This is an aside that loosely relates to About A Breakup, Part 3 of 5: The Atom Bomb. The shit has gone down a lot in my own life this year, and it coincidentally appears to be happening in the lives of several of my closest friends and students as of late. If you get nothing else from this post, get this: Every time the shit has gone down in my life, and I mean EVERY time, in the thick of it, I decided that life would never get any better, and I should just get used to the mediocrity, trapped and doomed to days of despair and anguish. And yet, here I am.
Have a look back at your life. It has happened to everyone who has ever breathed air on this planet. You lose your job; you’re struck by a devastating illness; you’re flung headlong into a dramatic breakup or divorce; somebody close to you dies unexpectedly; you holy piss off the wrong person or people; you put $10k of the kids’ college fund on Roulette red and go broke; you have a falling out with a family member; you have an “FML” moment and drink your bodyweight in Tequila and get hospitalized for alcohol poisoning; you have an alternate “FML” moment and sleep with a few random strangers and next thing you know you’re being treated for some syphi-gono-herpes super bug; and so on, and so on, and the shit absolutely, undeniably, unquestionably . . . goes down. In my personal experience, it’s usually one small- to medium-sized incident in a string of incidents that finally pushes you over the edge, and has you going all Jerry Maguire, flagrantly leaving his corporate job in the famous meltdown scene.
In my own life, the shit has gone down many, many times; so many, in fact, that I’d be hard pressed to remember them all. There was that one time in Nashville in 2003 when I had FINALLY gotten a decent band together, and we were making gig plans, when our daughter Em was born several weeks early; our house was over an hour commute from the hospital where Em had to stay in ICU for weeks; then on the day we finally got to take her home, an ambulance backed into our sole means of transportation, ripping the rear door from the hinges, rendering us without transportation for days while it was repaired; we racked up an astronomical hospital bill and had to sell the new house we’d bought two months prior; finally, my demo had been rejected for the 159th time by yet another label, and in a fit of rage, I drop kicked every last one of my remaining 1000 CD debuts’ barcoded asses into the neighborhood dumpster as the neighbors chowed down on popcorn and wine and enjoyed that evening’s entertainment.
THAT’S OKAY!!! IT’S JUST OUR ONLY FUCKING CAR!!!!!! -Postpartum Catherine (Em’s mom) to the mortified EMS guy, profusely apologizing for clipping our car.
Or the time in 2009: fresh divorce; enter nursing school a month later; flunk pharmacology; wait a year until pharm is offered again whilst getting a night shift job in the ER to pay bills; spend the next nine months working 7:00p to 7:00a, going straight to class and/or clinical after work from 8:00a – 2:00p, sleeping from 2:30p-6:30p, and going back to the ER for another shift; forced to sell my favorite truck because I can’t transport my kids in it when I have them for visitation; buy a piece of shit sedan that starts to fall apart during the first week of ownership; find out my kids are moving to California; get one call a day from collectors threatening to garnish my wages for old hospital bills; final meltdown happened after graduation. See “A Prelude.”
It’ll affect my credit score? (Maniacally) HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Lady, I’m pretty sure about two years ago my score dipped below zero! You want to settle this medical bill?! Well take a number! -Me on mental breakdown day to a collector
My friends, I’ve coached a whole bunch of people during their “Shit Goes Down” times. Here’s what I’ve learned from my experiences and theirs:
- I have never experienced a transformation without first experiencing a meltdown. The greater the meltdown, the greater the transformation. One of the greatest transformations of my entire life was a direct result of being chipped away, bit by bit, little by little, until I finally caved and hit rock bottom. And from rock bottom, I could offer no resistance to complete reformation. When you find yourself looking up to see the bottom, the doorway to transformation is right there. We are too often so overwhelmed by the pain and hardship that we cannot see the doorway. See if you can briefly let go of your perception and consider that you are on the verge of something amazing.
- We human beings become very attached to our problems. We identify with them. We think our problems make us unique (sidenote: they don’t). We will go to great lengths to prove to ourselves (and many times to show those around us) how much harder our lives are than anyone else’s. I’ve done this many times in my own life, and I’ve seen it many times in others. Observe the conversations you hear on a daily basis. I find it interesting that most human beings would rather argue about who has the worst problems, the most bills, the most hardship, than whose life is the most vivacious and empowering. Consider that you may have some degree of pride in being able to survive all that you’re weathering, and that you may be afraid that taking actions to pull yourself out of the rut may strip you of your identity.
- Emotional pain is familiar territory for just about everyone. And we LOVE familiarity. We are terrified of the unknown, terrified of stepping outside of our comfort zones, even if there was a great chance that it would lead to complete liberation. Hell, I would go so far as to say even if liberation was GUARANTEED, we’d hesitate if it meant stepping outside of our comfort zones. Consider that any attempt to create change in your life will come with some degree of discomfort. You must be brave enough to try something new, or has your old way of approaching life been invigorating for you? As dear friend and mentor Donna once told me:
Look at the emotional pain scale, with 0 being complete freedom and 10 being absolute misery. We human beings will live for years with a nagging 4 or 5 out of 10 because it’s familiar, rather than take an action that may BRIEFLY cause 10 out of 10 pain, even though that action has the potential to get us to a 0, complete freedom.
Finally, a word about perception. Shortly after my breakup with Alex, I was hanging out with some friends.
One of the guys said, “I heard you’re having some trouble with the woman.”
“Yeah,” I replied with my usual melancholy. “We broke up.”
“Congratulations,” he said.
It shocked me a little. Up until that point, everyone I’d told had showered me with empathetic phrases and angst-filled words of support. Not that I fully agreed with my friend’s way of thinking, but it momentarily jolted me from the perception to which I was so tightly clinging.
Change your way of thinking, my friends. Consider that things are not always as they appear. A new perception will breed new actions, which will breed new results.
To vitality, my friends.