After long discussions with my editor, I realized that while my stories of love, hope and recovery all mixed with a healthy dose of humor were a very good thing, the overarching message that should be found here is that we can all come back from the hard times in our lives.
You deserve to be happy. Everyone deserves to be happy. You, me, even our ex-spouses and whatever adjectives we choose to use to describe their new partners. We all deserve to be happy and how we get there is purely up to us.
The hardest part of any comeback journey is realizing that you’re on one. The world, as you have known it, has collapsed. You might even feel that it’s now just you against the world. A million questions and doubts could be streaming through your head, but the questions I think you should be asking yourself are:
- How am I going to problem solve my way through it?
- How am I going to become better through my experiences?
- Am I going to let what has happened to me take me down for the count?
- Am I going to stand up and fight?
- Do I have to do things like everyone else?
Whether you like it or not, even when you’re crumpled on the floor crying, you’re eventually going to realize that there is really no room for giving up or giving in – then you’re going to stand up and remember that you have value. Once you realize that, you’ve taken your first step. Keep in mind that being perseverant is nothing to be ashamed of – it’s your sheer force of will that’s carrying you through – and it’s something to be proud of.
Don’t sit and wallow on the shame spiral or the wheel of regret. As KP told me a million times when I started my journey, “You’ve got to build a bridge and get over it.” If you wallow, you’re wasting your time. If you’re going through marital demise, the first six weeks are going to suck. They are. Just know that it’s an approximate time frame. Some take longer, some take shorter. As I told my pal Haley, “Results may vary, consult your doctor.” At the end of the day though, you’re going to feel better. Don’t just say “I guess so,” KNOW so. Know it in your heart that you’re going to feel better, that the old saying “This too shall pass” isn’t a joke or some cliché. It’s like I say, “Life is like a movie, everything always works out in the end.” You may not like the beginning, you might not be too thrilled about the timing or plot progression in the middle, you may even hate the ending, but you know what? You’re going to get through it.
If you’ve nodded your head reading my stories, you’re a Sophomore just like me, and it’s something to take joy in because you’re taking another shot at living a happy, healthy life. Being a wise fool means that you’ve stepped in it along the way, but you’ve had the awareness to make sure you don’t step in it again, ignorantly repeating your mistakes. If you’re on a comeback journey like mine, you’re going to find a lot of those moments where you feel like an idiot for repeating mistakes of the past because you knew the signs that could have helped you avoid them. Don’t waste time recriminating yourself. That you realize that you’ve made that mistake again is just a sign that you’re becoming more aware of issues you can and will fix during your journey. Somewhere along the line you’re going to figure out one simple fact: being aware is half the battle. Go. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I aware?” and “Am I aware I can change parts of me for the better?” You can, all you have to do is get up and get started.
Changing yourself for the better is what a comeback journey is all about. You’ve seen what your life has been like, your past experiences should paint a very vivid picture for you, and you will, whether you like it or not, have to face those parts of yourself from the past that you really don’t want to admit to; character flaws, destructive behaviors, and all of those little things that have hurt you, sometimes even the people around you, but you just brush off. The sooner you see those things and take a look at yourself through external sets of eyes who offer positive words to help you see how you can improve yourself, the better off you will be. Now don’t get me wrong, you have to discern for yourself who is a positive and who is a negative influence. If you hear the same thing repeated more than twice from entirely separate people in regards to who you are and what you do, odds are that assessment is pretty dead on to rights. Take the positives and the negatives and work with them. If you see a negative part, you don’t have to keep it, you’re more than capable of turning that negative into a positive, aren’t you?
I will never tell you that a comeback journey is easy, nor will I ever tell you that it’s going to be all wine and roses every step of the way. But what I will tell you is that if you do it right and believe in yourself, you won’t ever regret the moments that will teach you something new. Don’t let the nay-sayers and their “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks” mentalities get in your way. Every day we are on the planet, from birth until death, we have opportunities to learn something new. Know it in your heart that you can always learn something new.
The trick is in realizing that you’re on a path that’s going to have rocks on it and those rocks are sometimes going to be small pebbles in your shoe, other times they are going to be the size of boulders that you’re going to have to use blood, sweat, tears and a pry-bar to get out of the way. Sometimes, you’re going to trip on the rocks that are embedded in the ground that you didn’t even know were there. It’s how you handle all of the obstacles on your path is what will define you. It will show those around you what stern stuff you are made of and then it will be your turn to inspire those around you with your amazing stories of love, hope and recovery, with the amazing sense of humor you’ve cultivated along the way.
I’m just like you. I just decided to write about my journey and give the world the play-by-play. I don’t know how it will end, but I do know that how I handle things along the way is what counts the most.
A friend of mine once asked me how I was so fearless about speaking in public about my journey and all of its’ trials, joys and emotional rollercoastering along the way. I just looked at her and said, “When you know what you’re talking about, it can’t help but come out right.” When she was nervous about public speaking in front of a large audience, I simply told her, “Never, never be afraid to be you. Your individuality is so very special and it is what makes you so very inspiring” and that’s advice I think everyone should take to heart.
Being unique is not a criminal offense, anyone who says otherwise needs a good talking to and a stern lesson in tolerance. Different is GOOD. Be as very different as you want to be, after all, who really wants to be a lemming following the other lemmings to their untimely demise? As Robin Williams said in Dead Poets Society:
I didn’t bring them up here to ridicule them. I brought them up here to illustrate the point of conformity: The difficulty of maintaining your own beliefs in the face of others. Now, those of you, I see the look in your eyes like ‘I would have walked differently’, well ask yourself why you were clapping. Now we all have a great need for acceptance. But you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own; even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go, “That’s baa-aa-aad.” Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Like the great Robin, I would love nothing more than for each of you to find your own way of striding into the future, whether it’s filled with humor, humbly proud, how ever you choose to get from point A to point B, even down to Mr. Dalton’s choice not to walk or stride at all. The important thing is that you find how YOU do things, not how everyone else does it. I’m only one story and I want to live my life knowing that there is no one out there exactly like me because I chose my own road, and lucky for me, it was the one that was less traveled by.
Your comeback journey will be filled with takeaways of your own. If you’re down, it’s your time to seize the moment and get back up again. Take humble pride in knowing that you didn’t just lay down when the going got rough. Walk a different path, live your life, and take joy in writing your own unique story. It’s inside of you. Let it out.