.

Do you feel good about yourself when your partner is around, or does your other half bring out the worst in you?

Are you growing emotionally and spiritually as a result of being with this person? Or has this part of your life begun to stagnate?

How about your partner? Are you enhancing his/her life? Or are you fighting so much that there’s no time for anything else?

Can you be yourself with this person? Or are you trying to be someone you think your partner wants? If this is the case, it’s never going to last.

Do you feel genuine love, friendship, and respect for your partner? Or are you staying in it because you’re afraid that, if you don’t settle, you’re guaranteed a lonely existence? 

Bring awareness to how you’re feeling when you’re with your partner. If it feels good, it probably is. And if it feels uneasy or unpleasant, it may be time to set yourself (and your partner) free.

Bear in mind that not all uncomfortable feelings signify that you should end the relationship. These feelings could be a reflection of underlying fears of intimacy or a self-limiting belief that you don’t deserve happiness or that nothing good ever lasts.

If you’re unsure, repeat steps one and two.

When your partner is ticking most of those proverbial boxes, it can be easier to stay in the relationship. At least you have someone who will look after you, who will send you sweet messages, and cuddle you on the couch.

It’s scary to have to re-enter the big bad world of singledom and dating. But it’s also exciting. And you will be rewarded for being true to yourself and for honoring your ex enough to admit that you’re not the one for them.

Photo by zoetnet

Blindsided: 7 Ways to Cope With Heartbreak or Grief

sadness

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” ~C.S. Lewis

Shock. That was the first feeling. Shock and disbelief.

This isn’t really happening. Denial.

Look into her eyes. Slow realization. I’m not dreaming. Fear.

Wave upon wave of torrential sadness. Messy.

We’d been in a long-distance relationship, and as far as I was aware, everything was inutterably perfect. I was as happy as I’d ever been; I was in love.

For months, I’d been planning to travel across the country to see her. We talked about it endlessly, fantasized about its possibilities, gazed longingly upon the shimmering sapphire-memories we were sure to make.

It was as if we were already nostalgic for what we imagined would occur, for what we were certain would be one of the best times of our lives.

I waited and waited, and finally, the day came. Brimming with excitement and anticipation, I boarded a plane and flew over 1,200 miles.

Everything seemed to go wonderfully until the third day of my visit. I remember it clearly, how she looked at me with those caring eyes—irises the color of melted caramel—and told me something wasn’t right. She couldn’t explain it, but she didn’t feel the same way anymore.

Blindsided. I could hardly fathom the truth—that our gleaming vision had been fool’s gold, our immaculate castle a house of cards.

Perhaps I overlooked something obvious, some subtle-yet-pronounced signal. I don’t know. To this day, I’m still not entirely sure why she ended it.

What I do know, though, is how it felt. I had invested so much of myself into ideas of a future with her that it was like a piece of my identity had been amputatedThe sunlit future I’d treasured had been blacked out before my eyes in a proverbial nuclear holocaust.

I felt purposeless, stamped out, alone.

Thinking back now, it strikes me that all people probably experience grief in relatively the same way. Maybe some feel more anger, while others feel more depression, but in general, a sudden loss is like a tsunami of confusion, regret, and sorrow.

It’s something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, but if you live long enough, it’s unavoidable. Chalk it up to this peculiar circus we call the human experience—sometimes gravy, sometimes gauntlet.

I firmly believe that pain is necessary for growth, but that knowledge doesn’t always make it any less crummy when you’re neck-deep in swamp-muck. You mostly just press on, search for hope, and let Father Time do as that old adage says: heal the wounds.

And amazingly, after a while, things do improve. Eventually, you’ll be surprised to notice that you went all day without thinking about it, that you’re enjoying yourself again, that you’re no longer wallowing, that you let go. 

But in the early stages of the healing process, day-to-day life feels about like staggering seven miles through three feet of elephant ordure.

If you’re in that place right now, I’m writing this post for you. You’re stronger than you know. Keep going. Things will be better.

7 Ways to Cope With the Grief of Heartbreak

In my experience, there isn’t any magical antidote for that immediate, pressing sensation of grief, but these simple steps will make it all a bit easier to swallow.

