“In chaos, there is fertility.”
“How did I get to this point?” This question pulses through my brain daily.
Some days I’m done. I have nothing left to give. How did I get here?
“Gradually, then suddenly.”
With eternal gratitude to Ernest Hemingway, three simple words so summarize how I ended up in a situation I didn’t want or expect.
“How did you go bankrupt?”
“Gradually, then suddenly.”
Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises)
It happened so gradually, almost imperceptibly. And then suddenly, unequivocally, shockingly, I had suffered my fall, my breakdown.
Looking back, I can see that I had willingly immersed myself in anxiety, perfectionism, comparisons, sleep-deprivation, a lack of mindfulness, poor health, and pride. Gradually, these things took their toll — until suddenly I found myself in a dark and frightening place.
This gradual, then sudden decline is not reserved for dramatic breakdowns. It’s not reserved for high-achievers, or emotionally sensitive people. Trust me, this place I find myself in is open to us all.
We each face sudden declines. Moments where we realize what we’ve been neglecting, treating poorly, or taking for granted. It could be:
Weight/Health – the moment we step on the scales, try to walk three flights of stairs, or look at a recent photo.
Addictions – the moment we realize we cannot cut ties to a substance, an emotion, spending, sex, or a person.
Debt – the moment we are brave enough to look at our credit card statement, answer the debt collector’s phone call, or realize we’re living beyond our means.
Clutter – the moment we realize how materialistic we’ve become, how much money has been spent on stuff, or how entitled we’ve become.
Time – the moment we realize we’ve watched more than sixty days of television in a year, the months are passing with little to show for it, or the reflection in the mirror is ten years older than we remember.
Relationships – the moment we realize we haven’t spoken to our best friend in months, seen our grandmother since Christmas, played Candy Land with our kids, or told our loved ones we do love them.
Either we’ve stopped paying attention to what’s important, or we’ve decided that not knowing the truth of our situation is preferable to seeing the reality.
Fortunately for us, there will come a moment when things snap back into focus. And that moment will build gradually and arrive suddenly, leaving us reeling. Believe it or not, this is a blessing.
I have discovered just like the decline, the ascent will be gradual, then sudden.
I’m working now to turn things around; it’s much harder than you would suspect. I am happier, healthier, more engaged, and more content than I have been in quite some time, but I have so far to go. As I realize more and more my life had been one big, precarious balancing act, I begin to see what is and is not important.
I’m taking the time to work out what truly matters. I try to remove the expectations, the comparisons and the “I deserve more from life” thoughts. As I do it becomes simpler to see what my priorities need to be: my family, love, creativity, health, spirituality, joy and beauty, and most importantly, making the time, space, and energy to experience each of these fully.
Initially, embracing the mindfulness I’d been reading and studying and paying lip service to for years and really engaging with my family, friends, and life was terrifying. What if I’m lacking? What if I don’t like what I see? What if you/them/they don’t like what you/they saw? (Does anyone really get to a place where are they free from caring about what others don’t like that they see in you? Yes, but it’s hard)
I’m discovering there is so much more to experience in life by practicing mindfulness — taking the time to engage in fierce and real conversations (these are best with Tim Jopek), to notice the exact shade of lavender in a sunset, to discern the subtleties in different varieties of basil, to be completely in the moment. There is depth and joy right there.
I long neglected my own health — both physical and mental. But as I start my ascent I begin to see huge benefits to time spent on myself.
Meditation, chanting, time spent alone, studying, eating clean foods, sleeping more, exercising regularly, rising early—these changes all are assisting my ascent.
When you are unwell or in poor health, you can’t fully engage with those people and things that matter. Too much of your energy will go towards simply getting through the day. So ask yourself, “What is one thing I can change today that will help improve my health?” For me the answer is moving. Moving more will improve my health and well-being.
Learning to be content with my circumstance is helping me live a far more meaningful life since my fall. Finding contentment has brought peace and gratitude and happiness, where for years there had been none.
I no longer feel like I deserve more from life without working for it. I know I can work towards goals and dreams—and I do, every day—but I no longer feel entitled to them. It’s incredibly liberating.
If you can find contentment in life where you are right now, the pressure, the anxiety, and the stress of needing to be more simply disappears, leaving you free to actually pursue your goals and dreams from a place of peace and acceptance and tranquility.
If you find yourself needing to turn things around make today the day you turn things around. Or will you wait for the sudden realization that you have arrived at a place you didn’t want or expect to be? If there is one thing I can impart to you thru this blog it is don’t wait until it is too late to make those changes.
The beauty of it is, you don’t have to wait—you can choose to turn it around today.
Bhole Babaji ki Jai!