1. Know you’re not alone. 

When my girlfriend dumped me, I turned to the Internet to read about break-ups. What I found were countless stories of people who had suffered precisely what I had. Reading those stories was therapeutic because I no longer felt so helpless or worthless.

I felt connected to the billions of other people who’d felt equally awful. I gained respect for my ancestors and my contemporaries, for the strength of the human race. I started to have faith that I too could find the resilience to survive and reconstruct my world.

2. Take it one day at a time.

Or, heck, one breath at a time. One moment at a time. When I was down and defeated, I couldn’t imagine how in the world I was going to survive, let alone do all the work that I knew was coming.

Thinking about the future was entirely overwhelming. I couldn’t do it. Instead, I just concentrated on single days.

The present was painful, but I stayed there. I stayed with the pain as it ebbed and flowed through the days. And the days crept by, each one a small victory.

3. Reach out.

Internet stories can be wonderful, but it’s your loved ones who will be a godsend in times of grief. Don’t hesitate to contact your friends and family immediately when something tragic has occurred. This is why we’re here—for supporting one another, or as Ram Dass says, “walking each other home.”

I remember calling my mom, dad, and several of my friends shortly after my break-up. They couldn’t make the pain go away, but they listened and said what they could.

I knew I was cared for. I knew they were concerned. Feeling that love reminded me that I wasn’t worthless. I was still the same me.

4. Create.

After she told me the bad news, I felt an eruption of emotion that was unlike anything I’ve ever felt. There was just so much of it. I needed to let it out somehow, so I wrote.

Writing was a rock, something that had been there before and was still there, something I could turn to. I wrote poetry and letters and stories. Translating the experience into art was a type of catharsis.

It was a way to channel the energies, to release them, to cleanse myself. Whether it’s painting, singing, dancing, drawing, or sculpting, perhaps you will find solace in an art form as well.

5. Find comfort in music.

After the split, I remember sitting in an airport, listening to “Hailie’s Song” by Eminem, crying quietly to myself as oblivious people walked by. Sure, that’s a sad image, but it also felt good to let it out. It was part of my healing process.

Music was another constant, something that wouldn’t let me down. I think I probably listened to every sad song I’d ever heard. It wasn’t a way to feel sorry for myself (okay, maybe a little) as much as another means of knowing I wasn’t alone.

It was a way of feeling more poignantly the pain in the songs and lyrics of others, a way of empathizing with them and knowing they understood how I felt too.

6. Maintain your normal routine.

This was perhaps the hardest thing to do after what happened—return to my routine. Honestly, I felt like locking myself in a dark room with ten pounds of ice cream and sucking my thumb for the next few months. It didn’t seem possible to return to my day-to-day life.

But I did, and after a while, I realized that it was my routine that was renewing my sense of purpose. Actually doing things took my mind off of the hole in my chest and reminded me of my value.

7. Believe.

It takes a certain measure of faith to fall into a black hole of pain, grope around aimlessly for a while, and eventually emerge. My situation felt devoid of anything positive. It seemed like there was nothing to hang my hat on.

But somewhere, deep within me, I managed to find the courage to believe that things would be better again. I believed that life would not forsake me.

I believed I could weather the storm, and after a few months, the horizon didn’t look so bleak anymore. I began to leave the past where it was meant to be—behind me—and to find satisfaction in the present.

Reflecting on Now and Then

I think about her some days. I read the letters she wrote to me; sometimes a song reminds me of her, and sometimes, for no good reason at all, that face I knew so well inexplicably materializes in my mind’s eye.

I still feel the slightest pangs of sadness, a sort of vague wistfulness for a future that never was with a person who was so dear to me. I imagine her out there somewhere, living out her sunrise-to-sunsets, and I wonder if she remembers me too.

But then I smile, because I’m okay. I experienced the bliss of unconditional love, and it brings me joy to remember it. I’d never take it back, not for anything.

I’m at peace now, with her and with what happened, with myself and with this moment.

I hope she is too. I hope she’s happy and without fear, smiling that beautiful smile.

Photo by Roy Chan

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About Jordan Bates

Jordan Bates is a tenacious fellow who wants to change the world. He’s a writer and activist who’s made it his quest to broaden the minds of others while cultivating more kindness in the world. You should check out Refine The Mind, his online mecca.